Since the 60’s Aruba has known a ‘ayaca’ tradition. Originally from Venezuela it was brought by immigrants who have made this island their home and by Arubans returning from their trips to Venezuela.
Whereas from the beginning it has mainly been a family tradition, bringing families together in the process of the ayaca making, with modernization this tradition has almost completely been commercialized in Aruba.
Culturaruba sat with a group of ladies from Santa Cruz, two sisters and a niece, who have kept alive the tradition started by their mother. They shared memories of the tradition and their thoughts of how it is almost lost nowadays.
On a Sunday morning at a cozy traditional house in Santa Cruz the ladies where preparing to make their first batch of ayaca for this year. Mrs. Maria recounts that when they were younger together with her late mother and other sisters she started making ayaca in the ’70s.
‘We started with our own tradition of making ayaca in 1975. Before that the traditional Christmas dish was “sop’i bestia chikito”. Even though we have adopted the ayaca as Christmas tradition we still eat this sop’i besta chikito today’.
‘Nowadays because of higher economic standards which has brought a significant abundance, people are able to buy ayacas at any supermarket or minimarket in the neighborhood. Although economic advancement has been beneficial to the island in many ways it changed the tradition of ayaca making in a family setting, because commodity has people buying them instead. Making ayaca to a commercial habit of buying it’. According to Mrs. Maria this is because no one has the time to come and gather as a family to celebrate the familiar union.
‘Back in the days we would start early in the months of October and November searching everywhere for banana leaves, to then wash and store them for the actual family gathering in the month of December’. Ms. Maria tells that it was difficult to get those leaves because there weren’t as many grocery stores as now. Nowadays instead of gathering as a family to make ayacas, people prefer to make them individually to be able to sell them with grocery stores and individual buyers.
While the first batch of ayacas were ready to be tied down in the banana leaves, Ms Maria shares that the real commercialization of the ayaca tradition started in the late nineties and early 2000.
As for this family they will keep coming together, for Christmas tradition and shared family time.