Ecuador has a long tradition with festivals, dating back to indigenous celebration that took place long before the Spanish arrived in the area. Many of these indigenous festivals became melded into those of Christian tradition creating a unique blend among the cultures. Regardless of what they symbolize, Ecuadorians love a good party and visitors looking to have a good time will have their pick of the litter when it comes to celebrations in the country.
[CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
While every region has their own different celebrations, Carnival is a massive national celebration in Ecuador and like many countries all around the world; it is the biggest celebration in the year. Spanning the month of February up until Ash Wednesday, locals in all cities around the country hold parades with floats, dance and other performances and dress up in colourful costumes. In between the parades, revellers wile away the hours with dance competitions, live music and, of course, copious feasting. While today the Carnival celebration is primarily dominated by Catholic traditions, it also lines up with the massive celebration of the Huarangas natives, so like many Carnivals around the world it has melded Christian elements with native traditions. Visitors during Carnival time should be prepared to get a little wet, during the Carnival celebration it is customary to throw water balloons, flour and maybe even a few eggs, making for a celebration that you shouldn't wear fancy dress to. The throwing of water and food is frowned upon by Christian officials, but it is one of the many indigenous traditions that have persisted in the celebration.
Diablada Pillarena in Pillaro
Diablada Pillarena, or the Devil's Feast, in Pillaro is where the devils take over the town. On January 1st through the 6th, thousands of devils take to the streets, jumping and shouting throughout Pillaro. Although seemingly sacrilegious, it is believed that participating in this festival brings good luck through the new year, thus why locals young and old done their devil garb to keep the good luck flowing. Not much is known about this strictly regional festival, its origins and history were said to have been burnt along with other historical documents in an indigenous uprising in 1898. One thing that is still known is that the devils are less of religious symbolism and more of a symbol of rebellion against oppressors these days. Village bands play them through the streets with a serenade of song, devils and people alike spend their days eating and drinking, but overall the costume often made with real animal teeth and horns are quite the impressive spectacle.
Festival of Fruits and Flowers in Ambato
As one of Ecuador's youngest festivals, the Festival of Fruits and Flowers in Ambato was originally created to raise money after a disastrous earthquake ravaged the region in 1949, taking thousands of lives. While it helped raise the spirits and funds for the displaced people, it has continued on since as one of Ecuador's most beautiful celebrations. It celebrates the fertile soil that helps Ambato maintain their livelihood, and although it lines up with the nation's Carnival season in February and is often overshadowed by it. Although during Carnival it is their custom to toss water and other things at people, but it is forbidden in Ambato during this festival as water belongs to the soil to grow. However, it does have some Carnival trappings such as the main event, the Parade, featuring marching bands, skits, and floats, all of which are decorated by flowers and fruits. In the main atrium of Ambato's cathedral, visitors can attend the Blessing of the Bread and Fruit, which is a Mass-type gathering with the atrium depicting a huge mural of Jesus as well as traditional symbols all made from flowers, fruit and bread.
Black Mama in Latacunga
The Black Mama festival in Latacunga has proven to be a constantly evolving event. Although it began in times long lost to history, it has melded indigenous traditions with those of African, Spanish, pagan and Christian elements to create a wholly dynamic cultural experience. As to why it is called the Black Mama festival, the origins have been lost to time. However, it is thought that it calls back to the time when African slaves were brought to the area by the Spanish to work the plantations and silver mines. These slaves intermingled with the indigenous people and left a lasting effect on their culture, so why not celebrate it? Oddly enough, the festival is held two times a year, once on September 23rd and 24th to thank the Lady of Mercy for protecting the region from the Cotopaxi Volcano's eruption in 1742 and again on November 11th to celebrate Ecuador's Independence Day. As for the celebration itself, it is a unique and folkloric manifestation centered around parades of folklore characters dressed in elaborate costumes such as Black Mama herself, Angel of the Star and the Moorish King. The festival is typically a very humorous one made to make people laugh and generally ends with massive city-wide parties with copious food, drink and dance.
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