Manihot brachiloba Family: Euphorbiaceae Kichwa: Taruga lumu; Aguaruna Shuar: tsanimtsanim
This wild species of manihot derives its cultural identity by negative contrast to Manihot esculenta. The Quichua name “taruga lumu” means deer manioc. Deer are associated with abandoned chagras. Among the Canelos Quichua and Shuar deer are also associated with the dead. Since Quichua and Shuar families used to bury their dead in the floor of the house and then abandon the house the deer were associated with the ghosts that hung around the gardens of abandoned houses. An Aguaruna anen sung by women leaving an old garden with cuttings to be planted in a new garden goes like this “I go, I go. The soil of the deer. You are old. I go I go. On the edge of the garden the stems are rotten.” (Brown Tsewa’s Gift p 111.) This is what is called a “mauca chagra”. It is in this environment that the useless Taruga Luma grows. In contrast to the Ali Lumu that used to grow there. Brent Berlin 1978 writes that tsanímtsanim was created from tsamin after Nughui’s daughter was mistreated by the children of her adoptive mother (Brown, Tsewa’s Gift 201). If so this is similar to the way Nuestro Senor creates plant wild species by cursing their domestic doubles (check Mercier and Nosotros los Napo Runa).
Michael Brown records an Aguaruna anent in which the name tsamintsamin (manihot brachiloba) is used instead of tsamin (manihot esculenta) in order to lessen envy of a beautiful field of manioc.
“What person is this
That she has so much manioc (tsanim)…
Who is saying this?
That, that is tsanímtsanim…
This they should say (Brown, Tsewa’s Gift 113).
The Kichwa name “Deer Manioc” could also refer to the origin of the manioc as ali lumu cursed or spoiled by contact with the deer. Brown reports that sometimes Aguaruna women dig more holes than they have manioc cutting to fill them. If this is the case the women should place any forest twig in the hole as a placeholder. “Otherwise a deer might put its hoof in it and spoil the garden..” It is possible the deer manioc is the result of such a spoiling of the manioc by deer.