Monday, November 7, 2011

Ecuadorian holidays

I had most of the last week off from school for a three day national holiday. The first day off (last Wednesday) was Día de los Difuntos, a kind of Ecuadorian version of day of the dead where people visit the graves of their family members. We celebrated by doing a bit of a whirlwind tour of Quito's cemeteries to visit Miguel and Dori's relatives' graves. Each of the graveyards had a bit of a festive atmosphere. A bunch of enterprising shopkeepers had converted their stores completely into flower shops. Many of the cemeteries have a system where the graves are stacked one on top of another in a wall, so some people were walking around with ladders that they were renting to people for $.50. Although it might seem a bit morose to be going around to graveyards, it was an interesting experience.

Another part of Día de los Difuntos is enjoying colada morada and guaguas (pronounced wa-was) de pan. The colada morada is a syrupy like drink made from cooking berries, pineapple, and herbs in huge vats. The guaguas de pan, (guagua is a Kichwa word that means babies), are a special sweet bread filled with jam and topped with a little bit of frosting. I like to dip the bread in the colada morada. It's a combination guaranteed to induce a sugar rush. Last Sunday we made colada morada together at home (see pictures). At school on Tuesday, the last day before the holidays, we also had colada morada.

Thursday was Independencia de Cuenca. Each of Ecuador's major colonial cities (Guayaquil, Quito, and Cuenca) celebrates a different day for independence. We decided to spend the day in Latacunga, the capital of Cotopaxi province to the south of us. I can't claim the drive was very comfortable, for we managed to fit six people into Miguel's 1986 Toyota (we drove with Miguel, Dori, Dori's sister Lloma, Vero, Alex, and me). But if I thought we'd been uncomfortable with six, I was in for a rude awakening when we met up with another sister of Dori's (Jenny) and Jenny's son Andrés. I'm not exactly sure how we did it, but we drove around Latacunga with eight people in the car.

Andrés is my age and he and his mom were in Latacunga to check out a technical university there that he wants to start attending next year to start training to be a mechanic. Latacunga was a nice break from Quito. For one thing, it's much smaller (its population is around 150,000), so we enjoyed being able to move around a bit more freely. Also, the province of Cotopaxi is named after the volcano of Cotopaxi, which dominates the view on the two hour drive to Latacunga. I took some very unsatisfying pictures from the car as we were driving down, but they do capture the coolness of driving past a volcano.

On Sunday the whole family went hiking together on a mountain nearby. The base, where we parked the car, is around 8,000 ft, and we hiked all the way up to 10,000 ft. The top is capped by a heavily graffitied cross that's visible from all over the valley. Likewise, we got panoramic views of Valle de los Chillos (where we live), as well as some partial views of Quito, around half an hour north of us.

After a very active vacation I'm ready to get back to school. I'm looking forward to practicing soccer again and seeing friends. The homework situation continues to be pretty manageable. The only studying I've had to do over the break has been studying the "constitutional" presidents of Ecuador. I have to know the dates of their presidencies and a significant achievement from their administrations. The dates are most difficult for me because Ecuador's constitutional presidents have a history of being replaced by military juntas for periods. As a result, there are a lot of Ecuadorian presidents who only served for a couple of weeks. Sometimes, the same man was elected president several times throughout history, like José Maria Velasco Ibarra, who was president five different times between 1934 and 1970.

I should get going at this point. I've forgotten most of the commitments of José Velasco. I think he must have done something to piss of Ecuador's military, because he seems to have had the honor of being deposed through coup several times.

Dario and Vero cooking up some colada morada.

The master at work. Notice also the huge quantity of colada morada my family made. We had around 15-20 people, but it's still an obscene amount. It sure was good though!

The final presentation. Time until sugar rush: 3 minutes

The view of Cotopaxi Volcano from my house.

Cotopaxi as seen on the drive back from Latacunga.

Group picture in Latacunga: from left to right, back row - Vero, Dori, Alexis, Miguel, Andrés, me; front row - Lloma, Jenny.

Group photo at the top of the mountain. If you look over Vero's left shoulder you can see just a little bit of Quito to the northwest.

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed the photos.


  1. Nice photos, Jimmy. It's cool to have a volcano to check out everyday. Visiting cemeteries is weird. Thanks for posting!

  2. Nicely written J-man. We can't wait to visit your favorite sites in December!

  3. Thanks, Jimmy, for the posts. Dia de los Difuntos actually sounds pretty fun. Best of luck on your exam.

  4. I'm wondering if there are other US (packaged) foods we could bring in Dec to share with the Pachecos. I have maple syrup on the list. What else do you think the extended family might like as they celebrate the Christmas and New Year holidays?