Iguana, turtle or mega-rodent: Colombian Easter fare

Green iguana, slider turtles and the world's largest rodent, capybara: it's not a trip to the zoo. It's what's for traditional Easter dinner in Colombia.

"This is the season we have them all coming in," said nutritionist Carolina Rangel, at a center for confiscated animals in the Colombian capital. She showed AFP about 30 confiscated "outlawed" slider turtles, common here and in Venezuela, as well as a rogue green iguana officials picked up on a bus.

Sometimes problems crop up when the animals escape from their "caretakers" especially in the busy Easter season; many Colombians travel for hours on intercity buses to spend the holiday with family and prepare special meals.

"People bring them in (from far-flung provinces) secretly, even stashed in suitcases so they can eat them with relatives, or sell them at open-air markets," said local environmental official Andres Alvarez, a veterinarian.

Colombia has wildly varied geography, with tropical Pacific and Caribbean coasts; cooler Andean mountain climes and a huge range of plant and animal life that thrive, sometimes in relative isolation.

These recipes based on local animals -- instead of imported ones -- have close ties to the northern and northwestern parts of the country.

They are often served up in the age-old recipes of indigenous peoples descended from migrants who came from eastern Asia into North and South America thousands of years ago.

Among the mouthwatering seasonal treats: turtles' eggs omelettes; iguana soup; cayman or turtle stew, which is served up with coconut rice, fried yuca, all washed down with cold beer.

"Colombia's gastronomic wealth is a reflection of the country's biodiversity," the world's second greatest after Brazil, said anthropolgist Julian Estrada.

How the custom evolved of eating these meals at this time -- the Christian celebration of Easter -- is not so clear. But people who lived along local rivers in what is modern-day Colombia ate all of these animals before the Spanish colonial era started in the 15th century, anthropologists say.

"For our indigenous people, the sleeper turtle and iguana are historically symbolic, mystical animals and part of age-old customs. Ultimately, what happened was that the (Roman) Catholic calendar's tradition ended up melding with the fact that those animals are plentiful" during the spring Easter period, said anthropologist Ramiro Delgado.

So while many Colombians are eagerly awaiting the arrival of an exotic little something on their Easter table, hundreds of others are trying to make sure that passengers on intercity buses are people and not animals.

Rodolfo Mendoza, the chief of the environmental police in Barrancabermeja, northwest of the capital, said that his department on April 13 intercepted someone with what amounted to a mini-herd of eight capybara. They are the world's biggest rodent and occasionally can top 100 kilos (220 pounds).

Though not endangered, they are not supposed to be hunted at this time of the year so as not to interfere with their reproductive season.

Authorities have to balance trying to protect the species while respecting indigenous Colombian traditions, they say.

That is why the hunting and sale of slider turtles, iguana, and small crocodiles is illegal; but at the same time, they may be consumed by people who eat them to survive in communities where food sources are limited.

The Environment Ministry says that in just four years, more than 100,000 live river turtles have been confiscated.

"Our real problem is just trying to manage the use of these animals, not turning consumption into some big crime," said government biodiversity expert Claudia Rodriguez. "Above all because in some poor rural areas, they are the only food people have."

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Sandigan OKs hospital stay for GMA co-accused
    Sandigan OKs hospital stay for GMA co-accused

    The Sandiganbayan has allowed a government official, accused with plunder along with former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to undergo a medical procedure at a hospital tomorrow. The anti-graft court permitted former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) board member Benigno Aguas to undergo a cardiopulmonary/endocrine clearance at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City. …

  • Sandigan recommends executive clemency for ex-envoy
    Sandigan recommends executive clemency for ex-envoy

    The Sandiganbayan has recommended executive clemency for a former Philippine ambassador to Nigeria who was sentenced to 52 years for malversation of public funds. The Sandiganbayan First Division found Masaranga Umpa guilty of misusing the Assistance-To-Nationals Stand-by Funds totaling $80,478.80 in 2007, but the anti-graft court said the former assemblyman from Lanao del Norte should be pardoned. …

  • Stargazing at the mall highlights Earth Hour
    Stargazing at the mall highlights Earth Hour

    It was a night of stargazing in 58 SM Supermalls all over the country last night as these establishments participated in Earth Hour, an annual worldwide movement encouraging communities and establishments to switch off lights for one hour to raise global awareness of overuse of non-renewable resources. The Philippines has been an active participant of Earth Hour since 2008. Last night, in the province of Bulacan, for instance, all parishes, diocesan institutions, schools and household …

  • Payanig privatization hit
    Payanig privatization hit

    BLEMP Commercial of the Philippines, Inc. (BLEMP) denounced the recent announcement of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to privatize the 18.4-hectare “Payanig sa Pasig” property. In a statement sent to The STAR, BLEMP lawyer Dennis Manalo said the PCGG has no right to auction the property because it has no valid title and is not in possession. The PCGG has not paid a single centavo in real property taxes for the property, he said. He narrated that it was in the early 70s …

  • New species of tarantula found
    New species of tarantula found

    Scientists from the Museum of Natural History (MNH) of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños have discovered a new species of cave-dwelling tarantula on an island off the coast of Quezon. The new species of the spider, Phlogiellus kwebaburdeos, was described in the recent issue of the Philippine Journal of Systematic Biology by MNH curators for spiders Aimee Lynn Dupo and Alberto Barrion along with their former student Joseph Rasalan. The tarantula was discovered by Rasalan during one …

  • Palm Sunday: Do not add to suffering of others
    Palm Sunday: Do not add to suffering of others

    As Christendom enters Holy Week today, Palm Sunday, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday called on the faithful not to add to the sufferings of their fellowmen. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs (ECPA), said that while Palm Sunday is oftentimes remembered as the glorious arrival of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, it also signals the start of the Holy Week that tells of His suffering, death and …

  • Miriam pushes tougher graft law
    Miriam pushes tougher graft law

    Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed a bill that would make public officials liable for violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act even if they are elected to a fresh term or a new position. In filing Senate Bill 2716, Santiago sought to address what she said was the doctrine of condonation in Philippine jurisprudence brought about by the 2010 case of Salumbides vs. Ombudsman. “By merely asserting the doctrine of condonation, erring elective officials are automatically given a …

  • Phl hits back at China over sea infra work
    Phl hits back at China over sea infra work

    The Philippines assailed China yesterday for contesting Manila’s planned repair and maintenance works on some islands in the West Philippine Sea, saying they are “in no way comparable” to the Asian power’s massive reclamation activities which are in violation of international laws. “The Philippines’ possible undertaking of necessary maintenance and repairs on its existing facilities in the West Philippine Sea, over which the Philippines rightfully exercises sovereignty, sovereign rights and …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options