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- Linguistic family
Among the many fermented beverages that the Yudjá produce, two types of manioc beer—dubia and yakupa—are especially important in the diet and in their symbolism. Due to its intoxicating power, dubia is full of mystery, and its fermentation is considered to be a transubstantiation. As the object of various symbolic relations with the person, manioc beer is simultaneously the “child” of the woman who makes it and a type of “game meat” that pierces people’s hearts. Its soul follows the path that leads to the land of the dead who inhabit the cliffs of the Xingu River. Its corpse, represented by the remains of fresh mash placed on a wooden platform to dry in the sun, is used to make yakupa, a refreshing beer consumed on a daily basis within the family.
Besides heartily enjoying manioc beer, the Yudjá really know how to drink. To hold the festival marking the close of her daughter’s seclusion in May, 2001, Kushina, with the help of the girl’s young cousins and nieces, produced around 1500 liters of dubia, while her cousin held one with around 400 liters. The beer was consumed between midnight and four o’clock the next afternoon!
The joy of living is not the only emotion projected onto beer drinking; much unhappiness is also directed towards it, leading people to confront their antagonisms. Rivalries between spouses and among affines may give rise to dramatic situations, but these rarely cause the village to fission (although this was behind the fissioning of Tubatuba in 1996).
Since manioc been is truly a symbolic person, it seems legitimate to consider it a reflection on the mortal condition of humanity, and to view beer drinking, a figurative cannibalism, as a reflection on the finitude of society.