Cactus Rain Sticks or Palos de Agua originated in Northern Chile but are now made in Peru as well. They are made from the dead decayed husks of the many varieties of Cactuses native to the Andes Mountains. First, suitable pieces are found and cut to the proper size. They are then reamed out clean with a piece of steel rebar. The thorns, which are cut from live cactuses, are then pounded into and across the shaft in a spiraling pattern with the side of a pair of pliers.
Small, sized, pebbles are put in, and the ends capped. The stick is sealed with “cola fria” a clear wood glue mixed with water and dark coloring. The sound you hear is the pebbles hitting the thorns inside the sealed shaft.
THE ORIGIN OF “EL PALO DE AGUA”
Chilean legend has it the Diaguita Indians used Rain Sticks during their ceremonies to call on the spirits of rain. Today, The Rain Stick is used mainly as a musical instrument, normally included with the typical Andean Group.
There is little fear these varieties of cactus face extinction, in fact, they are thriving. These areas are vast and sparsely populated. They grow in dense cactus forests often uninhabited by man. For Rain Stick making, only dead growth is used. This harvesting actually promotes the species by providing room for new vegetation.