Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Missing Good Friday

Iglesia San Francisco

Semana Santa is the most religious week of the year and the city is ramping up for Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The churches in the Centro Historico have masses throughout the day, there is sacred music in the churches and the theatres nightly, there are special exhibits in the churches and monasteries and museums, and a massive procession is planned for Good Friday. The 'cucuruchos' are penitents dressed in purple outfits with peaked caps, who join the 'veronicas', who are the women, also dressed in purple, who represent those who attended Christ during the march to his crucifixion. The procession will start at San Francisco Square at noon Friday and continue through the streets of the Centro Historico, recreating the last hours of Jesus's life, his crucifixion scheduled for 3 PM (which is apparently when it actually happened) and ending at the start of the Jewish sabbath at 6 PM.

San Fransisco Square

The mass we attended Sunday recounted (in excruciating detail) the final week of Christ's life, including his 'Last Supper' and the betrayals of Peter and Judas. Maya and I visited San Francisco Church for mass on Sunday and returned today to admire the church again (without the crowds), and then found ourselves at Iglesia de La Merced at another mass for 'Holy Wednesday'. Maya asked me to explain all the paintings in the church showing how the Virgin of the Merced had saved QuiteƱos time and time again. The ceremony felt surprisingly personal and accessible, especially when the young man struggled while reading the scriptures. Maya is patient during mass; I am sure she understands little. She is confused because at her school, it is Passover that has been celebrated all week. Maya asks me if it is acceptable to take communion, even if she is not baptized. She wants to know what the 'bread' tastes like, especially after she heard the story of the Last Supper and Jesus offering his body and his blood. I tried to explain the symbolism in the story, but I am not sure she has any idea of what I am talking about. She is fascinated by the ritual and the stories.

Shoe shopping in the Centro Historico

I had insisted on going to the Centro Historico today to see a new museum that I read had recently opened near San Fransisco Square. It is described as a gorgeous colonial home that has been entirely renovated, and housing an extensive collection of pre-columbian art. I had been reading about it for weeks, in the newspaper and the 'Vanguardia' magazine, and when I looked up a website about Quito happenings, it urged me daily to visit the new museum. Maya and I got onto an 'Ecovia' which suddenly stopped near Eloy Alfaro, and would not continue. We had to disembark onto the busy street and get on another Ecovia which was already full, but almost every passenger from the first bus crowded onto the second bus, pushing us all together in an intolerable sandwich. Maya could hardly breathe, and I think I will need Ibuprofen to settle down tonight. Our 'quick trip' to the city centre took over an hour, and I dragged Maya up hill after hill to the museum site. Of course, after all our efforts, we discovered that the new museum was not yet open, and when we peeked inside the door, workmen will still busy putting the place together. So much for the website about Quito happenings.

Since we had gone so far and saw that the churches were open and conducting masses, we decided to participate for the next few hours. We will be missing the Semana Santa celebrations later in the week. I have decided to leave Quito for a few days. It is Maya's vacation and originally she had been invited to Cuba to participate in a week of master classes with Russian dancers from the Kirov. I could not get a ticket to Cuba with a US passport, so I sent in paperwork for a Canadian passport at the end of February. Unfortunately, the passport did not arrive in time to organize the trip. So Maya was supposed to be away this whole week, but when it did not work out, I had not arranged any other activity. I finally made a few phonecalls this morning and have organized a visit to Cuyabeno, which is a part of the Oriente that we have yet to explore and is reputed to be stunningly beautiful. We will be canoeing most of the way, and camping along the side of the river, so it will be a very different experience for us. Eric will not be able to join us, because he will have 30 students with him at Yanayacu for the weekend.

We will be far away from civilization, without electricity or internet or cellphone coverage or access to the world we know. My camera will last a day or two before the battery runs out, so I will see with different eyes this time.

St. Augustin

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