Did you know that Guinea pigs were originally domesticated for their meat in the Andes? For many years, these cute little critters were cared for and consumed at ceremonial meals by the indigenous people of the Andean highlands. Nowadays it is commonplace to see street vendors selling “Cuy” (typically the barbecued variety) which has become a major part of the diet in Peru, Bolivia, and some parts of Ecuador and Colombia.
When you consider the following it is easy to understand why the guinea pig has become a delicacy throughout many parts of South America:
So I hear you asking… what does it taste like? Well as with many types of meat it has a ‘chicken-like’ flavor but due to its gamey nature is probably closer to rabbit.
The guinea pig also plays an important role in both religion and culture for Peruvians. The religious celebration known as Jaca Tsariy (meaning – collecting the cuys) is a major festival in many villages across eastern Peru and is even celebrated in smaller ceremonies throughout Lima. During the festivities, locals will donate their guinea pigs to a Sirvinti or they may be brought to a communal area to be released in a mock bullfight.
In central Ecuador, guinea pigs are used in the celebrations for the feast of Corpus Christi as part of the Ensayo, which is a community meal, and the Octava, where castillos (greased poles) are erected with prizes tied to the crossbars, from which several guinea pigs may be hung.
Probably the most bizarre festival involving guinea pigs can be found in the Peruvian town of Churin. It involves dressing guinea pigs up in elaborate costumes for a competition.