Holy, Holy, Holy

It is evident that Ecuador as well as most of South America remains tied to their Spanish heritage when religious events come into play. Most of their customs date back to Spanish colonialism. Spain still has a reputation to holding numerous events during Semana Santa or Holy Week. The week before Easter starting with Palm Sunday, and including Holy Thursday and Good Friday, are special religious days before Easter Sunday. Each of the designated days is a remembrance of an event at the end of Christ’s life.From March 22 through April 2, Quito hosts Musica Sacra, an international event. Each performance is free of charge. Before leaving Quito the last time, we attended the Lipzodes at the Iglesia de El Carmen. This was an opportunity to listen to music rediscovered from the colonial period of Ecuador (1680-1730).

We arrived back in Quito on Holy or Maundy Thursday, April

2nd. Stopping into the cathedral, we found them setting the table for a Last Supper. For tonight’s Musica Sacra performance at the Teatro Nacional Sucre, the treat we enjoyed was some US American music by the American Spiritual ensemble. We learned that of the thousands of professional member musicians and singers, only 12-15 are chosen to tour each year. For more information about the group, go here and scroll down on the press releases page. The group has collected over 3,000 Negro spirituals from the known 4,000 plus that once existed.

In one of the upscale gift shops, there was a print out on the meaning of the purple robes. Apparently, centuries ago in Spain, prisoners who were about to be executed wore the purple garments as a sign of humility. The men who wear

them in this parade are called Cucuruchos due to their pointed hats. Women, named Veronicas, represent the woman who used her veil to wipe Christ’s face. Purple is the color of penitence, but some wore black or brown for mourning or white for purity.

The robes called nazareno or the penitential robe include several parts. The tunic is the robe itself, the cone shaped

hood is the capriote and some don a robe that dates to medieval times. Often these cloaked men will carry candles, crosses, or some other significant religious item. We were surprised at how many were barefooted and a few had shackles on their ankles as a form of penance.

What was especially freaky was to witness a couple of bare chested men who were self-flagellating with small whips. One man’s back was quite raw. Additionally, in the parade were a number of men who dressed like Christ and carried a cross

on their back. Considering this parade lasts for four hours, this is no mean feat. Ron questioned whether they lasted the entire time or if there were subs filling in. The parade route covers some major hills. Walking with these pseudo-Christ figures, there are other men dressed as Roman soldiers. Still others, as a sign of their penance, had hefty wooden crosspiece logs strapped to their back, forcing their heads

down into a bowing position.

We lasted for about 1 ½ hours, before we decided to leave them to it. We did catch them again on the way back after two hours to see

the Veronicas.

Afterward, we went to the Magic Bean, a restaurant we really like, but only had a coffee. Returning home, we walked through one of the lovely parks here in Quito, where Ron posed with famous Ecuadorians. There was an older woman sitting on a

bench nearby who was watching his antics. She started to laugh hysterically and then applauded. Just what he needs: encouragement.