Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Carnavale, what is it and when?

Since we've been in Ecuador we've been anxiously awaiting the holidays and festivals, not really knowing what to expect, some we've realized we're no big deal, and others were, well...challenging. The one we've really heard a lot about is coming up next week, Carnavale, this is what I found on

The word "carnival" comes from the Italian word "carn-aval" which means absence of meat. According to the Catholic calendar, the festivities precede the period of Lent. The origin of the Carnival festivity is to compensate for the following forty days of abstention and penitence in preparation for the remembrance of Christ’s crucifixion. This is a time of celebration without restraint all over the world, and Ecuador is not an exception.

In Ecuador, the celebrations have a history that stretches further than the arrival of Catholicism. It is known, for example, that the Huarangas Indians (from the Chimbos nation) used to celebrate the second moon of the year with a lively festivity, during which they threw flour, flowers and perfumed water. Now this pagan tradition has merged with the Catholic belief of "carnaval" and resulted in a most folkloric celebration.

Carnival in EcuadorAll throughout the country, "diablillos" (little devils) play with water. It is a somewhat crazy game, like snow fights, which is long awaited, especially by children and teenagers, and feared by some adults. Throwing water balloons, sometimes even eggs and flour both to friends and strangers passing by the street can be a lot of fun but can also be annoying.

Although the government as well as school authorities have forbidden this game, it is still widely practiced throughout the country. Historians tell of a Bishop back in 1867 that threatened with the punishment of ex-communion for the sin of playing Carnival games.

Many popular festivities are held in different regions of the country, where the locals wear disguises with colorful masks and dance to the rhythm of lively music. Usually, the celebrations begin with the election of the Taita Carnaval (Father Carnaval) who will head the festivities and lead the parades in each city.

The most famed carnival festivities are those in Guaranda (Bolivar Province) and Ambato (Tungurahua Province). In Ambato, the festivities are called "Fiesta de las Flores y de las Frutas" (Festivities of the Flowers and Fruites). Other cities have also revived the carnival traditions with colorful parades; such is the case of Azogues (Cañar Province), where a lively parade will take place. In Azogues and the Southern Andes in general, the "Taita Carnaval" is a Cañari Indian dressed for the celebrations.

Carnival is a holiday throughout the country. Many people from the main cities go to the beach or other tourist sites around the country.

Don't be surprised if a water balloon hits you. Don't feel offended; it's just a game. Ecuador is a country full of surprises!!

When we arrived in Crucita in June, we had the Peter and Paul festival, it was 6-7 days of very loud music only a block from the house, the music rattled the windows some nights until 3am. Not long after we moved to San Alejo,(August) San Jacinto had their Peter and Paul festival, but we only heard a faint bit of music, then San Clemente had theirs in September, yikes! That was crazy! (Look back for blog posts, there are pictures) so we can imagine what it will be like in the coming days...but to know for sure, we will have to wait. Looking at pictures (such as the one above) I'm glad we live in a small town, the bigger cities look to be down right insane! (That's not my cup of tea)

The town is sprucing up, erecting new structures to serve as shade and pop up restaurants, even the fishermen put up a structure that they said will sell ceviche and empanadas. I've been sure to get plenty of money from the ATM, we've been warned that it runs out of money quickly. Stocked up on supplies in the Big city the other day, and will sit back and enjoy the fun. Luckily our house is situated where I don't think the noise from town will effect us, the breeze will blow it inland, and so only the noise from neighbors will be an issue. 

The people "from away" will start showing up Thursday and stay thru the 17th, maybe on thru the following weekend, like the article said "celebration without restraint" yikes! Stay tuned, the adventure continues!!!

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