Ecuador is rich with tradition all year round. Take a look at the wealth of cultural expressions that make visiting this land an experience of a lifetime.
The first time the Chagras left the mountains and arrived by the big city was in 1877. A group of men dressed in hats, ponchos, sheepskin pants, and riding horses turned up one day at the center of Machachi city and with the authority of the parish priest they took the Christ figure “El Señor de la Escuela” in a procession reaching the skirts of Cotopaxi volcano to thank God for keeping their crops alive through the volcanic eruption of that period. The Chagras are well-known for the impressive horseman skills and exceptional management of cattle. To foreign visitors the chagras may be best described as the Ecuadorian cowboys. And every year by mid July in Machachi the new Chagras relive this procession in one of the most iconic celebrations of the Ecuadorian Andes.
November is an important month for Ecuadorians, it brings people together and brings a piece of the intimate ecuadorian culture to the forefront for all to discover an enjoy. November the 2nd is the Día de los Difuntos, a day when the deceased are remembered and honored. In some areas of the big cities and throughout the rural areas of Ecuador people flock to the cemeteries to visit their dead. The air is not of mourning across the cities and countryside but rather of a region-wide sense of companionship and familiarity. The streets are filled with the sweet scent of warm Colada Morada and passers-by are struck by the fragrant breeze of freshly baked Guaguas de Pan. Día de los Difuntos brings the nation together in a revival of aboriginal and colonial culture as well as modern takes on tradition.
More than two thousand penitents join the procession of Good Friday across the streets of Quito’s old town. The gem of Semana Santa is undoubtedly the Procesión de Jesús del Gran Poder (Procession of Jesus the Almighty) which gathers hundreds of devotees to thank, ask, and worship while dressed in the iconic cucurucho clothing. They wear long purple robes that have tall conical hoods with small holes for eyes and mouth. Easter celebrations begin, however, earlier in the week with Palm Sunday a procession which depicts Jesus’ entrance to Jerusalem. A series of processions and a wealth of cultural expressions take place throughout the week. Culminating the celebrations during Easter Sunday the legendary fanesca is religiously eaten in homes and restaurants alike.
Balconies dressed with wreaths of colorful flowers, parks decorated with fruit and petals, an entire city dressed to celebrate life and the land that gives us life. Late July or early March every year Ambato in the province of Tungurahua brings out the very best cultural expressions to delight national and international visitors during its carnival. Because of its prominence as one of the most important Ecuadorian celebration the Fiesta de las Flores y las Frutas was declared Immaterial Cultural Patrimony in 2009.
A truly exuberant celebration of the richly different traditions and cultures of the inhabitants of Ecuador. Around the 23rd until the 28th of September the annual celebration of the Mama Negra takes place in Latacunga capital of the province of Cotopaxi. The parade that characterizes the Mama Negra is made up of a wealth of characters including a captain dressed in colonial military attire, the Angel de la Estrella representing archangel Gabriel, and the Rey Moro depicting a noble and solemn moorish king among others. The celebration exalts the cultural richness coming out of the mixing of different cultures and peoples that make up today’s inhabitants.
According to legend during the colonial period the indigenous inhabitants of Píllaro would dress up as devils to rebel against and refuse the evangelization as well as the physical punishment brought upon them. Today, history has merged with tradition and what has come out of this fusion is one of the most unusual cultural expressions in Ecuador. The city of Píllaro, in the province of Tungurahua, welcomes not one but dozens of devils to flood the different neighborhoods of the city during the first days of January. Intricately crafted and strangely alluring devil masks stroll along the streets of city in fabulous parades accompanied by the music of the great Bandas Populares (popular band) playing the traditional and very tempting tunes of the saltashpas, san juanitos, and pasacalles.
Pawkar Raymi comes from the quichua meaning Celebration of Blossoming and it takes place every year across the andean communities of Ecuador. The most well-known Pawkar Raymi is that of Peguche in the northern city of Otavalo. Among the various activities the Tumarina, a celebration of water and flowers, is particularly impressive as it gathers the women of the community who collect wild flowers and bring water from different springs to their homes in order to gently drop the mixture of water and petals on their beloved ones head whispering the words of luck such as Kayguhuanllapash meaning “I hope your life blossoms like these flowers”.
The celebration ends with the positioning of a new Prioste who will be in charge of organizing the next Pawkar Raymi.
Literally translated as “the body of Christ” is a celebration of the Catholic faith commemorating the eucharist and held in many cities and towns of the ecuadorian andes. Cuenca’s imposing and beautiful cathedral along with its plaza, and the numerous other locations where Corpus Christi is celebrated are the every June the stage where for centuries have simmered catholic, colonial, and aboriginal cultural expressions to give rise to the modern cultural syncretism of today’s Corpus Christi celebrations. Dancers with colorful garments swirl across the roads while a number of white-clothed characters bearing ankle bells and carrying tall rectangular hats carpeted with mirrors encourage visitors to celebrate under the sun kissed streets of these andean towns.
The festival of the sun is a uniquely and profoundly amerindian tradition. It celebrates life by showing gratitude to the mother earth deity, Pachamama, for the harvest and praising the sun deity for blessing the earth and promoting the fertility of the land. During the months june across the ecuadorian highlands this incaic legacy which coincides with the summer solstice is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Inti Raymi is one of the four annual festivities of the andean calendar, it praises the sun — Inti — while Pawkar Raymi praises the earth — Pachamama.
It all begins with a parade across the main streets of the andean city of Ibarra as part of the celebrations for its foundation. Riders, young and old, perform tricks with their horses and greet the visitors who lining the streets eagerly wait for the crowd-pleasers — the zorros. Everybody knows that after the parade the real competition begins and the zorros will be at the center of it. During the race riders will test their speed and skill trying to catch the tail latched onto the zorro’s back who is the winner of last year’s competition. Across hills, ravines, and valleys the zorro will have to evade the agile riders. Crowds cheer and bet for their favorite riders and once the competition is over and the new zorro is crowned the afterparty can begin.