THE SIXTH TOE: THE MODERN CULINARY ROLE OF THE GUINEA PIG IN SOUTHERN PERU
SUSAN D. DeFRANCE
ARQUEOLOGÍA E HISTORIA --
In Peru modern perceptions of class, ethnicity, and social identity dictate whether the domesticated guinea pig (cuy) is considered a delicacy or an unpalatable indigenous food item. In the southern Peruvian city of Moquegua the breeding of cuyes, including the occurrence of many polydactyl individuals, the location of restaurants that serve cuy, meal costs, and behavior associated with cuy consumption attest to the animal's value beyond its dietary role. Partaking of a restaurant-prepared cuy reinforces social bonds and low sierra cultural identity. However, for some upper-class residents in Moquegua and for the majority of residents in the nearby industrial port city of Ilo, the cuy is considered an anomalous food item associated with indigenous culture and is not consumed. Food trends involving either the popularity or the rejection of a traditional Andean meat source reflect ongoing cultural change within sierra and coastal societies in Peru and have implications for other geographic areas.