Tourists beware. You may know that the Spanish word ‘Chancha’ means a female-pig or she-pig. But dictionaries dismiss the endless languages variations or so-called dialects. Sure, ‘Chancho’ or ‘pig’ shares the same Anglophone connotations of ‘dirty’ or ‘disgusting’. Yet, while touring South America, hearing the expression ‘hacer la Chancha’ (literally ‘to make a she-pig’) may sound confusing.
In Argentina and Chile, to ‘make a female pig’ or plainly ‘the she-pig’ is to skip a day off work or school, either from laziness or apathy. But in Peru ‘hacer la chancha’ or simply ‘la chancha‘ has a different meaning.
What is ‘La Chancha’?
The Peruvian ‘Chancha‘ is a casual money pool used for a specific expense. Modern money pools have become sophisticated with sites like gofundme or indiegogo. Yet, this collective activity is as old as life itself. In the case of Peru, informal money pools dramatically rose during the eighties and nineties. The nation underwent an economic crisis and money was scarce. People were accustomed to watching (or rather, cutting) their shrinking budgets.
So during times of scarcity, ‘chanchas‘ were providential. This practice was rather spontaneous, most likely to buy something right away. If a group of friends craved something to eat or drink, they said: Let’s make a Chancha! Everyone immediately contributed with what they could, usually chump change. Afterward, the group bought what they intended, such as pollo a la brasa, a pizza, a bottle of soda, a box of beers, etc.
Chanchas were usually made after playing a soccer match or after a late-night party. Chanchas were also planned before a friend’s birthday, in order to cover for beer or snacks. Regardless, the most common reason for a Chancha was to buy beer so that everyone could drink.
Money pools certainly happen all over the world. But collectivist nations have a better proclivity to rely on them. For Peruvians in the eighties, the Chancha was a blessing in many aspects. Above all, Chanchas enhanced the bonds of community and friendship.