The week leading up to Easter is a very interesting time to visit Latin America. The blend of colonially-introduced Catholic traditions with an indigenous flair makes for some over-the-top festivities. We spent Easter in Guatemala in 2004, and really enjoyed the spectacle. We decided to spend this Easter with our compadres in Ecuador, to see how they celebrate the season.
We traveled to Quito on March 31. Unfortunately, we got to the airport in the morning to find that our American flight had been canceled. There was no way that they could get us to Miami in time for our 2 p.m. connection to Quito. The agent worked all possible angles and we ended up taking a United flight to Houston, which would then get us to Quito 4 hours late.
|Yupanqui, Aida, Rosa, Sisa, and Antonio pick us up at the airport|
|Rosa puts a necklace on Steph|
In the daylight we were able to see a lot of changes to the property which hadn't been so visible at night. They had poured a concrete patio behind the house. This area had been very broken up concrete and muddy for Sisa's baptism. Now it was much easier to keep clean. They had also moved the outdoor sink area further back from the house and under some trees. We saw Max the dog, as well as a new kitten, which they call "Chipi" ("kitty" in Kichwa). We were surprised to meet Loro ("Parrot" in Spanish). He was a parrot who belonged to somebody across the ravine. With his clipped wings, he somehow walked over to Antonio's house 6 months ago, and has stayed ever since. The family feeds him like they do their other animals, and he is now just part of the family. There was also a huge white rooster strutting around the yard, and rumor had it that he would be eaten before the week was out.
|Antonio gathers plants and Sisa hugs her new Dora doll|
|Yupanqui and Sisa wait for the bus to Cotacachi|
|Religious float carried on the shoulders of penitents|
The next day we went for a walk with Antonio, Aida, and the kids. We walked up to the land where Rosa lived as a child. They have choclo corn and haba beans growing here, and they wanted to harvest a few choice ears and stalks. Antonio brought his mandolin and played as we walked. It was very idyllic. We sat for a while next to the abandoned concrete house where Rosa had lived as a child. Sisa, true to her namesake (her name means flower in Kichwa), gathered flowers as we walked. When we got to the field, Antonio and Aida gathered some ears of corn whose kernels were yellow, but the cob itself was a deep purple. Aida stripped some cornstalks of their outer peel and handed them to us and the kids suck on and chew. The choclo stalk was almost like sugar cane, dripping with a sweet juice. Antonio grabbed some choclo leaves, which he said that they could feed to their cuy (guinea pigs). We didn't know that they kept cuy. In Peru people keep them in their kitchen. There certainly were no cuy in Rosa's modern kitchen (complete with new microwave and cabinets).
|Sisa's Preschool Class|
On Thursday, for lunch, we had the much-anticipated fanesca. It was a delicious blend of all of the grains that we had shelled in the past few days, plus some slices of hot dog (probably not part of the traditional recipe, which has a Lenten prohibition against meat). We even helped Rosa to make some little corn doughnuts to dip into the fanesca. They opened a can of sardines and added some to their bowls. They also added fried plantains. It was a delicious and filling lunch. We had a hot drink called mora colada, made with blackberries.
|Sisa and Rose emerge from the Inca Cave at Peguche Falls|
|Yupanqui and Antonio emerge from the Inca cave at Peguche Falls|
|Aida, Sisa, Rosa, Antonio, and Yupanqui on the bridge|
|Sisa, Yupanqui, and Antonio in the Inca sun house|
|Crowds gathered at the cemetery on Good Friday|
It was a great sense of community and respect for the dead. As we packed up our things and started to head out, we came to a fountain where people could get drinks of water and wash their dishes. Everyone stopped there and rinsed out the bowls and plates they had been eating from. We walked back to the square.
|Sharing food with the living and the dead at the cemetery on Good Friday|
People were congregating around the floats, looking at them. There were a few police closing roads and keeping everything orderly. We saw the float made by the Morochos community. One float had a statue of Jesus carrying the cross and also a real child dressed up as a Roman soldier next to him. This was the first time we had ever seen a person on one of these floats.
|Hand-carried "floats" awaiting the procession|
|Hand-carried "float" awaiting the procession|
We picked up the action at the Last Supper. Jesus holds a small loaf of bread aloft toward heaven. Then he holds up a chalice. Soon afterwards the apostles fall asleep. Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested. As the apostles wake up, one attacks the Roman soldiers. Jesus stops him.
|Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane while the apostles sleep|
|Jesus is arrested|
There were a few missed cues ("Caiaphus? Caiaphus? CAIAPHUS!" the emcee called under his breath at one point. At another point, he gestured wildly for the apostles to lay on the ground for their Gethsemane scene) but all in all everyone took it quite seriously. There was some feedback from the sound system. You could see the speaker vibrating itself apart. Antonio went over to help, having a lot of experience working with sound equipment often with his band Chaski Ñan.
Jesus' hands are bound and he is paraded through the city. Peter denies him three times before the young Roman guard crows like a rooster. The guards whip Jesus as he walks. Jesus is brought before Herod. The mob yells for crucifixion. We felt caught up in the mob mentality; it seemed all too real.
As the procession moved along, Craig and I jockeyed for position so that we could see and get photos. The rest of the family held back, letting us do what we wanted, while they looked on from a distance, buying the kids ice cream, and generally enjoying the atmosphere. Once in a while we would feel a little hand take ours. We would look down and see Sisa smiling. "Achi Taita! Achi Mama!" she would call to us. Despite the crowd and the heat of the day she seemed to be in an excellent mood. At one point we saw Yupanqui on Aida's back, fast asleep with an ice cream stick still in his hand.
|Jesus is tried|
|Jesus carries the cross|
As we approach La Matriz church, we run smack dab into the other procession (the one with people carrying flags and floats). There is a moment of pause where they pass one another. We could see the Morochos float in the distance.
|Jesus is crucified|
|Jesus dies on the cross|
|Preparing the rooster|
|Preparing the cuy (guinea pig)|
They had stoked the fire and put a pot of water on to boil. The rooster was so big that all of him couldn't fit into the pot at once. Rosa dunked it in several times and then Aida held it while Rosa plucked off the pure white feathers. It went very quickly. After several more dunkings, all the feathers were off and Rosa peeled the outer skin off the feet. There was a lot of nervous laughing going on the whole time. Rosa and Aida made jokes that Saturday was the rooster's bath day. Then they dunked the cuy into the boiling water and pulled its fur off. It reminded me of the fetal pig that I had dissected in high school biology, but slightly smaller.
Aida talked about wild cuy and rabbits at nearby Lake Cuicocha. I asked if they eat rabbits. "No," said Aida and "Si," said Rosa simultaneously. We all laughed. Aida said she doesn't eat cuy either. "Como todos," said Rosa proudly. Rosa eats everything. Aida said that Yupanqui really like cuy.
|Aida and Rosa joke while they pluck the rooster|
|The cuy is ready to be cooked|
Rosa chopped off the head of the rooster (the Chinese food scene in A Christmas Story came to mind) and then she picked its eyes out.The rooster's heart was huge. She cleaned out the intestines and put most of the entrails aside to feed the parrot, of all things. Eventually the rooster looked "processed" enough that she could have just been preparing a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. Aida took the meat into the kitchen and started cooking it. Rosa then processed the cuy. Although she gutted it, its head remains on while it is cooked, so it looks rather striking on a plate.
|Sisa writes in her notebook|
We went to a community football (soccer) game against a neighboring village. Antonio was the referee. The women and kids congregated, chatted, and enjoyed food while the men played. An ice cream truck came (not what we traditionally think of as an ice cream truck in the U.S. This was a pickup truck with a soft serve machine in the back). We bought ice cream cones for 7 people for $1.75. What a deal!
|Sisa and friends enjoy ice cream at the soccer game|
The next day was Easter Sunday. In a cultural exchange, we decided to give them a little taste of how children in the U.S. celebrate Easter - with an Easter egg hunt. We had filled 30 plastic eggs with candy and hid them around the yard. We gave Sisa and Yupanqui each a small stuffed Easter bunny, and told them that he had hidden eggs full of sweets outside. After we demonstrated finding an egg and putting it into her plastic bag, Sisa was off. She was excitedly running around the yard, scooping up eggs. Aida took Yupanqui by the hand and led him to some of the harder-to-find hiding spots. The whole family gathered outside to watch, and to help the kids find all of the eggs. It was a lot of fun, and we were happy to be able to show them how we had celebrated Easter as kids. And of course Sisa and Yupanqui love candy. Most of it was already devoured by the afternoon.
|Hunting for Easter eggs|
|Aida and Yupanqui find an Easter egg|
|Steph and Yupanqui|
|Cake and rum|
|Steph and Sisa|
|Antonio, Aida, and Yupanqui|
|Saying goodbye at Quito airport|