Paths of Excellence

Paths of Excellence

Cesar – Colombia

Reclaim land and memory

The region of Cesar is nothing but the fruitful marriage between rivers and mountains. To the north, in the middle of Perija and the great Sierra, the Cesar River runs. From the south, the Magdalena river flow thanks to the waterprovided by the mountains, which created a wetland that gave life to the waterfront culture. The Cesar is a lush and sensual territory as are the cultures that inhabit it, and their cuisines. The Cesar Department is located in northeastern Colombia, embedded between the Caribbean and Andean regions of the country.

It was the site of a great cultural and gastronomic heritage wherethere are four major agrarian zones: northern or coastal, southern or cachaca, riverine and agro-mineral. The 12 municipalities in southern and coastal areas is a rich region with several climatic zones and ecological and geographical diversity that is crossed by one of the main roads of the country. Its great productive potential, highly appreciated by domestic and international agribusiness, is in stark contrast with the situation its population faceswhich consists of about 270,000 people. The cultural matrix of the region is given by the coastal and mountainous influences.

The former gastronomy is based on fish, which is accompanied by the traditional crops of the region such as cassava, coconut rice, plantains and yams. In the southern areas there are various preparations based on maize, legumes such as beans and beef. Preparations such as corn arepas, the tamale and vegetable soups characterize the area.

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However, in recent decades, mining and oil, ranching and industrial monocultures have caused significant migration towards the country’s interior and the Caribbean coast, which has inevitably fostered conflict and an identity crisis. Traditional agriculture has weakened considerably, native seeds are becoming scarcer and most traditional foodstuffs are disappearing from peoples’ diets.

The products of Cesar – Colombia

Uvita de lata

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The uvita de lata is a fruit from a long-stemmed palm Bactris scientifically called bactrisminor. It grows wild on the beaches that are spread throughout the department waterfront. To the north of the department the uvita de lata is also known as corozo. The uvita de lata is mostly used for the preparation of juices that are usually consumed on these warm shores. The corozo fruit is also fermented for the production of wine and there are several family enterprises that produce the wine and sell it throughout the region, mainly in the cities of Gamarra and Chimichagua. These companies are also using the fruit for jam production and they are exploring the possibility of using of the shell and the seed for the production of animal feed concentrate. It has been shown that uvita de latais rich in phosphorus, iron and antioxidants such as anthocyanins. It also contains calcium, protein and fiber. The uvita de lata is especially resistant to climate change and supports and major seasons of drought.

Pincho

pincho-colombia

Fish has been the food base of the coastal area throughout history and many species have been part of the culinary tradition. Catfish, bocachicos, nicuros, coroncoros, moncholos and cobblers constitute part of the great aquatic diversity found in the region. However, the fishery resource is severely declining year after year. According to some studies, in 1994, 25,000 tons of fish was exploited in the region and today only 5,000 tons. The sedimentation of rivers and marshes as a result of erosion and alteration of the course of streams to create irrigation districts are some of the causes of the problem.

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Yet, even today, fishing is one of the main economic activities of households. In towns like Chimichagua and Gamarra, one in four people is engaged in this activity. Fish food remains the main supplier of protein for the people of the waterfront and one of the favorite dishes of the settlers. As it is increasingly difficult to get good-sized fish, and if it can be brought to market for sale, families have begun to consume small fish they call skewer.

Bean

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The bean is the most important legume in the region and in some municipalities the only one consumed. It is one of the few traditional products whose seeds are still preserved and cultivated by farmers in southern Cesar. It is an essential crop as its nutritional value is essential to support families. Beans are especially rich in protein, iron and zinc. The latter two are key nutrients in brain development in the early years of life. There are still many varieties held by families such as the very popular “black head” bean variety which grows in warm areas located less than 200 meters above sea level. In the higher areas there are more numerous varieties of beans such as the rice, pink, black, quinchoncho, palomito and Zaragoza. But one of the most striking bean varieties is the villorro, which is found in the municipality of Rio de Oro. The villorro bean is the main component of the bean soup, which includes salted meat and is also present in the “macha soup”. The latter is a nutritional dish, composed entirely with vegetables, often used when families do not have access to meat.

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