Ecuador is a diverse country in which religion has played a big role in culture and traditions. It has experienced a unique fusion of ancient pre-Hispanic culture and catholic elements brought to the continent during colonization. In each city and town, you can see this great influence of the Catholic religion on their customs, architecture and beliefs.
One of the most famous celebrations in Ecuador and the world is the Christian Holy Week, especially in the Metropolitan District of Quito where you can witness the devotion of the followers of the Catholic church in different celebrations and acts, such as the famous Procession of Jesus of the Great Power during Good Friday. On this day thousands of devotees leave from the San Francisco Church on a route through the streets of the Historic Center of the city. Those who participate are men and women dressed in cornets in their black and purple long robes that are penitent, also involved the so-called “Veronicas” which are a groups of women wearing lace veils and representing the women who accompanied Jesus while carrying his own cross.
Around 250.000 people participate in this procession, in an event that is a vivid testimony of the people´s faith and devotion during the procession that makes its way through the narrow streets of the beautiful historic center of our capital city.. At this colorful spectacle you will witness the joy of children and adults of all parts of the country coming together and many spectators enjoying the event from balconies and sidewalks.
Another of the symbolic events of this festivity season is the “Arrastre de Caudas (Tail Dragging) that has been taken place in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito every Holy Wednesday since the sixteenth century. It is a representation of an ancient Roman funeral where penitent religious depart from the High Altar and walk through the temple accompanied by two altar boys who carry lighted candles. The Archbishop carries the Blessed Sacrament, a jewel of gold and precious stones that has embedded fragments of the True Cross and the wood where Jesus Christ suffered his passion. all this together with eight canons who wear black with three garments: the cassock, a small cape and the hood from which the cauda is detached, a black cloth that falls down their backs and crawls on the ground. It is believed that if someone is touched by this garment, death will come in a year, for which reason everyone carefully moves away as it passes, just in case the legend might be true. The Archbishop wears a dress of gold, purple and white, embroidered with gold and silver threads. Quito is the only Latin American city that has continued to carry on with this unique tradition.
In the parishes of the Metropolitan District of Quito they still keep Holy Week traditions. In Alangasi for example, the Saturday after Good Friday has hosted the celebration of the Blessing of Fire and “Diablada” for more than 150 years, where a group of more than 20 men dressed like devils with capes, masks and a series of devilish details, run around town and disturb the church while mass is celebrated. , They distract the attendees, joking around and scaring everyone, representing the evil that surrounded Jesus during his crucifixion. Attentive to the mass, the listeners try to avoid the devils, feeling their presence behind their backs or getting scared and trying to not scream out loud. Many also try to focus on prying while being distracted and contain their laughter when being teased by one of them. At the end of the Mass the priest of the parish says an acclamation for the resurrection of Jesus “Glory, glory, glory” while a “chamiza” (bonfire) that represents hell is lid up in the central square. When hearing these words, the devils run terrified towards the fire as a representation of good triumphing over evil.
These “devils” are members of Catholic families that for several generations have participated in this celebration as part of this select group.
Last but not least, let your palate be delighted by the famous “fanesca”, a dish prepared only during Holy Week with a variety of tender grains such as beans, beans, Andean lupins, corn and peas accompanied by pieces of fish, fried dough, fried banana, sliced egg, chopped parsley and in certain occasion’s chili flowers. It originates from the pre-Hispanic era during the Mushuc Nina or New Fire Day, which celebrates the Equinox in March and symbolizes the beginning of a new life cycle of the New Year. A delicious dish that you can find all over Ecuador.
Visiting Quito in this season gives you an insight into a city full of unique traditions allowing you to be part of colorful celebrations charged with many different emotions and flavors.