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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Setenaria (Corpus Christi) and Safe Harbours

Having been in Ecuador for several months now, we've come to understand that while Catholicism is the main religion in Ecuador, it is not necessarily the Catholicism that we're familiar with in Canada. In their infinite wisdom, the powers that be deemed it necessary to add additional festivals to blot out the more pagan traditions of things such as solstice celebrations. This charming concept leads us to Corpus Christi, which happily overlaps with the winter solstice (well, at least down in the southern hemisphere).
Nice selection of sweeties.
 I confess that it seems a more relaxed (I hesitate to say gentler, but it's actually the impression that I have) type of  Catholicism here, at least as it affects the day to day lives of the devout. (Case in point, the divorce rate here is 44%. I know, not the best argument!) Don't get me wrong, they love God here, deeply and meaningfully, but in a more joyous and less "ash and toil" way. I know I've probably offended most every Catholic I know, but I'm only a lowly agnostic, doomed to purgatory, there's not much hope for me.

Any how, this "blending" of beliefs has provided us with a whole new way to appreciate solstice. It includes vast amounts of sweets...that got your attention. The vendors line the main square with kiosks of pasteles (baked goods), caramelos (candies), dulces (sweets) and every thing else that could contain sugar (yes this includes cotton candy with a distressing soup├žon of propane fumes - sorry for throwing in the French word, but I can't imagine anything more appropriate!). These kiosks allow you to take samples of all the things you were afraid to ask about and TRY THEM. (Not gratis, of course, but we spent a whopping $4 and had dessert for three nights.)

Candy as far as the eye can see!
Now, let's not forget that we're in celebration would be complete without (we'll give you three guesses and the first two don't count)...fireworks, of course. For the seven nights of celebration they set up three bamboo towers of fireworks (per night) and set them off, individually, sporadically throughout the evening. (Usually between 9 and 10:30 or so.)
Tower 'o' Power!

Like many things Ecuadorian, there seems to be no specific schedule, so you do get to mill around Parque Calderon with a few thousand other people, listening to Spanish techno-pop blaring from large speakers. (There are random outbursts of dancing, but for the most part people just enjoy browsing the goodies, chatting with their friends and trying to avoid catching fire when an unexpected firework goes off. That sounds more dangerous than it actually is.) Each tower display can take a good 10 minutes to complete and as far as we've seen includes strobe lights as well as all manner of fireworks.

At the finale, larger fireworks shoot off the top of the structure. This has caused problems in the past and has led to restrictions on the number of fireworks allowed on each tower. (One of the monasteries was damaged by fire during the Senetaria of Corpus Christi just last year, or so we've been told.)
On an additional safety note, we can't recommend the use of excessive hair product, especially featuring any quantity of alcohol, as a random spark could spell disaster for your coif. What fireworks and sweets have to do with Corpus Christi, I have no idea and in different parts of Ecuador they apparently celebrate differently. One town has teams of people trying to race up a greased pole to get the gifts at the top. (We must see this, maybe next year!)

Sorry, it's quite hard to catch fireworks with my digi-cam as it gets confused between it being night and the bright flashes. I haven't yet figured out how to set it to take pictures manually at this point.

One last note on our container. It arrived safely in Cuenca last week. The storage place is in a burrough of Cuenca that seems to lack street names, so the movers were forced to drive around in a cab to find us, even though we did give directions. (We think the cabbie was a buddy as he stayed to help unload the container.) Nothing sounds like it contains shattered glass, which gives me hope and all boxes are accounted for.) It's getting harder to wait for our new apartment to be finished as our stuff beckons us and we're looking forward to the comforts of home.

It did strike me, as I stood outside in a light jacket, under a dark sky, waiting expectantly for the firework display that this is a pretty amazing place.

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