La Manatza : The Killing

a couple of months ago

By Elena Cabot Rodriguez

Three gun shots fired…

The noise, muddled by the mango trees that thickly surround camp. Camp was almost empty. Most students left the valley to explore the city during our first weekend at Kalu Yala.

After asking around, concerned as to what was going on, I learned that the first sound had been a gun firing into the head of a cow. The following two booms were the sounds of fireworks launching, celebrating the death of the cow. Celebrating LaMatanza.

The Fiesta Continued The Next Day…

I joined several other Kalu Yalans who wanted to check out the party. We were celebrating the death of the cow and the life of Dario, an incredible campisino at Kalu Yala.

Cauldrons full of rice and meat stew were bubbling over, balancing precariously on rocks. Ramon and Dario fed us the beef that had smoked overnight, looking as leathery as their sun worn hands.

While I barely understood their drunken Spanish, I understood from their dancing and bursts into song that everyone felt like there was something to be celebrated. I devoured the tender meat stew and yucca, and gnawed on the smoked jerky that Ramon untangled from a bowl that looked strikingly similar to a pile of knotted leather belts.

Photos By Elena Cabot Rodriguez​​​​

I walked back after several hours…

My mouth tasting of blood and smoke. After not eating any meat for almost two weeks, I found myself considering how different that meat eating experience had been compared to what I was used to. In Boston Massachusetts, I might have eaten a burger with beef from 20 different cows in 20 different locations. This time, I knew what I was eating. This cow had been killed for this occasion— and she was being celebrated.

Thanks for reading about this amazing cultural experience. To see more of what I’m writing and photographing click here!