Guaranda Carnival—Steep in the Fervor of Ecuador’s Carnival Festivities
If you go through the famous popular festivities published on the yearly calendar of Ecuadorian celebrations, then the one event that is bound to catch your attention is the Guaranda Carnival. Staged and celebrated with a lot of fanfare in central Andean destination of Guaranda, this carnival lures thousands of participants and revelers to the tiny province of Bolivar. During the Guaranda Carnival the intensity and fervor of the local population transcends all levels of imagination and delights domestic and international visitors alike. So, are you ready to explore the cultural bounties of Guaranda’s quaint city, tucked in the fertile Andean valley?
Located on the western slopes Chimborazo Volcano (highest mountain in Ecuador) and rising to an elevation of 21.000 feet above sea level, the stunning scenery, colonial style architecture and other attractions of this region lying between the Pacific Coast and the Andes are also worth a look. Oft referred to as the “City of the Seven Hills”, Guaranda is a hotspot for vacationers, art and culture enthusiasts and nature lovers alike. (image by Michael Mellinger).
Unlike the other traditional Carnival celebrations, the Guaranda Carnival has some unique ancestral roots. It reminds you of pre-Hispanic cultures—in many more ways than one. As per local legends and traditions, this very popular Carnival was earlier celebrated to honor nature and mother Earth, who the locals worshipped. Presided by Guaranda Cacique (the chief deity of the celebrations), this festival was later metamorphosed into the carnival we know of today. With the passage of time, the ambience and nature of the carnival has been influenced by the arrival of Spanish conquistadors, the dates defined by the Roman Catholic Calendar and so forth.
A fantastic display of music, joy, colorfulness, dancing, eating, making merry and drinking; the Guaranda Carnival sees people literally abandoning themselves to seek the pleasures of several days of partying, symbolic masks, parades, bright costumes and sharing of traditional drinks/ cuisines with relatives, neighbors, friends, and even strangers. Here, the celebrations include sessions of throwing water-filled balloons, buckets of perfumed water, flowers, talcum powder and more. There is one single song in the regional dialect that fills the air consistently –day and night. These festivities are an attractive reflex of the blend and profound syncretism between indigenous cultures, cosmology and traditions –brought in by the Catholic religion and European conquerors alike. (image by Juan Calles).
The popular Guaranda Carnival triggers off with a grand entry” that takes you to the city of “Taita Carnaval”. This event takes place at least ten days before the onset of actual festivities. With lots of lively rituals, dressing-up of revelers in representative costumes, painted faces /masks and vociferous chanting of the Carnival’s song to the tune of drums, flutes and sweet sounding panpipes—this festival has a lot in store for those belonging to other cultures too. Get ready for disguises and parading through the city’s streets; scores of bands, poem readers and musicians; dramatic samples of “mestizo” culture and more –the happy way!
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Feature image by Juan Calles
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