Nectar of the Gods


In Ancient Latin America the term Chicha can be used to refer to either a fermented or unfermented beverage made primarily from maize.  Chicha can also be made from manioc, quinoa, grapes, apples, or other types of fruits.

I have tasted chicha several times in several different places, since it is drink that is shared throughout Latin America, both in the past and present.  The first time I tasted chicha, was at a Peruvian restaurant in Tallahassee, FL whose name now eludes me.  It is sweet and viscous, a cross between juice and a thin grain-based porridge.

Chicha is a maize-based, fermented beverage with both sacred and secular uses in pre-Hispanic Andean society.  Maize kernels are soaked and allowed to germinate for several days.  The germinated kernels are then dried and ground on milling stones similar to the manos and metates found in Mesoamerica.  The ground maize is then cooked in water for anywhere between 12 hours and two days.  The cooked maize is fermented and strained to create a potable beverage.

Who brewed chicha in Andean societies depended upon the context of its production.  If the chicha was produced for the Inca state, a communal group of “chosen women” were provided the ingredients for brewing and were given food in return for their labor.  Specialists, usually men, brewed chicha for exchange.  Households also brewed chicha for personal consumption (Moore 1989:682, 686-689).

High status individuals in Andean societies procured communal labor for public architecture, transportation of materials and goods, warfare, and agricultural activities through the redistribution of chicha.  Commoners gave their labor, and elites reciprocated with chicha.

Drinking chicha was a ritualized social event.  The first toast, along with a portion of the beverage, was offered to the gods.  Deceased rulers were toasted with chicha to honor them (Valdez 2006:53-58).

In Peru, the unfermented version, called Chica Morada, was and still is consumed.  It is a sweet beverage made from purple maize native to the Peruvian Andes.  The corn is boiled with pineapple, cinnamon, clove and sugar. I have even seen it in the bodegas in bottled form next to the refrescos.

Moore, Jerry D.
1989        Pre-Hispanic Beer in Coastal Peru: Technology and Social Context of Prehistoric Production. American Anthropologist 91:681-695.
Valdez, Lidio M.
2006        Maize Beer Production in Middle Horizon Peru. Journal of Anthropological Research 62:53-80.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jeremy Vause
    Nov 13, 2012 @ 18:33:31

    Dr. Bellacero,

    I don’t know how often you look at this blog, but I have found it the only way to contact you. I took your intro to Archaeology class (ANT 2140) at TCC in the Spring of 2011. I know this is an odd question, but I need a syllabus from that class and was wondering if you had one by chance. They have both accepted the credit and not accepted it.

    Thank you very much for your time, please feel free to contact me by e-mail.

    Jeremy Vause


    • Jeremy Vause
      Nov 13, 2012 @ 18:35:01

      I apologize, USF, where I am studying now, has had issues accepting the credit and they want a syllabus to see if it fills the requirements needed by a different class. My e-mail is

      Thanks again for your time.


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Chair of Social Science, Humanities,
& Foreign Languages

Liberal Arts & University Transfer
Craven Community College

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New Bern, NC 28562
Phone: 252.638.7328
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