Housing Bees (Juntas de Embarras)

This is a very communal activity because it relies on a sense of brotherhood within the neighborhood, given that every person contributes something.

Men clasp arms in a brotherly embrace to maintain stability as they work the mud mixture with their feet, c. Ruth Metzel

A housing bee starts with the construction of the “skeleton,” or framework of the new house, the day before the gathering. It is constructed with wood from Macano and Cedro Amargo tree species, and cane reeds. The construction is sponsored by “godparents” who are represented by colorful banners placed on the roof.

Structure of House for IX Latinamerican Social Workshop for Arquitecture Students in Chitré, c. Ruth Metzel

The next day straw, dirt, and water are mixed together.  This mixture is kneaded by barefoot participants. The task is accompanied by shouts, “salomas” or local work calls, and the boom of the “tamborito,” a traditional type of call and response drum music.

Barefoot participants at housing bee in Chitré, c. Ruth Metzel

Throughout the day, the women prepare delicious foods including, without fail, the typical “chicha de junta” or strong “chicha” (alcoholic beverage) made from fermented corn.

Finished house after a housing bee in Palmira, Los Santos, c. Ruth Metzel


Author: Irving Vergara