For centuries, Tucuman, Argentina’s smallest region, was inhabited by Inca people who raised livestock and grew crops. But their ancient practices were almost completely wiped out, first by colonization and then by large-scale immigration. Agriculture continued to exist, but in the form of monocultures.
Varieties of plants (like corn, squash, potatoes and quinoa) and breeds of animal (like guanaco, llama and vicuña) gradually disappeared with the arrival of wheat and sugarcane monocultures, and in recent years, genetically modified soy, particularly in the southeast of the region.
In Tucuman, goat production safeguards the livelihoods of rural families and the landscape. Some families have resisted the drastic changes surrounding them, and continue to raise criollo goats and produce traditional cheese varities. The goats—descendants of the breeds introduced by the Spanish conquistadors—graze only on wild plants, white carob and mistol. This not only means that the milk has excellent sensory qualities, but also helps to prevent the advance of the extensively cultivated crops, like soy, that dominate the surrounding countryside.
The women make the cheese, adding kid rennet to the milk and pressing the resulting curds into molds made from woven palmilla leaves. The cheeses are left to dry for one or two days, then dried for another week on straw mats (zarzos) and aged for different lengths of time (though the Tucumanos prefer to eat them fresh the same day). In accordance with tradition, the forms tend to be small in size but vary greatly in shape. The diet of the goats and the processing method give the cheese a subtle aroma and flavor, with traces of wild fruit.
The Presidium was started in collaboration with the Slow Food Faro Tucumán Convivium, UNSTA (Universidad del Norte Santo Tomás de Aquin), ACDI (Asociación Cultural para el Desarrollo Integral) and the local communities of La Madrid and Taco Ralo.
Presidium supported by
IFAD - International Fund for Agricultural Development
Martha S. Núñez de Kairuz
tel. +549 381154029000
David R. Morelos Suet