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The gringo and the “hormiga culona” | ThePrisma.co.uk

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The gringo and the “hormiga culona” December 19, 2011 12:11 am 0 comments

Latin America is noted for its fascination with the large posterior, but in a region of Colombia that fascination is spreading to ants. The ‘hormiga culona’, or “the big bottomed ant”, is a popular snack in the department of Santander, and in particular its capital, Bucaramanga.

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I looked in exasperation at Alberto, the snack vendor, and asked again: “You really eat these?” His ominous reply and subsequent offering brought it closer to my mouth. I’m going to eat an ant? But in Santander in Colombia between March and May, locals chomp down on this fried delicacy the hormiga culona – ‘Big Bottomed Ant’ – in the belief that it is an aphrodisiac.

Taking a break from sightseeing in the incredible Chicamocha National Park, the gringo is spotted by Alberto, a greying man with a dry wit, and offered his wares. “Amigo, you want big muscles?” Alberto says. Any man in his mid-20’s wants that. “Try this!” he exclaims with a grin as wide as the canyon below. The hormiga culona was found to have a high level of protein in a study by the Industrial University of Santander. The gathering crowd delights in the gringo’s revulsion at the thought of eating this creature. But the Gringo did not disappoint, banishing the inch long insect to his stomach to rapturous cheer. Alberto, who grew up in Bucaramanga, northeast of the capital Bogota, has sold the snack at Chicamocha since the Park’s opening in January 2009.

He tells me about his sustenance on the hormiga culona during the years of bitter fighting in Colombia, when his family, short of food, would stockpile the ants, which are only available in this part of the country. I become instantly enamoured by this charming and hospitable man, and decide to try another of his snacks. I hand over a 5,000 peso bank note but no change is forthcoming. Alberto tells me the rarity of the hormiga culona renders it relatively expensive in the Colombian snack market due to it only being harvested for nine weeks of the year from March to May, in the country’s rainy season. They are

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typically bought by the kilogram in shops or from street vendors.

I continue to gaze in amazement down the Chicamocha canyon whilst receiving a lesson in this most bizarre of foods. The hormiga culona has been eaten for hundreds of years, as a tradition inherited from pre-Colombian cultures as the Guanes. Alberto harvests the ants himself in Baricahara, around four hours from Bucaramanga, and scrapes a meagre existence living in a poor part of the department capital, nicknamed Colombia’s Ciudad Bonita – beautiful city. He shows me his hands, covered in deep scratches – scratches inflicted by the ants’ strong mandibles – as an indictment of the tough life he leads as a peasant farmer in Colombia.

He removes the legs and wings from another Big Bottomed Ant, roasts it for a short while and offers it to me by way of a goodbye. I dispatch the critter while pretending to enjoy it, all the while baking in the scorching heat of this Andean valley. I traverse the mountainous roads back to Bucaramanga, my stomach feeling satisfied by such a little snack, but then remember I have just eaten the ‘Big Bottomed Ant’! Santander for Business A new Approach To Business Banking From Santander. Enquire Now. Santander-Products.co.uk/Business

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The Gringo and the Hormiga Culona  

The Gringo and the Hormiga Culona

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