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EL ESPECTADOR

A Quick Primer On Yapura, Colombia's Pungent "Jungle Butter"

The Japura river
The Japura river
Rodrigo Bernal

BOGOTA — During the difficult months of the rainy season, when daily downpours put a damper on hunting and fishing, the Tatuyo indigenous people of Vaupés, in Colombia's Amazonian region, spend entire days in the jungle collecting fruit. The purpose of the forest harvest? To make yapurá.

A black paste with a pungent odor that rivals the smelliest of French cheeses, yapurá is a prized seasonal delicacy. It is also one of the stranger foods to be found in this part of the world.

The paste is obtained from the Erismus japura, a thick, 30-meter tall tree found in the Colombian departments of Guainía, Vaupés and Amazonas. The tree shares its name with the Japurá river, a major Amazon tributary that begins in Colombia (where it is known as the Caquetá) and flows deep into Brazil.

To prepare the paste, the Tatuyo people first cook the fruit and extract its oily seeds, which are then soaked (sometimes for days), cooked again, and finally crushed to make a fine blackish porridge. As the food is seasonal, the Tatuyo preserve the purée in a perfectly sealed hole in the ground — an underground pantry — near the fire, which keeps it from insects. It is served intermittently in the months before the next harvest season.

As the hole is not entirely air tight, the paste very slowly matures in the manner of a cheese, which enriches its flavor and creates the potent smell. It can be eaten alone or with such as the local fish broth. For those who can handle the smell, it's a true delicacy. But it's also as unknown to most people as it is difficult to come by — except, of course, for anyone willing to venture into Vaupés.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

A Decisive Spring? How Ukraine Plans To Beat Back Putin's Coming Offensive

The next months will be decisive in the war between Moscow and Kyiv. From the forests of Polesia to Chernihiv and the Black Sea, Ukraine is looking to protect the areas that may soon be the theater of Moscow's announced offensive. Will this be the last Russian Spring?

Photo of three ​Ukrainian soldiers in trenches near Bakhmut, Ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers in trenches near Bakhmut, Ukraine

Anna Akage

Ukrainian forces are digging new fortifications and preparing battle plans along the entire frontline as spring, and a probable new Russian advance, nears.

But this may be the last spring for occupying Russian forces.

"Spring and early summer will be decisive in the war. If the great Russian offensive planned for this time fails, it will be the downfall of Russia and Putin," said Vadym Skibitsky, the deputy head of Ukrainian military intelligence.

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Skinitysky added that Ukraine believes Russia is planning a new offensive in the spring or early summer. The Institute for the Study of War thinks that such an offensive is more likely to come from the occupied territories of Luhansk and Donetsk than from Belarus, as some have feared.

Still, the possibility of an attack by Belarus should not be dismissed entirely — all the more so because, in recent weeks, a flurry of MiG fighter jet activity in Belarusian airspace has prompted a number of air raid alarms throughout Ukraine.

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