This is a bit of a big thing and it requires lots of photos to explain what words can't.....
So this is a Banos Ecuador special thing that we do here. It is a celebration of the barrio/neighborhood with the blessings of the virgin. The virgin de Santa de Agua de Banos is a national treasure and one that is richly celebrated, because we live here we get to join in the Frey. By the way this blessing of barrios goes on for the entire month, every several days pops up another barrio till everyone is blessed. Technically you could celebrate with whatever barrio would take you.... which is everyone of them, very generous and loving people. Yes, I said an entire month!!!
We, more appropriately they, but we by force of approximation, started the morning at 5:00 am to banging brass bands, this year there were three different ones within a 2-3 block area and all competing to be the loudest.... nuff said, love the enthusiasm just not at 5:00 am. They played continually for most of the day, and not really politely taking turns either. Normally there is only one band but this year it seems people are especially enthusiastic.
Then around noon, the truck came by supplying everyone with a complimentary box lunch and some blessing juice (mixed juices) in a bag. Not my favorite pickings but love the generosity and thoughtfulness. I also love how all that food and juice is delivered with happy hands to each house in the barrio out of the back of a truck.... it is really so neat to watch.
Then through out the day there are other events, games for kids and such....
When darkness started creeping over the city, down the street came a crowd of people in parade of the virgin,( remember this is just our barrio there are so many more in Banos). There in the front of the procession was a brass band then costumed people from Cotopaxi and the Ibarra region, dancers: men with full dancing tall head dress (about 2-3 feet tall), hats with ribbons over the face, a 2 faced demon in furry chapps, women in full costume carrying oranges on the ends of their swords. One of the women gave Rob an orange off the point of her sword with a wink. Rob relieved took it and smiled cautiously, as she could have used the sword for so many other things that delivering an orange pales in comparison. There were also people throwing rose petals before the virgin.... for those who may not know, the rose is a symbol of the Virgin Mary. There was also a male sheep towing a huge toy truck.... I asked and still don't know the significance of the sheep.....I am sure it was not a random act of decoration but no one could tell me the significance either accept that it was supposed to represent a bull. Not the answer I was looking for.
We then ran back into the house knowing that this barrio party would be way more eventful than barrio parties in the past. We grabbed our cameras and keys, locked the gate and ran to join the following.
Across the street and down the way a bit, in a local basketball court, there set up was now the virgin on a full stage, modern sound system and pastor giving mass to all. There were visitors/dancers from Cotopaxi, and Ibarra as I said and our neighbors both young and old, and all were absorbing the wise thoughts of the pastor.
At the end of the mass, a group of men placed the virgin in proper our barrio clothing (every barrio has their own colors and costume for the Virgin, she gets changed often during this month), on her carrier on their shoulders and with the pastor walked through the barrio continuing the blessing of the barrio. The entire crowd joins in silent following.
She was then placed on the dirt floored park to wait the main events.
The dancers with the swords and oranges and the tall headdress begin to swing to light and happy music of the mountain regions of Cotopaxi, Ibarra and Otovalo all before the virgin. The tall head dress dancers are given live pigeons to hold while they are dancing and each individual is paired with an orange baring woman and they make their offering to the Virgin, and he sets free the pigeon. One of the pigeons flew directly onto the Virgin's carrying box and everyone started feverishly praying with grateful and blissful looks on their faces.
The bird landed on some slippery rose petals and was quite confused for a while, the poor thing, it finally flew off. Several of the other birds landed on the huge heart shaped fireworks tower and were quite terrified but did not leave off until inches below them several fireworks exploded.
After all the dancing with demons and gentle acrobatics were over the real show began. Our barrio had purchased several fire cows as well as a fireworks tower. These cows are prepared with a huge number of long lasting fireworks. So in true Ecuadorian form, they put it on the head and shoulders of a happy 10 year old boy who had probably drank a liter of sprite, lit him on fire and off he ran running around and partly into the crowd of people. Several times bits of the cow came off and flew off and exploded into the crowd and there was delighted screaming and running and laughing..... all the while the kid still determinedly running around and on fire exploding and irregular intervals and in different colors. They never really cared for "stop, drop and roll", kind of unnecessary here really....
After several adults carry around with cows on their heads but with nowhere near the hyper energy of the little boy and all of the staggering influence of Aguar Diente, the real party began. Dancing and very loud music rang late into the night, I am thinking 3 or 4 am????. We are true to form party poopers and carefully but politely avoided generous people wanting to share their social lubricants with us, crept back into our house wayyy before
Aguar Diente is homemade hooch/alcohol made from sugar cane that stays with you no mater what you eat. You burp dirty feet for the rest of the night... it is hugely potent stuff and used in abundance on nights like this.
The night was a huge success and a delight to break in my new camera.