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Fri Apr 18 2014: Semana Santa in Quito

After a too-short two week vacation in the sunny Galapagos Islands, we flew back to Quito to be reunited with our motorcycles. We're feeling like our batteries have been recharged and we're ready to tackle the road ahead!

Although Neda loved the sunshine and the wildlife, she missed her bike more!

The long-overdue haircut. I was almost smooth-talked into a red streak...

We found out that an important religious holiday called Semana Santa (Holy Week) was being celebrated this week, and that there would be a big parade in the city to commemorate the coming Easter weekend. So we decided to stay a few days to see what the fuss was all about.

Oh no.

There was supposed to be some kind of parade of lights in the city streets on the Thursday evening, so we took a streetcar down to the historic centre. The skies darkened considerably before sunset, and our much-hated nemesis, the rain, started falling in sheets, drenching the buildings and the parks, sending everyone scrambling for shelter

Some of the residents are used to the rain

Water bouncing off the pavement, it was raining that hard!

We watched the rain from the shelter of one of the colonial buildings,
huddled together with many of Quito's residents waiting for a break in the waterworks

Had a beer inside this cool-looking mall

The rains never really stopped that evening, but it did let up a few times

We walked the wet city streets looking for the Parade of Lights. We asked the locals and nobody seemed to know. Some said it was the day after, others said that there wasn't anything scheduled for that evening. Some policemen sent us in the wrong direction. We were wet and miserable. It was a very unsuccessful outing.

One of the places we ducked into was the main cathedral where they were having a mass. It was beautiful inside!

We called it an early night and rode back in the streetcar

We thought our batteries had been recharged from our time in the Galapagos. But being back amidst the constant rains had drained our morale almost immediately. Our batteries weren't holding a charge very well...

Policemen lined up, getting instructions for the big parade

The day after was Good Friday, and we headed back into the city for the scheduled afternoon parade. We knew this was going to happen because of the sheer number of people that were out on the streets. We've read that a quarter of a million people descend on the streets surrounding the Plaza de San Francisco to celebrate and watch the procession. An hour before the parade was to begin, most of the people had already taken up their positions on the curbs. Because we didn't know the route or the best places to see the parade, we got pushed to the back of the crowd.

Not going to make the obvious comment...

Every Latin American city celebrates Semana Santa a bit differently. In Quito, the parade is called the Procession of Jesus Of Great Power. Penitents, dressed as Jesus, show their devotion by dragging large crosses through the streets. They're accompanied by others in purple hooded tunics. The hoods rise up in huge cones and the men who wear them are called Cucuruchos, which is the Spanish word for "cone". The cones are a symbol of humility and purple is the colour of penitence.

The hooded Cucuruchos are a bit creepy-looking. And I'm not only saying that because I'm a visible minority...

Holding tightly to a card printed with the Virgin Mary

Females who wore purple tunics are called Veronicas, named after the woman who offered Jesus her veil to wipe his face

I couldn't believe how heavy this cross was!

This penitent above had to cut across the crowd to join the procession. We were directly in his path and had to move to give him space to pass. Because the crowd was so thick, we were pressed up against him and I reached up to help support the cross as he pushed through the people. Even with several people helping him hold up the wooden pole, I could feel the weight of the cross on his shoulder. It was as heavy as a telephone pole! This young man chose to drag a telephone pole through the streets for three hours! And the foot of the cross wasn't even on rollers! That is devotion!

More penitents and Cucuruchos slowly walking the streets

While there were many people in the crowd who were very religious, holding up flyers with the Virgin Mary and Jesus printed on them, there were many others like us who were just tourists, marveling at the sights and taking pictures of the procession.

As the afternoon wore on, clouds started settling over the city. We knew what was to happen soon...

Even Spidey took a break from catching thieves (just like flies), to celebrate Semana Santa

There were marching bands, priests in brown robes, floats, all sorts of different participants

After the parade, we shared a large bowl of Fanesca

Fanesca is a well-known Ecuadorian traditional soup with salted cod only served during Semana Santa. It's a very symbolic dish consisting of 12 ingredients, each ingredient representing an apostle, with the fish representing Jesus. We had grown a bit tired of the tipico meals in Latin America, but the Fanesca was a delicious change.

With Semana Santa over, it was time to flee the rains once again. This time we'll take our bikes with us...

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