Paraguay’s National Herbal Drink: Tereré
The Paraguayan Tereré drink is so iconic that it was declared intangible cultural heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
There are drinks that our mind relates to good memories and good times providing comfort when we drink them on hard and tiring days—Tereré is one of these drinks.
Let’s explore the social and cultural importance of Tereré in Paraguay, as I explore the following questions:
- How do you prepare Tereré?
- Why is it such an important drink?
- How do you drink it like the locals?
- Where can you find it on your next trip to Paraguay?
- What are the benefits of this national drink?
Let’s get straight to the answers!
How Do Paraguayans Prepare Tereré?
The national drink of Paraguay, Tereré is an ancestral guaraní drink traditionally prepared with a mix of cold water and a mixture of different herbs popularly called yuyos.
People prepare it in a jug or a thermos, and then pour it into a different recipient with yerba mate (mate herbs)—another traditional South American drink similar to herbal tea made out of a plant commonly called mate—and drink it with a metallic or bamboo straw called bombilla (bulb).
The benefits of pohã ñana—the ancient knowledge of herbal medicine—are widely known in Paraguay, thanks to popular wisdom passed from generation to generation, and the preparation of this beverage can also be a traditional ritual, something so personal shared by thousands of people.
Why Is Tereré So Popular?
Having a drink of Tereré in Paraguay means so much more than just taking something healthy to refresh yourself. It is actually a way to promote coexistence, inclusion, and communication. It unites people and cultures.
In guaraní language, this communion around Tereré drink is called ñe’ẽngatú, and some people understand it as coming together to talk, share knowledge, and talk about everything.
Tereré is present in all Paraguayan territory. People come together to enjoy the drink at the same time they coexist peacefully with one another, even if their points of view or their lives are completely different.
You can understand how integrated this beverage is to Paraguayan culture and society by only observing people in the streets of this beautiful country.
Wherever you see, Paraguayans and even tourists are drinking it, or carrying with themselves on a thermos, a recipient called la guampa and the straw called la bombilla.
The Ritual of Drinking Tereré
Drinking Tereré is actually a ritual.
It involves diverse people coming together to share experiences and knowledge—also, people drinking from the same container is a way to show trust and communion.
Preparing the Tereré drink is an activity that the Paraguayans do with care and pleasure. They enjoy choosing the right yuyos—herbs to add to the Tereré—and adding them to the jar with the icy water. After the water is impregnated with the flavor and benefits of the herbs, they put the beverage on la guampa containing yerba mate (mate herbs). Once it is ready, you drink it with the bombilla—and once the guampa is empty, you fill it again with Tereré so you can share it with the next person.
Which yuyos are added to the Tereré drink is a matter of much consideration. The Paraguayan knowledge and usage of medicinal herbs is called Pohã Ñana in guaraní, and is this way that Paraguayans know what herb is the right one you need depending on how you feel.
If you are not sure what herb is the best for you, depending on how you feel, ask a yuyo vendor. They can help you choose the right one. This is a form of ancient knowledge that is transmitted from generation to generation.
Tereré and Cultural Appreciation and Preservation
Drinking Tereré is an activity that has been practiced by Guaraní people for hundreds of years.
Because families get together to share and drink Tereré, they preserve the Guaraní culture. Parents and their kids share conversations in Guarani—their native language—share their traditions, culture, and knowledge, shaping the vision of the world of the younger generation.
Drinking Tereré has been around since the Precolumbian era. Historians and experts think that it was probably for hydration and refreshment. Thousands of years later, when the Spanish came to America and the Jesuits began to travel in the territory, they also began to drink Tereré and got so used to it they even talk about it in their letters.
Hundreds of years later, this beverage was also part of the hard war times Paraguay had to suffer. It was usual to observe soldiers going to battle carrying their vessels full of Tereré. Especially after the wars, with the need of hard work to reconstruct the country, the Tereré drink became also a way to find strength in the middle of so much devastation.
El Tereré has been such an important part of Paraguay history for so long that UNESCO declared it an intangible cultural heritage. The whole world recognizes this important part of Paraguayan culture as the means to getting the younger generations interested in Guaraní culture and botanical traditions. Also, it encourages pacific coexistence and social cohesion.
Thanks to its new status as an intangible cultural heritage, the government and Paraguayan society has to figure out a way to preserve it, not only with new laws and politics, but involving several native communities and their younger generations in sustainable economic and cultural practices that will give them the opportunity to thrive at the same time they continue preserving their knowledge and practices.
How Do You Drink Tereré?
First and foremost, we have to remember that the Tereré drink is more than a simple beverage. It is a cultural practice that is the core of Paraguayan society. The best way to drink Tereré is there in Paraguay, in a respectful environment where we are made part of the experience by sharing this drink with those that surround us.
But now, traveling can be a little bit more difficult than before. And maybe, you are planning to visit Paraguay but not in the near future. So, if you want to try Tereré and share it with your loved ones, here is a Tereré drink recipe from a Paraguayan internet site you can try out at home.
Thirsty for More Culture and Spanish Language?
Having a refreshing drink or a warm coffee with friends and family is a great way of making connections, and Tereré is the perfect example of how important that is for Latin American culture.
If you are planning to travel to Paraguay and be part of this ancient practice, learning Spanish can be a great idea to connect better with those you meet in your journey by smashing the language barrier and having more meaningful and natural interactions.
What’s more, learning Spanish not only improves your cognition and decision-making abilities, an ability that is important to adventure yourself in the beautiful countries of Latin America.
Are you ready to go to the next level? Build your fluency with native Spanish speakers before your big trip. Sign up today for a free 1-to-1 class with a certified native Spanish-speaking teacher at Homeschool Spanish Academy and level up!
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