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Ecuador: “Fiestas de Quito”: Tradition and Resistance

Festival of Lights and Colors at closing of Fiestas de Quito. Image by Flickr user Presidencia de la República del Ecuador, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license

The “Fiestas de Quito” (Quito Celebrations) are one of the most important and traditional celebrations in Ecuador. This year the celebration coincides with 476 years since the foundation of San Francisco de Quito. The festivities are marked by the multiculturalism of the city, its traditions and cuisine, where issues of miscegenation and nationalism blend in a fragrant, colorful and musical occasion.

If “¡Que viva Quito!” is the only phrase you can hear from the chivas (buses) that drive around full of people dancing, and if it is the only sound you hear on the streets; if offices and neighborhoods begin to organize the traditional “cuarenta championships,” an Ecuadorian card game with phrases that each player must say while playing cards; and if in the air you can smell the canelazo, a traditional Ecuadorian alcoholic beverage made with sugar cane alcohol (aguardiente) and cinnamon, it means that the “Fiestas de Quito [es]” are here, beginning at the end of November in the Ecuadorian capital and ending on December 6, the day of the Spaniard foundation of the city.

During the celebrations, one must admire and dance with the “bandas de pueblo [es]“ (town bands) and go out to see the “tarimas,” platforms installed on the street where dancers, musicians and other artistic expressions are performed around the city.

“Lindo Quito de mi vida” (Beautiful Quito of my life) is almost the official anthem of the celebration, together with the song of the “Chulla Quiteño,” a traditional character who was known for being original, talkative, bohemian and an intellectual.

Fernando Mena (@fercho1719) remembers with nostalgia:

recuerdos de fiestas de quito.. en esos bailes populares de los barrios era el preciso momento para ligar. uff eso les cuento cuando tenia 16

memories of “Fiestas de Quito”…during those popular dances in the neighborhoods it was the perfect time to hook up. that happened when I was 16

@A_quatix tweets about the intensity of the festivities:

Recorriendo x toda la ciudad las fiestas se viven intensamente! Chivas, Orquestas, Bandas, Trios, Comida Tipica. Que lindo es nuestro Quito!

Going all around the city. The celebrations will be intense! Chivas, Orchestras, Bands, Trios, Typical Food. Our Quito is so beautiful!

AGJD (@AGJaramillo) shows how the celebrations are enjoyed with friends:

Resumen after fiestas de Quito 2010…. Excelentes… Falto la Chiva pero con la compañia de los amigos se paso increible…

A summary of the “fiestas de Quito” 2010…Excellent…I missed out on the Chivas but with the company of my friends I had an incredible time…

Bullfighting and religion

During the festival, the Feria de Quito “Jesús del Gran Poder,” [es] (Quito Fair “Jesus the Great Power”) takes place, one of the most important bullfighting fairs [es] in Latin America, where along with bullfighting, the Spaniard music and tradition is kept alive. The Facebook page, Somos Ecuador [es] (We Are Ecuador), informs about the activities and tries to “disseminate and promote the Fiesta Brava as part of our cultural miscegenation, traditions, art and freedom of expression.”

Image by Flickr user purolipan, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license

In recent years, a strong movement against [es] bullfighting has emerged, which also has its own Facebook page: Quito Anti-Taurino [es]. With a critical point of view, Gabriela Wright A (@gwrighta) comments:

Otra de las cosas insólitas de las fiestas de Quito: nombre de la feria “Jesús del Gran Poder” No entiendo la relación de los toros y Jesús.

Another unbelievable thing about the “fiestas de Quito”: the name of the fair “Jesus the Great Power.” I don't understand the relationship between bullfighting and Jesus.

During the celebrations the “Reina de Quito” (Queen of Quito) is chosen, marking the beginning of the festivities. The queen of Quito plays a role in social assistance for the city.

This year, the celebration on the streets and the traditional parade of “Fiestas de Quito” were marked by the bicentennial and the “first cry of independence,” remembering that Ecuador was the first country in South America to become independent from Spain. Another element in this year's parade was the annoucement that Quito was named the 2011 Capital of Culture.

Pablo Garzón (@pgarzon) comments on the celebration, and the intensity with which people experience it:

Convencido que las Fiestas de Quito son mucho más que las corridas de toros. Chivas, bandas de pueblo, el 40, fiesta en la calle, etc, etc.

I am convinced that the “Fiestas de Quito” are a lot more than bullfighting. Chivas, town bands, the [card game] 40, celebrating on the streets, etc, etc.

Evaluations, criticisms and comments will continue, until the new “Fiestas de Quito” renew the cheerful mood, friends and family, partying and celebration, in a fabric woven with tradition and resistance.

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