Sunday, March 28, 2010

Semana Santa

Folkloric Dancers

We visited the Centro Historico today. It was a good day for Rebecca's first exposure to the center for all sorts of reasons. On Sundays, many streets in historical part of the city are closed to motor vehicles. There are some streets that encourage bicycle traffic, but otherwise, the noise and the smell and the dangers from cars is not a concern. The city feels so much more peaceful, although there are many people who congregate on the squares and the place is very lively, with dancing and music and street theatre going on all over the old town. It is also the start of 'Semana Santa', or Holy Week, so the churches are open, there are museum exhibits everywhere, and a music festival of Sacred music.

Most of Maya's friends have gone to the beach, which is the popular thing to do this week. I am interested in the celebrations for holy week, and today is Palm Sunday, so I was eager to participate in the activities of the day, in the place where they were likely to happen. We did not get to the Centro Historico early enough for the morning parade. Eric and Mel were packing up to go to Yanayacu with their newly constructed microscope. They left with birdcages filling up the truck, ready to catch the birds (plain tailed wrens) in mist nets and starting their experiments. We met for coffee at El Español in Quicentro (Maya chose to eat munchkins from Dunkin Donuts, which are much larger than the ones back home), and Eric gave us a ride to as close to the Plaza Grande as possible.

I was amazed at the crowds of people in the square. Huge groups of spectators crowded around the street performers, laughing and clapping and enjoying the shows. The crowds were six people thick, so it was impossible to hear or see anything. Maya loves listening to the street performers, and seems to understand far more than I would expect. There were also two groups of political observers, one for Correa and the other against. I have heard that the government pays the pro-Correa fans to vocally support the president. In addition, there are always one or two evangelical preachers, talking about Jesus and the scriptures. I think we were being told not to participate in the church (Catholic) activities this week, but I did not understand why.

Chorongo and Drum

I heard music from the Archbishop's Palace, where a folkloric show was going on. We listened to a group of Andean musicians, who were remarkably talented, changing instruments constantly, from recorder-like flutes, to the pan flutes of various lengths and thicknesses, to the small guitar with twelve strings, and drums and guitars. Sometimes one musician would be holding his small guitar with one or more panpipes and a recorder and switching with every measure. I recognized not just Andean music, but also typical Ecuadorian music, which I recognize from Independence week, when all the bands and the chivas were playing the same tunes.

Later, dancers from Cañar, Pichincha, and Saraguro performed their traditional folkloric dances. The costumes were amazingly colourful, and the young dancers were enthusiastic, and I liked that I am beginning to recognize the dances and the traditions.

I am not sure how long we watched the dancing, but we were starving before it was over. We walked across the Plaza Grande, and past the Government Palace, the Cathedral., La Sagraria, La Compañia, and up to San Fransisco Square , which was setting up for the Sacred Music Festival tonight. We ate on the square at 'Tianguez', where I know the food is good, and will not make Rebecca ill. I tried the 'Fanseca', the traditional food that is made only this week of Semana Santa, in Ecuador. It is a rich soup with a mix of twelve grains such as chochos, abas, lentils, peas, corn, (like the twelve disciples of Christ) along with cod, figleaf gourd, pumpkin, and fava beans. It is garnished with a hardboiled egg, fried plantains, herbs, parsley and often empanadas. Dessert was figs and cheese. Rebecca had Cebiche and Maya huge bowl of spaghetti.

People were pouring in and out of San Fransisco Church with palm leaves in their arms. One could buy the palms mixed with rosemary and other leaves right in front of the church, and many were holding their palm arrangement to be blessed in the church. I was amazed to see the church open, since it has been under renovation for years. I did remember hearing that they would open by April, and while we ate, I saw mass after mass happening in the church. We entered for mass, without our palm fronds, and listened to the whole story of the last week of Christ's life. I am always astounded at the sense of faith at these ceremonies. Everyone is sitting in pews or standing alongside the benches. More and more people poured in while the mass was going on, and we participated as well as we could. It was a profoundly moving service, and the priests performed the rituals over and over again. The mass is the same as the Catholic mass everywhere, but the music was lively and the priests energizing, and the crowds clearly very devoted and faithful.Street Theatre

After Mass

Iglesia San Fransisco

Palm Sunday Mass

Our walk through the centro to get to the Ecovia was interrupted by all sorts of street shows, both music and theatre, and it was suddenly past 6, and my plans to return to the Musica Sacra show on San Fransisco were not going to happen. Maya and Rebecca were happy to relax on a seat in the bus, and were both ready for bed when we arrived home. It is hard to get moving once inside the apartment, but it feels good to be home and catching up on so much that I ignored and didn't do last week.

La Sagraria Doors


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