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Imagen fijo del video. Doña Ramona con Bichicori.
El festival de la calabaza.
El primer día de enero del 2022, se llevó a cabo el Festival de la Calabaza y el Bichicori, en el marco de la tradicional kermés de la iglesia de San Pedro Apóstol, en el que la gente participa vendiendo comida tradicional: carne con chile, tortillas grandes, albóndigas en chile colorado, temoli (costillas de puerco en chile colorado), pescado de la presa El Novillo pescado por los propios sampedreños, carne asada, pollos asados, pasteles, etc. Ahí, en un estand en medio de todos los puestos, se presentan las calabazas que participan en el concurso de la calabaza más grande, así como diversos platillos de bichicoris, elaborados por ocho adultos mayores que decidieron participar en el festival. En medio de la mesa hay una bandeja con muchas empanadas de calabaza elaboradas por otra cocinera tradicional sampedreña. María Tarazón, la profesora Esther Noriega, ambas dirigentes del Museo Costumbrista, así como dos jóvenes chefs originarios del pueblo, así como el Comisario del Ejido, representante de los agricultores del pueblo, participan con discursos sobre la valoración de los productos agrícolas y los alimentos tradicionales. Luego invitan a José, el niño de la bicicleta y a los demás niños a que cuenten los resultados de su investigación sobre qué son los bichicoris. Todos los niños participan entusiasmados y cuentan lo que aprendieron de sus madres y abuelas. Todos reciben aplausos y un premio económico por su participación.
by Guillermo Nunez Noriega
– Do you know what the Bichicoris are? María Tarazón asks José, a 9-year-old boy who is riding his bicycle on the side of a narrow street in San Pedro de la Cueva, Sonora, Mexico. José, remains thinking, narrows his eyes and says:
– Mmmmm… no, I think I don’t know.
– Have you ever tried them? Doesn’t your mom make them?
– Hmm no, I mean I think I have heard, but I haven’t tried them. But I think the word if I have heard it. What are they?
– I’m going to give you homework. What do you think about this challenge: you investigate with your nana, with your mother, what bugs are and how they are made, and on January 1 there will be a festival of pumpkins and bugs and if you tell us what you investigated, you will leave to get a prize. Alright?
“Yes, I’m going to ask my nana,” Juan says excitedly and rides away on his bicycle.
The above dialogue is derived from a short video in which María Tarazón Noriega, a plastic artist and cultural promoter, originally and inhabitant of San Pedro de la Cueva, asks several children and adolescents if they know about bichicoris. San Pedro de la Cueva is a town of 1,500 inhabitants in the Sierra de Sonora, about 2 kilometers from the border with Douglas, Arizona. Most of the children respond like Juanito, what do they not know, but they have heard the word, and only one knows that it is a dessert made from pumpkin, corn kernels, cinnamon, cloves and anise.
This video and others that document aspects of the cultural heritage and daily life of San Pedro are part of the animation and preparation activities for the First Pumpkin and Bichicori Festival. The festival was organized in December 2021 as the first original activity of the new cultural promotion organization, the Alliance for Northern Folklore and Cultural Heritage. The idea for the festival was formed in collaboration with local groups and promoters such as the Museo Costumbrista Andrés Avelino, a small museum of which María Tarazón is the director, as part of its objectives of valuing the tangible and intangible cultural heritage of Sonora and the entire North from Mexico.
The videos are published on the Facebook page “Yo Amo San Pedro de la Cueva”, directed by the young Fabián Lameda and which enjoys numerous followers, more than 500,000, in a surprising media phenomenon, since the page is dedicated to to portray life, chores, customs, folklore and the material needs or health problems faced by the inhabitants of this small town. Even so, with his simplicity, his honesty and his lack of pretension, Fabián Lameda has conquered the interest of followers from Sonora, from all over the country, from the United States and from other countries around the world who send messages of support, send money to alleviate the needs of a sick person, and they give their opinion, as in this case, about bichicoris and pumpkins.
– Hey, for me the bichicoris are naked children, that’s what we call them here in southern Sonora, hahahaha! comments Alfredo, a man who follows the page, to the video of María Tarazón.
– Here in Guaymas bichicori is a child without clothes! what are the children asking? Hahaha. – Amalia points out a young woman, a bit restless, but with a sense of humor.
Just like these opinions, many, more than 60, in each of the 7 preparatory videos, give their opinions on what bugs are.
In reality, the people who give their opinion insist that the bichicoris are “naked children”, however, when other followers correct.
–No, bichicoris are a sweet made from dehydrated pumpkin that is saved for when there isn’t any, but it is prepared with corn.
In the days that followed, María Tarazón and Fabián Lameda interviewed various older adults and projected their 7 to 10-minute videos on the Yo Amo San Pedro de la Cueva page: Doña Ramona, Doña Coyito, Don Francisco, among others, explain not only that They are the bichicoris, but they tell from their kitchen that they were long-awaited and desired desserts in their childhood, that their mother prepared them and that they delighted children and adults, especially in cold weather or on cloudy days, when they I was craving some sweet bichicoris, alone or in a bowl of warm milk.
Doña Ramona is an 87-year-old woman who always covers her head with a white mantilla, in the traditional style of her generation and of the towns of the Sierra de Sonora. She explains how the bichicoris are prepared. She takes a medium pumpkin and with a knife begins to peel it, to remove the skin, the shell:
-The skin has to be removed like this, look, like that, it’s all peeled, that’s why they are bichicoris, because the pumpkin is peeled, “bichi”, well- he says repeating a word in the ópata language, a language of the original indigenous speakers of this region and who mixed thoroughly with the Spanish, Creole and mestizo settlers over the years.
–After it is peeled, you let it dry for a day and then you cut it into a long strip with the knife, you turn it over and there is a long strip or several pieces in long strips and those are the ones that are put to use. dry in the sun, so that they dehydrate and can be kept for a long time, all year round, you can store them and when there are no pumpkins, you can take them out and cook them. You can also make some wheels, we call them “ears”, and they can be dried, stored and prepared in another way. The bichicori, already dry, those strips of pumpkin, then they are prepared with corn, with cinnamon, cloves and anise and a little water, until the honey is made and the bichicori absorbs all the sweetness.
– All our lives we have done it. – he tells María Tarazón and Fabián Lameda who are filming their work in the kitchen that has a traditional wood stove, a batea (a wooden kneading utensil), as well as strainers, trays and a cat that walks in front of the camera.
Doña Ramona’s video has more than three thousand visits, more than 60 comments and is shared about 50 times. The comments show gratitude, joy, admiration for traditional gastronomic knowledge, but also for his physical strength.
–It’s good that they rescue our traditions, that our meals are not lost, – comments Ángel.
–I finally know what bichicoris are, hahaha I thought they were naked children, because that’s what they called me as a child, haha, but now I imagine it’s because they bring their pee naked, haha, –comments Pedro, and many others at his side. Sometimes they “like” or comment, in a public and community conversation in the virtual space, about an agricultural product, a dessert, bichicoris and a word that, because it has the same root, lends itself to confusion, jokes and laughter.
From the Alliance for Folklore and Cultural Heritage of the North, which also participates in the comments on these videos and forums, intervenes and clarifies:
Bichicori is a word of ópata origin, which is a language of the Taracahita family, related to Yaqui, Mayo, Rarámuri, among others, and its etymology is: “bichi”, which means peeled, cori which refers to a pumpkin , but in an elongated form, because the ending “ori” in the Opata language means elongated or in strips. That’s why bichicori means peeled and strip-shaped pumpkin, because that’s how bichicoris are prepared. In Chihuahua they are known as “bichicore” or “wachicore” or similar words and it is a very traditional dessert from this region of northern Mexico. Naked children or adults in Sonora are called “bichis”, because that means the word: naked, without clothes or bare, but children are not called bichi, but bichicori, as a way of playing with them when they walk naked, because it is associated with a dessert that the children liked very much.
The clarification is appreciated by the Internet users, others follow the joke and its relationship with nudity or even with the genitals, which causes more jokes and games among those who participate in the forum.
In another interview for Yo Amo San Pedro de la Cueva, 94-year-old Don Francisco Ibarra explains:
Everybody planted pumpkins, not so much now, people stopped planting pumpkins, they started planting nothing more than fodder for cattle, little by little agriculture changed and everything was focused on raising calves to export them to the United States, as well It was how wheat, corn, beans, squash, sugar cane and many other things stopped being planted. Well, there are still people who sow, but not in the amounts they used to.
“Have the bichicoris been disappearing, Tío Chico?” he then asked Don Francisco.
–Yes, they stopped doing it, little by little. Well, they are still made. I like them a lot. It’s funny, there are still people who grow pumpkins and it’s something, how to say it, they do it more out of tradition, out of habit, because it’s something they’ve done all their lives. And yes, they prepare pumpkin candy and from there they make pumpkin empanadas, so tasty. But the bichicoris not only have to do with the fact that there is pumpkin, but it has to do with a time when there were no refrigerators and people knew that they had to preserve food, dehydrate it to have pumpkin. When electricity came to town in the 70’s and people bought refrigerators, many traditions for preserving food became unnecessary or were no longer done. Agriculture also changed a lot, many things stopped being planted and people did not produce all their food, now they had to buy in the store. Industrialized sweets also arrived.
–And then why make bichicoris, Uncle Chico?
–Because they are very good, because they are very healthy, because they are more natural foods, because they are made with pumpkins from here, from what people grow right here in the town, your neighbors, because it is also related to a tradition, They have always been made, they bring back memories, memories of when my mother made us bichicoris and made our day happy, memories of meals that have to do with us, with our customs of planting pumpkins and dehydrating food and the knowledge of how to preserve the products of the field.
–Is she going to participate in the pumpkin and bichicoris festival, uncle?
–Yes, I’m going to start doing it myself, and I’m going to take it to the festival so they can try it. It’s great that they are doing this type of event that rescues and gives value to our traditions, says Uncle Chico with that kind and serious voice at the same time.
On the first day of January 2022, the Pumpkin and Bichicori Festival took place, within the framework of the traditional fair at the church of San Pedro Apóstol, in which people participate by selling traditional food: meat with chili, large tortillas, meatballs in red chile, temoli (pork ribs in red chili), fish from the El Novillo dam caught by the sampedreños themselves, roast meat, roast chicken, cakes, etc. There, in a stand in the middle of all the stalls, the pumpkins that participate in the contest for the largest pumpkin are presented, as well as various bichicoris dishes, made by eight older adults who decided to participate in the festival. In the middle of the table is a tray with many pumpkin empanadas made by another traditional cook from Sampedreña. María Tarazón, Professor Esther Noriega, both leaders of the Museo Costumbrista, as well as two young chefs from the town, as well as the Comisario del Ejido, representative of the town’s farmers, participate with speeches on the valuation of agricultural products and food traditional. Then they invite José, the boy with the bicycle, and the other children to tell the results of their research on what bugs are. All the children enthusiastically participate and tell what they learned from their mothers and grandmothers. Everyone receives applause and a financial prize for their participation.
At the end of the event, I approached María Tarazón and asked her provocatively: How do you see María, do you think it was worth the effort to carry out this festival? Do you think they are of any use?
“Yes, of course,” she says, satisfied, but somewhat tired. –Yes, it was a great success, that’s why when the Alliance for Folklore and Cultural Heritage presented the project to us, I immediately said yes, we entered it.
The festival is something simple, for many it may not have great economic or social importance, but look, we brought up the subject of food, pumpkins, bichicoris, people, many, thousands found out through the networks social groups, they remembered, commented, brought back to mind a traditional food from our culture, many more of us learned how to make it and others encouraged us to make it again. There is a generation of children in San Pedro de la Cueva who already know what the bichicoris are and they know that they like them. Next year we will have to do it in the fall, when there are more pumpkins, because now the biggest pumpkin contest was very poor, hehe, there were hardly any, and we will have a bigger festival. I believe that these small actions allow us to value our own traditional culture, feel proud and happy about who we are. Many people also know San Pedro de la Cueva through social networks and look, this time about 400 people came to the fair and the festival, maybe over time we will get more people to visit the town and all of that is important also for the local economy. Maybe more farmers will be encouraged to plant more pumpkins next year and more people will come to buy and more people will make the delicious bichicoris,” she says with satisfaction.
Guillermo Núñez Noriega is the director of the the Alianza para el Folclore y el Patrimonio Cultural del Norte, or Northern Mexico Folklife Alliance. He holds a PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of Arizona. He is a full professor and researcher at the Centro de Investigación en Alimentación y Desarrollo in Hermosillo, Sonora and the author of seven books on gender and sexual culture in Mexico. His most recent book, Fariseos, a study of the ritual performance of Easter ceremonies as interpreted and carried out by non-indigenous men in the small town of San Pedro de