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The Building of a Quincha House (Part I)


[Skeleton of the house, the day before the junta.]

Skeleton of the house, the day before the junta.


[Top beams of the house. The colorful flags of the godfathers and godmothers are tied here.]

Top beams of the house. The colorful flags of the godfathers and godmothers are tied here.


[Bamboo shoots are used as horizontal beams in the walls.]

Bamboo shoots are used as horizontal beams in the walls.


[The pile of soil for making the mud was in place a day earlier.]

The pile of soil for making the mud was in place a day earlier.


[Rice grass, the material used to give adequate consistency to the mud, arrives early on the junta day.]

Rice grass, the material used to give adequate consistency to the mud, arrives early on the junta day.


[In the morning, local women begin to prepare the meal for the junta workers.]

In the morning, local women begin to prepare the meal for the junta workers.


[People divide themselves into crews. This one is tasked with watering and mixing the mud.]

People divide themselves into crews. This one is tasked with watering and mixing the mud.


[There is even a crew of kids. They help to mix the mud while having a field day playing in it.]

There is even a crew of kids. They help to mix the mud while having a field day playing in it.


[Meanwhile, some men cut the grass in chunks of the right size for allowing it to mix easily with the mud.]

Meanwhile, some men cut the grass in chunks of the right size for allowing it to mix easily with the mud.


[Other men dig a small ditch around the house, so that the mud does not keeps running down, something that can result in overwide walls.]

Other men dig a small ditch around the house, so that the mud does not keeps running down, something that can result in overwide walls.


[A small barrier of bamboo is build in order to contain the mud in its mixing area.]

A small barrier of bamboo is build in order to contain the mud in its mixing area.


[A man sweeps the mixing area with branches. Any small peebles are taken out so that they do not hurt peoples' feet nor alter the quality of the mud.]

A man sweeps the mixing area with branches. Any small peebles are taken out so that they do not hurt peoples' feet nor alter the quality of the mud.


[People from neighboring areas converge in the junta plot to help or to observe.]

People from neighboring areas converge in the junta plot to help or to observe.


[The rice grass is finally spread over the mud.]

The rice grass is finally spread over the mud.


[A group of young people join together and proceed to mix the mud and the grass, using their feet.]

A group of young people join together and proceed to mix the mud and the grass, using their feet.


By:

Tamara Ponce
2008-01-27

One of the most colorful traditions in Panama is the Junta de Embarra, which is the name of the gathering of people with the intent of building a traditional quincha house, made of mud and grass. This event is not seen very often anymore, since most people prefer to build their houses with modern materials. However, at the town of Macaracas during the early January event know as Three Wise Men celebrations or Canajagua Folk Encounter, a Junta de Embarra is held every year.

The junta begins with the building of the house skeleton days before the main event. On each corner of the house there are main pillars, known as "horcones" that were usually made of logs of trees known as macano or bitter cedar. Between these main pillars, there are other vertical beams known as "barrotes".

In addition to the horcones and barrotes, the walls feature horizontal beams made up of bamboo shoots. The whole structure used to be tied up with several types of moss. In recen decades, nails have replaced the moss as the element used to held together the structure.

A social aspect of the juntas is the custom of having godfathers and godmothers of the house. These are people who contribute money or materials to the building of the house. The day before the junta, they arrive at the house skeleton and, in the middle of a celebration, are carried by junta goers, so that the place colorful flags on the top beams of the house. This is considered to be a great honor.

In a few days we will publish the second part of this article about the junta de embarra. Stay tunned to PanamaTipico.com


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