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Dalama Adventures Tale of two corporate types ditching their jobs and traveling the world for 14 months... check out all photos, blogs & interesting tid bits at http://www.dalama.net

Day of the Dead

ECUADOR | Friday, 2 November 2007 | Views [3480]

We intentionally wanted to spend November 2, Dia de los Difuntos (Day of the Dead), in a more rural area where we could experience what this family tradition is all about. We figured we would head to the town cemetery to see the festivities in action. While we have no idea where the cemetery is, it became so very clear as we stepped out of our Hostal. Thousands of locals are making their way down the streets, carrying the days picnic on their backs, wrapped in wool blankets, carrying bouquets of flowers and freshly painted crosses. It's like a huge procession or pilgrimage through the town, up the steep hill of the cemetery. We are the only gringo looking people around, but no one seems to notice or care. Just in case a family didn't prepare enough food for their picnic with their deceased loved ones, there's plenty en-route to fill up. We walk along in the middle of the pack, past shops selling caldrons of piping hot colada morada, rotisserie chickens, fried fish, and the local specialty on the hot coals - CUY - better known to us in the states as those pets children have, "guinea pigs." Cuy looks pretty freaky cooking up on rotating skewers, with their tiny little paws and jagged teeth... but this is a long-standing Inca tradition, and has great significance for the community here. There's also an incredible spread of pan "bread" in the shape of mummy-ized babies and lamas/horses with small children riding on the backs, decorated with outlines of colored frosting detail. These are called Wah Wah, and are meant for the children to carry at the festival, which we see children all over cradling their wah wah, and some occasionally licking the frosting on theirs. Police are visible everywhere, some in vivid-blue camouflage uniforms (not sure what the color blends in with, or why they decided to make their uniforms blue), and there are so many people, it's like a huge mosh pit at a concert... moving along like a river. Luckily I'm so tall here that I don't think I can be trampled. The cemetery is an amazing sight. Many graves sites are just crosses on top of mounts of dirt, while others are like tiny casitas, and others, flat slabs of concrete on the ground. Everywhere, extended families set up huge picnic feasts on top of their loved ones' grave sites, and spend the entire day eating, talking and singing. In the middle of the cemetery there is an audio sound system, where a priest and several female singers belt out catchy tunes as the crowd sings along. We chat with a teenage Otavaleño who helps us to understand the importance of family in Ecuador, and who eagerly shares his favorite sights and things we should do and see in Ecuador. Again, we continue to be reminded - this festival just one big example of many we've seen, how in all the developing countries we've visited, how important family is... family comes first - not jobs, or accumulation of capital goods and self preservation. It's all about family, community, and helping one another, in stark contrast to the often selfish individualism of the developed world.

Tags: Culture

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