The Pastry Cake

pastry cakeThis pastry cake sedimentary formation overlooks the touristy village of Purmamarca (Aymara for the city lost in the desert) in the Quebrada de Huamahuaca in the northern province of Jujuy. Bordering Bolivia, this province ranges from Altiplano to Andean landscapes. A quebrada is a ravine, in this landscape usually a river canyon carved by flash floods, also known as wadis. In this quebrada the line of weakness exploited by the flowing water originated tectonically. It was a site for exchange between different autochthonous societies, and is now listed on UNESCO’s world heritage list.

The name is Spanish for ‘hill of seven colours’. Combining marine and terrestrial sediments, mostly from the Cretaceous era, the whole sedimentary stack was uplifted by the pincer like forces that uplifted the Andes. The Pacific plate is subducting under the rocks surrounding the Brazilian craton, which forms the other half of the pincer by drifting west as the Atlantic Ocean opens. There are seven visible colours in you look carefully at the folded and eroded hill, best seen in the dawn light, when the redder wavelengths of the sunlight passing through the atmosphere emphasise the colour differences. The colours are due to different minerals in the sediments, green coming from cpooer minerals and red being caused by iron. The orange is due to a mixture of sand, red clay and mud, the purple is due to lead and the brown to manganese minerals

The legend associated with the hill says that the children of the village were bored with the dull tan colour, and snuck out of bed for 7 nights in a row and painted its fantastical palette of colours. A carnival starting on Ash Wednesday incorporates elements of pre-Christian traditions, such as burying the devil under cairns on the hill. Explosions open the gates of the underworld, and ‘devils’ (in costume) emerge, and ritually bury evil for another year. Every August 1, a Pachamama (Mother Earth festival is held, where offerings of food are buried in the garden, returning some of her bounty to her bosom and ensuring future agricultural fertility. Her meal finishes with a cigar, tobacco being the shamanic drug par excellence of Latin America, used by curanderos all over the continent. Via Facebook.

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