BOLIVIA: On the origins of PAPA (potato)

T he history of potatoes, Solanum tuberosum, is rooted in South America, there are about 5,000 potato varieties worldwide. Three thousand of them are found in the Andes alone, mainly in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, and Colombia. The discovery, was ever a story of many dStarch from potatoimensions, and the telling of the tale depended on the use as medicine, food, or drink. Due to the effects
it was intimately related to deities, demi gods, and mortals. Actually, it makes sense from a scientific point of view. People living in the Andes searched for food to survive and for medicine when they were sick.  In fact, the potato is best known for its carbohydrate content in form of starch. A small but significant portion of this starch is resistant to digestion and is considered to have similar physiological effects and health benefits as fiber: It provides bulk, offers protection against colon cancer, improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, lowers plasma cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, increases satiety, and possibly even reduces fat storage. Concentrated in its leaves, stems, sprouts, and fruits there are toxic compounds( glycoalkaloids), which protect the plant from its predators, and the mythical  Sapallas people from slavery…

Como la papa llegó a Bolivia

H ace mucho tiempo, el pueblo de los Sapallas tenia una existencia pacífica y armoniosa. La naturaleza generosa proporcionaba enteramente a las necesidades de cada uno, y la Entente Cordial con los países vecinos les había hecho olvidar lo que era la violencia y la guerra. Un día, la erupción súbita de un volcán vino a perturbar la armonía de este pequeño mundo al parecer perfecto. Los Karis vecinos de los Sapallas, que vivían al norte no lejos de los lados del volcán, tuvieron que huir de su país devastado y abandonar la mayoría de sus bienes. Atraídos naturalmente por las riquezas del territorio Sapallas, los Karis tomaron las armas e invadieron por la fuerza el rico país. Los Sapallas impotentes se redujeron inmediatamente a la esclavitud sin oponer la menor resistencia al invasor. Durante numerosos años, los Sapallas, resignados a aceptar su triste destino, trabajaron sin descanso para sus dueños Karis. Un único hombre, el joven Choque, último descendente de los jefes Sapallas, rechazaba esta soberanía y prefería recibir los terribles castigos de los Karis que de rebajarse a trabajar para ellos. Los Sapallas intentaron muchas veces convencer al joven hombre abandonar la lucha y aceptar su condición de esclavo, pero en vano. Choque estaba convencido de que los dioses no dejarían impune tal injusticia. Los dioses observaban efectivamente la escena y fueron impresionados por la valentía y la fe de Choque. El gran Pachacamaj tomó la forma de un cóndor blanco y vino al encuentro del joven hombre. El dios recompensó Choque indicándole el sitio de semillas de una planta aún desconocida para los hombres llamada papa (patata). Estas semillas fueron sembradas secretamente por los Sapallas en sustitución de los tradicionales cultivos de quinoa y habas destinadas a los Karis. Algunos meses pasaron, y las semillas empezaron a germinar. Fieles a su práctica, los Karis se precipitaron los primeros para recoger todas las hojas verdes y las bahías de la nueva planta. En cuanto a los Sapallas, debían satisfacerse con los restos dejados en el campo, y en este momento no supieron darse cuenta de que las semillas ofrecidas por los dioses habían podido ayudarlos. Pero su sorpresa fue grande cuando descubrieron los fabulosos tubérculos ocultados bajo tierra que los Karis no habían visto. La preciosa comida les volvió a dar esperanza y la fuerza de combatir al opresor. Numerosos Karis que habían consumido las hojas y frutas venenosas de las patatas habían caído enfermos o muertos. Los Sapallas aprovecharon para rebelarse definitivamente y expulsar el último Karis de su territorio. Choque fue elegido jefe de los Sapallas. Estableció una nueva sociedad fuerte y feliz que siguió cultivando la patata con el respeto que se debe a una fruta sagrada de los dioses.

How the potato came to Bolivia

O nce upon a time, the Sapallas lived a peaceful and harmonious existence, nature was generous and entirely provided everything each one could possibly need, and the Entente Cordiale with the close countries had made them forget what violence and war meant. One day, the sudden eruption of a volcano disturbed the harmony of this small apparently perfect world. The Karis neighbors of Sapallas, who lived in the North near the volcano, were forced to flee their devastated country and to leave the majority of their goods and belongings. Attracted naturally by the richness of the Sapallas territory, Karis used the force to invade the rich country. The impotent Sapallas were immediately reduced to slavery without opposing any resistance to the invader. During many years, all Sapallas accepted their sad fate and worked without slackening for their Karis Masters. All except one man, a young man named Choque, the last descendant from the Sapallas country leaders, refused this domination and preferred to receive the terrible punishments from the Karis rather than to work for them. Many times, the Sapallas tried to convince the young man to give up the fight and to accept to be enslaved, but in vain. Choque was convinced that the Gods would not leave unpunished such an injustice. The Gods observed indeed the scene and were impressed by Choque’s bravery and faith. One of them Pachacamaj took the appearance of a white condor and came down earth to meet the young man. He rewarded Choque by showing him a place where seeds of a plant called papa (potato) were stored. This plant was still unknown to mankind. The Sapallas started in secret to sow the potato seeds, replacing the traditional cultures of quinoa and broad beans which were only reserved for the Karis. A few months passed, and the seeds started to germinate.

As usual, the Karis immediately rushed to collect all the green leaves and bays of the new plant. The Sapallas had no other choice than picking the remainders left on the fields, and it was still not clear in their mind what was the benefit of having utilized the holy seeds. However, it was a great surprise for when they later discovered fabulous tubers hidden under the ground which had been missed by the Karis. This invaluable food gave them hope and new strength to fight against the oppressor. Many Karis who had consumed the potato leaves and their poisonous fruits suddenly fell sick or died. The Sapallas organized their rebellion and definitively kicked the Karis out of the country. Choque was elected as the new Sapallas chief. He set up a new happy and strong society, and potatoes continued to be cultivated with respect as a sacred gift from the Gods.

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REFERENCES, ATTRIBUTIONS AND FURTHER READING

  • rewritten by N. Brachet, based on the book: Leyendas de mi tierra. Antonio Diaz Villamil. 1926.
  • Wikimedia Commons: starch formula by Sunridin (own work).
  • Wikipedia: Potato.