Traditional knowledge and technologies relating to the growing and processing of the curagua

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Inscribed in 2015 (10.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Centro de la Diversidad Cultural, 2014

The traditional knowledge and technologies related to the growing and processing of curagua encompass a complex set of practices concerning the cultivation of the plant and the extraction of white fibres, which are characterized by their strength, durability and softness. The fibres are woven into thread and used to produce a range of artisanal goods, such as the hammock – a traditional emblem of the region. Traditionally, men extract and process the curagua fibre because of the strength required, while women weave and manufacture the artisanal products. The practice plays a significant role in moulding the identity of the communities found in the municipality of Aguasay. It works as a mechanism of social cohesion that overcomes gender, ethnic and sociocultural barriers. It promotes diverse forms of cooperation within and between communities and family structures, wherein women take on an important role in creative labour and family income. The knowledge and technologies are passed on from one generation to the next, mainly through oral tradition, observation and imitation among family members.

The communities of the municipality of Aguasay store the knowledge and techniques passed on from their ancestors on how to grow the curagua under the best conditions and yield an excellent fiber in terms of color, texture and durability
The 'carving' of the curagua fiber requires strength and expertise. The arduous activity is usually carried out outdoors, near the crops. A skilled carver can reach an output of up to 3 Kg. of fiber per day
Once the mostly male group of growers and carvers finish extracting the curagua, the women prepare it by washing it, putting it to dry under the sun and spinning the treads
The curagua-related knowledge and technology mastered by the tradition bearers of the municipality of Aguassy is used to produce a resistant, durable and nice looking fiber that undergoes a special process before turning into yarn for different uses
The chinchorro made of curagua is the most representative traditional object of the communities in the municipality of Aguassy. So far as tradition bearers are concerned, this is a space for women to create and contribute to the family
Weaving the curagua is a painstaking task, in which the human body is used as a major tool. The creation of handicrafts is done routinely with the family circle, in between other household activities
The goods made of curagua reflect individual and collective creativity through a combination of geometric weavings and patterns, know as 'Alegría', 'Pañuelo' and 'Cajón', among others, which are in constant creation
Tradition bearers are always innovating in the manufacturing of artisanal goods. The ability to find new uses, materials and weaving techniques showcases the dynamic nature of the knowledge and technologies to the curagua
Both men and women feel proud and passionate about the plant and its products, and share a sense of togetherness that goes beyond ethnicity, gender or age
The transmission of knowledge and techniques relating to the curagua usually takes place at home among friends and family members; while at school, the identity-shaping power of the manifestation is reinforced at an early age