How do you celebrate big things in a small place?
Think about Christmas for instance in the U.S. In the small towns, at least in the Midwest, the city Christmas decorations usually involve a park of some sorts with random animals and Christmas-related items spread about and covered in lights. Maybe…maybe there’s a Christmas parade. There’s probably bells or stars hanging from the light polls on Main St. If you’re like my family, your grandparents or some other relative probably lives in this small town and you go visit during the holidays. There’s usually copious amounts of food with everyone hanging out in the kitchen.
I was lucky enough to arrive in the Saq (referring to Saquisilí from now on) during Holy Week or Semana Santa. My host mom just so happens to be one of those Ecuadorians who is actually religious, meaning its more than just a cultural thing. I arrived on Wednesday and by Sunday I was feeling pretty Catholic. We started things off on Thursday night, where every one of the 300+ people was served a shot of wine, grapes, and a small loaf of bread. We’re talking more than just your average communion consisting of a few drops of wine and a wafer or a few crumbs of bread. This was THE Last Supper after all. The mass started at 7pm and I was a bit late coming back from Latacunga. My host mom called me and told me to hurry to the church because it was starting. So I go and meet her outside thinking we’d find a nice seat in the back. She takes my arm and we walk all the way to the first row of seats in front of the 300+ people who were already sitting. HELLOOO new gringa!
Good Friday I was awoken by bands playing in the main park. I went down for breakfast and was instructed to go find the bands and watch the procession while my host mom washed her clothes. So I went to find the bands and followed the procession for a while up the mountain. We went to mass in the afternoon and walked in another procession up a mountain to a little barrio called Chantilin. Everyone walks with candles and follows the bandera, a long carpet type thing embroidered with crosses, etc. I got asked to carry it but it was wet and everyone kept stepping on it. No thanks. We made it up the mountain to a tent and, as with all times that I leave the house, there was a huge meal waiting. I never got the full scoop on why we were there or who made the food but we sat and ate nonetheless. I had a nice large bowl of fanesca, the traditional soup served during Holy Week. It consists of 12 different grains, representing the 12 Apostles. Avas, peas, rice, chocho, lentils, beans, etc. along with boiled eggs, rice, and usually dried cod. Pretty tasty and very heavy.
trying Fanesca for the first time on Thursday
Tio Luchito carrying the Bandera up the mountain
Good Friday Procession
The Stations of the Cross (the story of the Crucifixion) was definitely the most interesting part of the whole week. I’m not sure how they do it in other small towns but because the Saq is a pretty small town (you can walk from one end of the city proper to the other in 10 minutes), the Stations were laid out at tiendas around town. The priostes or brotherhood at the church, choose where/who will do the stations each year. My host mom was in charge of the 10th Station which meant some hustle and bustle getting it all ready. We opened up the little tienda next to the house that’s usually locked up. We walked around the park and gathered some kids (or so it seemed to me) to be Jesus and a soldier. We went to another little store to rent fabric and costumes and brought everything back to the tienda.We hung the fabric outside, brought the kitchen table out for the stage, and dressed Mary and Jesus in way too many yards of fabric. We heard the police sirens and hustled to get everything ready before the procession arrived. A few minutes later, what seemed like the whole town arrived with banderas, candles, crosses, tombs, a camioneta/sound system and a few bands. My host mom read the script while the kids acted it out. The whole thing was over in a few minutes and the procession moved on the the 11th Station on the other corner of the plaza. Success.
kids ready to go
sign ready to go
host mom ready to go
Saturday night I got home from helping Alice paint her new apartment (concrete room) expecting to have a cup of tea and head to bed. Instead, I walk into the kitchen and am greeted by no less that 10 people…all family. I started drawing a mental family tree in my head as I was introduced to sisters, in-laws, nieces, and nephews. FAIL because I couldn’t tell you any of their names now. The sisters took turns cooking choclo all night for the Caldo de Pascuas for the next day.
Sunday, bright and early and headed to mass again. It was fairly short and we made our way back to finish up the cooking. Catholics don’t eat meat during Holy Week so to make up for that, they eat Caldo de Pascuas on Easter which pretty much contains every meat possible. While it was cooking, everyone went into the living room so the kids could ask for Pascuas. Still not entirely sure how it all goes down but basically the kids go around to every adult and “pide por Pascuas.” The adults give them some sort of advice and a few coins.
I got asked several times how we celebrate Easter in the U.S. I explained dying eggs and the Easter egg hunt. I need to read up so I can explain the meaning behind it. I also promised that we’d dye eggs and have an egg hunt next year. Also, I might try to make Peeps. 🙂
Hope y’all had a Happy Easter!