While I was driving about with Holly and Kris last week Kris noticed that some of the houses are made of mud. Up until her comment about it, I didn’t realize that mud houses or casas de quincha were specific to the Azuero region.
Quincha houses and buildings are still being constructed in our region but the use of block, rebar and cement is much more common. Having said that, our new town Electoral Tribunal office is a quincha building:
Quincha construction in the Azuero is a traditional construction system that uses wood and cane/bamboo to make a framework that is covered in mud and plaster. The completed building keeps the heat out and is earthquake-proof. Originally these types of houses were built for only the wealthy while the peasants lived in thatched roof houses made of only cane. Eventually, because the materials were cheap and cane and wood plentiful they were more commonly built for everyone until cheaper and easier materials such as block and concrete began being used.
We have several quincha houses throughout town. Most of these have a coating of repello (a skim coat of thin concrete) and are painted colorfully. Nowadays as back when quincha houses were more popular, it takes a whole community to build one and it is used as a social event, similar to a barn raising on a farm in North America.
I found this YouTube video of a junta de embarra (a work day to cover with mud) that was filmed at a building event just a short drive up the peninsula in La Candelaria. With the rising prices of construction materials this is a way for people who don’t have a great amount of money to have a home on their family land, in the campo.