Manca Fiesta

The Puna’s big barter fair.

On one day of the last fortnight of October, merchants and residents of the Puna highlands gather in the Jujuy city of La Quiaca to hold a big barter fair known locally as the "Manca Fiesta" or "Pots Fair".
The objective of this yearly regional festival on the frontier between Argentina and Bolivia is not for everybody to make a lot of money, but for people to socialize and have fun. Among those who take part are Bolivians who bring pots, jars and other earthenware items; residents of the Jujuy Puna with hand-knit items made from llama or sheep wool, potatoes, chuño (dried potatoes), and chalona (sun-dried salted mutton); and farmers from the valleys who come with dried fruit, seeds and baskets, among other items.
Buying is allowed, but the object of the get-together is to barter, be it in Spanish or Quechua. There is plenty of regional food, music and dancing. The fair lasts several days, until all the goods are exchanged.
This year, the fair began on Thursday October 15, and it will surely continue until the weekend.
La Quiaca lies 295 km from San Salvador de Jujuy, at an altitude of 3,442 meters above sea level. If you want to go next year, get the date from the province’s official site ( the month before. It is recommendable to go a couple of days ahead of time in order to be able to acclimate to the altitude. If you don’t want to stay at one of the ten hotels and other forms of lodging in La Quiaca, you can do so in Yavi, an old town 14 km away, where there are inns and various things to see. Take bottled water.
This area is very rich in history, rock art, nature, handicraft, local color and photo opportunities. Whoever is interested in these sorts of things should go for five days, and with a competent guide so as to not miss out on anything. Take bottled water.

Experiences in the region
See the petroglyphs at Sapagua on the way to La Quiaca, and the ones at Cerros Colorados near Yavi. In the latter town, don’t miss the house of the Marquis of Tojo, the former owner of a good part of the Puna, and his chapel with onyx windows and gilt woodwork.

Cross the bridge from La Quiaca to the Bolivian city of Villazón to see what a market looks like in the bordering country.
Birders should take advantage of being in this area and head for Laguna de los Pozuelos, an important sanctuary for migrant birds at 4,230 meters above sea level, 90 km from La Quiaca.

Among the 44 species of water birds that live in or stop at the enormous saline lagoon of the reserve, there are three species of flamingoes, which are native to the Puna.

PHOTO CREDITS: Manca Fiesta, Tourism Secretariat of Jujuy. Yavi chapel, Bonnie Tucker. Laguna de los Pozuelos, Tourism Secretariat of Jujuy.