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The 12 Trips of Christmas: Christmas in Kamarata

While many travelers may be roller skating through Caracas to attend Church on Christmas morning, you could be ensconced in the jungle surrounded by tepuis enjoying authentic traditional celebratory dishes in Kamarata, Venezuela. According to our friend and Venezuelan local, Marianela Camacho, a Kamarakota Christmas is worth trekking for. “Fanny Tello, an enterprising woman from an indigenous Kamarata community, located in the Canaima National Park, south of Auyantepuy, tells me that for Christmas, they usually prepare their typical Pemón Kamarakota ethnic foods,” said Marianela. The dish that often takes center stage for this feast is a carefully prepared soup called Tumá (tumá means sharing in the Pemón dialect). Boiled red and green peppers make the base of this dish, followed by venison or fish. Tumá is seasoned with indigenous spices, cassava leaves (Mamicho) or cassava juice (Kumachi) before it is served in a clay pot in the middle of the table. Every guest sits around the pot and eats together.

Another dish that may grace the Kamarakota table is a fish pâté made from river fish that have been slow roasted in leaves. The fish are caught with a natural toxin called barbasco, which stuns the fish and makes them easy to catch; the poison is cooked out of the fish and is safe to eat.

Caption: Moriche Palm Worm is also a favorite side dish for Christmas meals.

“To accompany the Tumá, and to offer children, [the Kamarata people] usually prepare flavorful milkshake-type drinks made from plantain, ocumo (taro), auyama (pumpkin) or boiled yam and ripe banana, mashed or liquefied with water,” said Marianela. Other favorite drinks are Kachiri (fermented cassava juice) and Parakari (a similar drink made from cassava that was wrapped in plantain or banana leaves during fermentation). “These drinks have a slightly bitter taste. It is like a strong beer, and they offer and share it with everyone at celebrations and meetings.”

Another tradition among the Kamarata community is to attend Mass at the Kamarata Mission Center and share meals with friends and family at La Casona (the community house). This time is used to make peace with neighbors.

The people of Kamarata are very inviting and are always excited to share their customs with visitors. According to Marianela, visitors are invited to discover what the birth of Baby Jesus  means to the community and how the holiday is celebrated.

All photos courtesy of Marianela Camacho

December 24, 2014
Angel Falls. Credit: Marianela Camacho

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