Gastronomical and Cultural Encounter of the “Cuy” in Riobamba

The Cuy (Cavia porcellus), known in the English-speaking world as the Andean rabbit or guinea pig, has been a traditional Andean foodstuff since pre-Inca times. Not only has it been a foodstuff of the people of the Andes, but also it is a medicine, friend, gift and symbol of reciprocity.

Diseño Paul Moreno ArteagaThe first gastronomical and cultural encounter of the Cuy occurred within the framework of the Festival of the City of Riobamba, Ecuador, on Sunday, April 20 and was organized by the Foundation SEDAL and EcoSur Ecuador. The event formed part of the activities of the “Regional Project for the Production and Commercialization of the Cuy”.

Among the objectives of this project has been to create an entrepreneurial consciousness among the participants through credits in kind. The participants provide adequate enclosures for raising the animals, while SEDAL and EcoSur provide advice in animal husbandry and construction of the pens.

The project also seeks to improve the health, nutrition and economy of more than 400 families who have received the credits to date, by fostering the consumption of Cuy as a nutritious source of alimentation among the families involved and supporting them in the commercialization of the animals that they raise, and toward the public in general through events such as this encounter.

The gastronomical and cultural encounter included a selection of new dishes prepared with Cuy, among others Cuy with mushrooms, Cuy in barbeque sauce, Cuy meatballs, roasted Cuy legs and, of course, the traditional charcoal roasted Cuy ,and potato and Cuy soup. In addition to the honored table guest the Cuy, the public was able to enjoy dance and music related to festival of the city.

The event surpassed all expectations, as much in the number of people who attended as for the success of the traditional and innovated Cuy dishes served, as well as the first class artists who performed. More that 900 servings of Cuy dishes tempted the palates of the people during the five-hour event.

Another activity developed within the above-mentioned project was the first competitive judging of the Cuy at the agricultural and livestock show in Macají, a place where the wealthy and propertied families traditionally judge the best cattle. The judging of the Cuy broke the traditional paradigm insofar as indigenous farmers proudly exhibited the product they raised, the little Cuy.

Various producers of the project as well as individual producers participated in the show. The judge was Robert Moncayo, an engineer from the city of Ibarra and one of the country´s largest livestock producers, with herds of more than 46,000 animals.

These two events help realize the objectives of the regional project by demonstrating the nutritional and culinary qualities of the Cuy, as well as showing other indigenous organizations and farmers possibilities of improving their family economy by seeking alternative and indigenous solutions to the economic crisis.

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