Sunday - September 27,2020
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3 most popular festivals in Ecuador

 

Ecuador is a country just on the exact geographical center of the world. The equator and the Greenwich Meridian cross it. This is one of the features that most attract tourists to this spot in the pacific coast of South America. Galapagos Archipelago is the other one. Now, while these are the two most important touristic hotspots, Ecuadorian culture has much more to offer. Here are some popular festivities you might like to take part in if you ever visit Ecuador.

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La Diablada de Píllaro(January 1)

We start the year on a high note with one of the most recognized Ecuadorian festivals worldwide. La Diablada de Píllaro takes place on the first days of January, in the town of Píllaro, inthe province of Tungurahua, surrounded by the Andean Mountains. This festival takes around a week and shows the spirit of Ecuadorian culture and its history.

So what is Diablada de Píllaro? It is a religious festival that comes as a result of the mixture between Catholic beliefs brought by Spanish conquerors and native indigenous customs. Although it is considered, as said before, a religious festival, it is kind of a way to rebel against catholic beliefs. This type of festivals were organized by native people or their descendants to hide their own cultural traits behind the mask of the new religion they were forced to follow when America was conquered.

It is uncertain when and how exactly did the Diablada first appear in Pillaro’s history. All records from the city were burnt to ashes around year 1898 by native tribes that attacked the town probably looking for revenge or for regaining their land. Therefore, any possible registry of how the festival started has long being lost. However, as is regular in Latin American culture, it was probably a way for priest to “teach” religion to indigenous people, and a way for them to get their own native celebrations approved by the public eye and the law.

Diablada de Píllaro is now such an important event that people from all over the country mobilize to this tiny town near Ambato just to see, and sometimes take part of, the festival. A week full of parades, dances, live local music and boiling culture awaits those interested. The preparations for this event take months before the event itself, as they must build the traditional masks and costumes they use, representing the devil in its many ways, both under the catholic and indigenous descriptions.

Masks are the most important attraction. They are crafted by hand. Anyone can think about a design that shows one’s idea of how would look like and find a way to create it with whatever materials are available. Creativity shows as it best in the faces of the people in Píllaro during this time, literally. During the festival lots of people will wear their masks while walking around the city and dance to the rhythm of the traditional music. Each one of the nearer towns will also come to Píllaro with their own dancers, musicians and masks.

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Besides the devils, which are the main attraction of the festival, there are also other groups of disguised people the Capariche, Lineas and Guaricha; which represent different characters of the town’s history and society. The festival was declared Intangible Cultural heritage in 2009. It is an event worth to attend to, but be prepared to walk long distances with the crowd, or arrive early so you can find a good place where you can stand and watch the parade. Many people attend to this event and Píllaro is very small so if you want to find the right spot you must arrive as early as you can.

Carnival or Ecuadorian Mardi Gras (February – March)

Carnival is celebrated someday midway between February and March, depending of the Catholic Calendar, as it is supposed to start exactly 40 days before Easter. I think all of us probably know what carnival is about, but in Ecuador’s case, carnival mixes the normal Catholic festivities with its own indigenous tradition, as it does with most of its festivals.

We all must know by now how influential it was for the Latin culture having gone through the Spanish conquest and all the events that marked history from then and on. These kind of mixed cultural celebrations can be found in more than one country in Latin America, as all of them who were occupied by Spanish conquerors needed to find a way to keep their original culture alive while keeping themselves safe too. Hiding their celebrations behind the Catholic ones was that way.

Carnival, although originally a catholic festivity, was used by indigenous people to celebrate the moon, which was considered a goddess; and to thank all their different gods for the fertility of the land just before the harvest time. There is where the tradition of throwing water, flour, flowers and other stuff between each other came from. So be aware that if you arrive to Ecuador in carnival you will probably end needing a very good shower after the festivities.

All of the country celebrates this special date with different intensities. Quito, the capital from Ecuador, might be a pretty safe place when it comes to being soaked, as they prefer to play only between each other. However, if you go to smaller towns you might be facing a serious risk of getting in between a carnival battle, which you will not leave without receiving some water bombs, flour, colored water and maybe an egg or two just over your head. And I will not even talk about Guaranda. If little towns around Quito are a constant battle, city of Guaranda is actually going to war!

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Probably the best city to spend carnival in is Ambato. They also play this water battle hard, but a little less than in Guaranda city, but what is best about Ambato in particular is that they also include a very beautiful parade in the middle of all the wildness. La Fiesta de las flores y las frutas (The flower and fruit festivity) honors the fruits of earth with a nice parade where you will see many different costumes on people and on cars. They are all beautiful handcrafted weeks before the festival. It is a true work of art.

Holy week (April)

Holy week is an interesting festivity to visit Ecuador’s capital. Although it is also celebrated in the rest of the country, but this city has probably the most interesting attractions during this period. Visiting the many churches found in the downtown and watching the processions and all the characters that take part of these events is really worth it. There is also a very important Sacred Music Festival taking place around this time. You will be able to see many local and international artistic groups performing in several locations around the city. In addition, it is the best time to enjoy Ecuadorian gastronomic tradition at its best. It is Fanesca time!

Fanesca is a special soup that Ecuadorian people prepare only during the holy week, as a replacement of meat, which is not supposed to be eaten during this period. It also comes from a harvest time tradition as slaves and servants needed to be well fed for the harvest, and there was plenty of food to do so. This soup is basically a mix of every grain you can think of that exists in this country with some salted cod (usually, but optional). One dish and you will be full, I warn you. Another nice city to visit during this time is Cuenca.

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If you cannot wait to visit Ecuador and especially one of its great festivals, go to the German website Backpacketrail to find out more travel tips for your next adventure to Ecuador.

List of other major festivals

  • January – Diablada de Píllaro on January 1st
  • February – Carnival, 40 days before Easter. Better experienced in Ambato.
  • March –Carnival keeps going and the International Sacred Music Festival starts
  • April – During the festivities of Holy Week, the main cities of Ecuador are full of cultural activities to attend and enjoy.Do not forget to try Fanesca, it is delicious! The foundation of Cuenca city also takes place on April 12th.
  • May – Independence Day on May 24th.
  • June – Inti Raymi is one of the most important indigenous festivities in various Latin American countries. It is the festivity of the Sun God, thanking him for the harvest. It is celebrated at the beginning of summer in South America, approximately around June 2nd. There is a lot of food, drinks and activities to enjoy.
  • July – Inti Raymi continues in some locations. Another important festivity is Paseo del Chagra on July 21st in the town of Machachi, near the city of Quito. It is a parade in honor to the native culture. El Chagra refers to the indigenous people that inhabit this part of the country. It is popular to see them ride their horses during the parade.
  • August – Virgen de las Nieves Sicalpa on August 5th and Independence day on August 9th and 10th.
  • September – Festival de la Virgen de la Merced on September 23rd.
  • October – Guayaquil’s Independence on October 9th
  • November – Cuenca’s Independence on November 3rd
  • December – Christmas on December 24th and 25th

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