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Cultural Activities and Festivals in Ecuador

LiveTheLifeinEcuador  | February 25, 2015

Let's dance!

Let’s dance!

With its rich and colorful culture, storied history, and many interesting traditions, Ecuador provides visitors with a glimpse of a unique past, telling the story of a beautiful country that was once home to many ancient civilizations. Most tourists are attracted to Ecuador because of its beautiful natural surroundings and diverse opportunities for outdoor recreation, often overlooking its many enjoyable festivals and cultural activities throughout the year.

Festivals in Ecuador are some of the most interesting and enjoyable events found throughout the world. As in other cultures, the holidays, events, and festivals in Ecuador are connected to various seasons, cultural traditions, and religious observances.

If you’re in the mood to celebrate or would just like to get a taste of colorful Ecuadorian culture, here are different events and festivals you can check out:

Easter Week

Celebrated in the city of Quito, Ecuador’s capital, Easter Week is a celebration made up of a series of rituals and ceremonies that starts on Palm Sunday. Starting at noon on Good Friday, the March of Penitents, which recounts the events during the time when Pontius Pilates ordered the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. During the march, several hooded figures (called “cucuruchos” and “Veronicas”) are accompanied by men carrying heavy crosses, representing Christ. The group begins at the Church of San Francisco, making its way through the historic downtown district. The ceremony lasts until 3pm, which is said to be the hour of Christ’s death.

Corpus Christi

Celebrated during the second week of June, Corpus Christi, which means “the body of Christ,” is a religious holiday throughout Ecuador, and one best experienced in the small town of Pujili. During this holiday several participants garbed in exotic and symbolic costumes along with “Dazantes del Sol,” or sun dancers, perform a ceremonial dance intended to express gratitude towards the sun and the moon for a bountiful harvest. At Corpus Christi, guests can enjoy a celebration filled with music and plenty of food and drinks, along with beautiful gardens that are showcased in honor of the holiday.

El Paseo del Chagra

Similar to Spain’s “Running of the Bulls” celebration, El Paseo del Chagra is a festival with rodeos and a herding of “Ganado Bravo,” or “fighting cattle” from the plateaus of Cotopaxi National Park. It is celebrated every 19th of July. One of the highlights during the event is a challenge involving hundreds of “chagra” (Ecuador’s cowboys) who work together to locate, wear down, and herd the bulls, guiding them to the haciendas and ranches at the bottom of the valleys.

Mama Negra

Widely considered one of Ecuador’s most popular and unique cultural events, “Mama Negra” (“the Black Mother”) is a one-of-a-kind celebration held in Latacunga during the second Saturday of November. The festival mixes different cultures – Spanish, African, Incan, Mayan, and Aymaran – into one enjoyable public celebration of civic pride.

Mama Negra is a festival based on the time when the Spanish colonized Latacunga for its resources. They attempted to forcibly convert its native inhabitants to Catholicism – a task they were unable to successfully accomplish as the indigenous simply took elements of Catholicism and mixed it in with their own traditions and beliefs, creating a hybrid belief system.

The arrival of the Mama Negra, which is carried by a rider with his face painted black, is the highlight of the entire event. The idol is a combination of the Virgin and African deities.