The day after the fútbol game (update: Ecuador recently kicked Chilean butt!) Claire, Alfonso & I joined some La Católica friends for the fiestas del pueblo in Guápulo–a district of Quito that I had never explored before. It is a district with small bars and restaurants and people say the hippies like to collect here (although Ecuadorians love throwing around the word hippie in and out of context so I never really know). The route we took to get here was on the Avenida del los Conquistadores that is rumored to be the path the Spanish took in their discovery of the Amazon (according to my friend who sat next to me in the taxi).
However, when we got there, all the fiestas were centered in the main plaza so we never really made it to the bars or restaurants. There was a lot of live music called banda de pueblo. Vendors were selling bottles of scalding hot Canelazo (a typical Quiteño drink of naranjilla juice–a fruit that doesn’t exist in the U.S. mixed with aguardiente–sugar cane alcohol) which warmed us up as we danced to the music. Ecuadorians always dance, so of course we followed suit!
Then the juegos pirotécnicos (fireworks) came out but they weren’t your typical fireworks. As Claire put it, “Screw 4th of July fireworks!” because these were on another level: artesanal and engineered by hand so they would spin and light themselves on their own with the appropriate pauses necessary for the build-up (hard to describe but this video does a good job: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WHhcyEwQCY). The fireworks started to spark like crazy but the fearless Ecuadorians remained dancing in circles underneath.
We went to go buy grilled choclo (maize/corn) and I suddenly saw my friend Sofia from La Católica, so I went to say hi, and before I knew it we were all in the circle dancing too (although it felt more like a mosh pit at times). The sparks kept falling and singing us but at one point it got so crazy that I even dropped my choclo but not that tragic considering how much fun we were having. Not to mention that we HAD to dance otherwise people dressed in costumes of any and all kinds would run at us and whip us! Like I said, when there is music, Ecuadorians always dance.
Another exciting thing was the Vaca Loca (Crazy Cow) where they lit a handmade cow on fire so it sparked and the people controlling it from beneath kept running at everybody and turning in all directions so it was up to you to avoid it and run away! Last semester I went to Peguche (a town north of Quito) for their Pawkar Raymi (indigenous yet heavily Mestizo-influenced festival at the beginning of Carnaval) and the festivities were similar but also different.
Like with any event in Ecuador, the common thread was the music and dance. However, in Pawkar Raymi, there was a version of the Vaca Loca but instead of running away, you (mostly males) had to risk it and run at the vaca to grab a piece of fruit that was tied to the vaca’s back. I managed to grab half a banana–not bad for your average gringo!