Articles / About Camagüey / Patrimony / How, where and why did the Camagüeyan ajiaco become famous?
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
How, where and why did the Camagüeyan ajiaco become famous?
Text Miguel Febles Hernández Photo: Isván Cano Hidalgo
The history of the origins of the Camagüeyan ajiaco (1) is worth to be told. Coinciding with June and with the rainy season, numerous landowners and cattle breeders arrived to the Villa de Santa María del Príncipe del Principe - today Camagüey - to buy or sell livestock, leather and salted beef.
Sometimes the rain caused the merchants to stay for a long time in the village, so the local families prepared parties to their guests, an opportunity for them to celebrate Saint John the Baptist's feats on June 24th.
Diverse alleys and streets improvised their “guateques” (2) for the laborers, decorated with coconut and palm leaves, papers and fabric of different colors.
Of course, feeding so many people for so many days, was not an easy task, but the cowboys of each estate used to bring their boilers and provisions, installing their cookers in any corner or hallway.
The poorest people in town used to set their clay pans in some areas, or draw a circle on the ground where the neighbors put vegetables, tubers, meats or some coins so that they could cook a stew for all, the same happened in the case of the cattlemen.
At a certain hour all those who had contributed to afford the meal participated in the cooking of that soup, accompanying the food with “aguardiente” (3) or fruit wine.
They used the indigenous term “ajiaco” to call that thick broth whose ingredients are pork, or beef, tasso, green banana, cassava, sweet potato and pumpkin as well as citrus syrup and chili.
As from the very beginning the tasso and the cassava bread were linked to this rural cooking, and was in Camagüey where this tradition prevailed, the ajiaco is considered a typical exponent of the Camagüeyan cuisine.
A way to do that, each June 24th the ajiaco return to its origins, now gathered in family, taking a little bit of this a little bit of that like the good cattlemen used to do and taste the delicious dish that makes us authentic “principeños” (4).
Note of the translator:
(1) ajiaco: It is a Cuban cooking traditional recipe consisting on a stew of diverse vegetables, meats and tubers.
(2) guateque: A rural party where poets improvise stanzas of ten octosyllabic lines, these poets sing in pairs accompanied by the guitar, the lute, the tres and percussion instruments.
(3) aguardiente: alcoholic beverage byproduct of the sugar cane
(4) principeños: people born or resident in the old Villa Puerto Principe, today Camaguey