Yunza Traditions: A Tree Full of Presents


A yunza is an age-old tradition that is celebrated differently across Peru; recently I had the opportunity to participate in the celebrations in the region of Cajamarca. Within the department, every province and district does things a little different. Comically, I happened upon a birthday party that turned out to also be the yunza for the district of Mitopampa, Santa Cruz, Cajamarca!
Yunzas are celebrations that follow the final weekend of Carnaval.

*Traditionally, there is a padrino, or Godfather, of the yunza who provides the tree and fills it with goodies.* In the majority of Cajamarca, the padrino is the person who took the final swing and cut down the tree the previous year.

In Mitopampa, the custom was a little different, and the yunza opened with a ceremony where the 2015 padrino gave a speech and then decided who would be the next padrino. *The 2016 padrino then gave a little speech and the ceremonial notebook of the yunza was passed on to him and his wife.*

The notebook keeps record of what is in the tree and how many cajas of beer are beneath the tree. *The tradition is that whatever you take from the tree you have return two fold the next year.*

After the speeches, the new padrino opened the yunza! People approached the tree and asked for things that they wanted. What they took was then recorded and it was noted that next year they would bring two. *The group of locals I was with ceremoniously ordered a caja of beer with the promise to bring two cajas the next year.* I slyly slipped out of that one saying that I couldn’t guarantee that I would be in town for the next yunza!

_(Photo: Brooklynn Adelman/NoSleepTillPeace)_

*The idea behind the take one, bring two’ concept is that every year the yunza will get bigger and bigger and bigger.* Although, I’d be interested to know if everyone actually follows through, and I get the idea that the Godfather’s job is to make sure everyone does.

After the tree has been stripped of all the items people want, the band played and everyone danced around in a circle taking turns chopping at the trunk with a machete. When the tree finally fell, total chaos broke out as a mob of people fought over a few bottles of Pepsi, a broom, and some kitchenware.

The catch is that if you go in for the prizes when the tree falls you’re more than likely going to be soaked by *people throwing buckets of water* from the sidelines. Being that it was freezing and I was not in the mood to be soaked by dirty river water, I watched from afar and got some great pictures!

Whether it a tiny town in the middle of the Andes or a larger city, yunzas are celebrated in neighborhoods across the country. Each one with distinct traditions and ceremonies passed down from generation to generation. It is a great way to close out Carnaval!

_Brooklynn has been living out her 20’s in Peru since June 2014 as a volunteer. She documents her experiences on, a collection of adventures navigating the Latin culture,traveling like the locals,and exploring the gastronomy. From eating guinea pig in the high Andes,to dancing marinera on the beautiful coast, to pink dolphin spotting in the Amazon. Join her on her blog and Instagram (@nosleeptillpeace) as she lives,dances,& travels her way through Peru like a local._

The celebration marks the end of the Carnaval festivals in Peru. What in the world is a yunza?

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