Hello! My name is Emma Lepore and I am an intern with Performing Arts Abroad in Ecuador.
Being in a Catholic country, I suspected that Easter would be a big deal. About a week before Hold Week, I learned that many people take advantage of their time off to leave the city and go on holiday, or visit relatives in a different province. Originally, I thought I would also take advantage of an extra day off and go to Baños; however, even the week before many of the hotels were full. Since going to Baños for Easter wasn’t going to happen, I started to look for things to do in the city.
After talking with a few people, I decided that Quito’s Good Friday procession was an event I should not miss. On Good Friday I headed to Old Town for La Procesión de Jesus del Gran Poder (The Procession of Jesus of Great Power). It is estimated that a quarter of a million people gather in the Plaza de San Francisco to observe and participate in the spectacle. The procession begins at noon, the hour Jesus was condemned to death, and lasts for three hours, which was the time Jesus was crucified. There are a few processions around Quito on Good Friday; however, Jesus del Gran Poder is the big event for Quitanos during holy week.
I watched the procession from the Plaza de Independencia, which was on the procession route and a few blocks away from the Plaza de San Francisco. There were a lot of people packed onto the sidewalk, trying to get a good view of the procession. Vendors were selling snacks, hats, bancos (stools), drinks, and everything else under the sun. The traffic police were making sure all the observers were staying on the sidewalk and out of the way of the participants.
At 11:00 am the procession passed through the street where I was located. There were many people dressed in purple robes that were similar to the robes of the Ku Klux Klan. Fortunately, the significance of this dress is very different than that of the Klan. The men are called Cucuruchos (meaning cone) and the women are called Veronicas (after the woman who offered Jesus her veil to wipe his face). The cone shaped head dresses are a sign of humility and the color purple represents penitence. Dispersed throughout the people dressed in purple robes are men carrying crosses, dressed in white robes with crowns of thorns. Some also have painted blood on their foreheads or wear chains on their feet. These men are representing Jesus Christ on his way to the cross.
To participate in this parade is a great honor and participants take a year to prepare for the procession. These people process as an act of faith.
Being from the United States, I am not accustomed to such grand, public displays of faith. In the US religion is very important; however, it acts more as an undertone to our lives. I think that many people in the United States are afraid to display their faith and I admire the participants the La Procesión de Jesus del Gran Poder for being publicly proclaiming their faith. At the same time, I don’t believe that one faith is superior to another and it is important to respect the beliefs of all people. This event, which obviously encourages certain religious beliefs, was a little scary. Respecting others beliefs and decisions does not decentralize religion in my life, but it makes me aware that following God’s path for me and spreading God’s love does not have a denomination.
Later that afternoon I was invited to a party at Martha’s father’s house. Martha’s father lives in the valley about an hour outside of the city. It was very different from the city houses. The house only had one floor and it had a yard. At the party we ate the traditional Santo Viernes dish Fancesca. This soup takes four hours to prepare and two hours to cook, which is probably the reason why it is only eaten during holy week. This soup can have many ingredients including: fish, fava beans, chochos, corn, peas, porotos, rice, onions and garlic. Traditionally this dish contains seven different types of grains. It was excellent, but after one bowel I was full for the rest of the night.
Similar to a Lepore family tradition, after eating, we took a walk on a path built along the river. On this walk we also took the dogs. I am pretty sure that every family in Ecuador has dogs. We had to walk through a neighborhood before reaching the park, and as we passed every house a dog would start to bark. By the time we reached the end of the street, there was a chorus of dog barking.
When we finally returned home I was exhausted. It was a long day full of new, traditional Ecuradorian experiences. I went to bed knowing that Saturday would be an early morning.
On Saturday, I woke up early to catch a bus to Otavalo. Otavalo is a small town about two hours north of Quito. It has a large indigenous market and a waterfall!
First, I made my way to the waterfall. After reaching the park, it was a short walk to the waterfall. The park also had a hot spring and a swinging bridge, so I explored the forest for a while. It was the perfect day for a walk and the scenery was simply spectacular.
A little later I ventured back into town to check out the indigenous market. The market spans over a few streets, because Otavalo is not that big, the market takes up a lot of the town. There are stands selling a variety of products from jewelry to plantains. There are also a lot of people shopping, haggling to get the best price for their treasurers. I knew I wanted to buy some alpargatas, which are traditional sandal shoes worn by the indigenous. I also bought some jewelry and gifts.
After shopping, I went to a restaurant and had a veggie burrito. Burritos are not typical Ecuadorian cuisine, but it tasted great! When I was finished I walked back to the bus station to return to Quito.
It was interesting to watch the Procession on Friday, but going to Otavalo on Saturday was the highlight of my weekend. It is nice to get out of the pollution and traffic on the weekends. The city is nice; however, I still feel that city living is just temporary for me.
During my trip I thought about how blessed I am to have technology. Not only could I talk with my family, I was also able to attend my Grandmother’s service via Skype. I am truly blessed with an incredible support system and an amazing role model watching over me.