We could not understand Ecuadorian customs without taking into account its ethnic and regional diversity, made up of the presence of indigenous people, whites, mestizos and Afro-Ecuadorians distributed between the mountains, the east, the insular region and the coast. Discover below which are the main customs and traditions of Ecuador.
Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.
Ecuador, with a population that exceeds 14 million inhabitants, is a multi-ethnic and multicultural country. Of this figure, more than 5 million people inhabit the Ecuadorian Sierra, while in the Amazon this figure exceeds 600.000 inhabitants and, in Galapagos, 17.000 people. Within these population groups, they live up to 14 aboriginal nationalities different, each with its own unique worldview and traditions.
Our indigenous communities best known are those listed below: Achuar, Huaorani, Cofán, Shuar, Siona-Secoya, Shiwiar and Záparo. There is one more people, the Tagaeri, although they were declared an "intangible" group by the State, given their desire to live apart from the rest. On the other hand, in the Ecuadorian Andes reside the Quechuas of the Sierra, grouped in different ethnic groups such as the Cañaris, Saraguros, Otovalos and the Chachis, among others.
The Shuar aborigines, for example, speak the Shuar-Chicham language and, for them, the family constitutes the most relevant unit of biological, economic, cultural and social reproduction and, for this reason, each member is united with the other by ties of blood. In addition, they are made up of extended families.
Traditionally, this ethnic group accepts the sonoral marriage, that is, marriage to the wife's sisters (that is, the sisters-in-law), as well as the levirate, which means that a man can marry his brother's widow. Also, polygamy has always been widely accepted, meaning that men routinely have multiple wives. Today, an attempt is being made to move towards a type of monogamous and exogamous marriage (outside the group).
The beliefs of these groups of people are usually linked to nature and the laws of the Universe, so they usually have diverse mythological beings related to phenomena such as life, death, disease, the creation of the world ... The Shuar, for For example, they do not believe that death is synonymous with the end of a human being, but that their spirit, Arútam, will be received by another human being such as their son or grandson, to start a new life cycle.
An Afro-Ecuadorian person is one belonging to the ethnic groups that reside between Ecuador and the south west of Colombia, descendants of the African groups that were brought by the Spanish as slaves during the colonial era. In total, the black and mulatto population represents 7,2% of the national population of Ecuador.
In turn, these groups inhabit, above all, in Quito, where they can be both Choteños and Emeralds, although recently there have been migration flows to the Amazon Region. However, there is also a large part settled in the Chota Valley and the Mira river basin, in the provinces of Imbabura and Carchi, where they are linked to the colonial estates that historically concentrated a large part of the enslaved black population.
Among the most popular customs of Afro-Ecuadorians, music stands out, without a doubt, which constitutes a very important part of Afro-Ecuadorian culture. On the one hand, we find the black music of Esmeraldas, on the north coast of Ecuador. Here, the music that can be heard even today has the characteristics of Afro-descendant communities, since instruments such as drums and marimba continue to be used.
In the Chota Valley you can also hear a well-known rhythm called «Chota pump«, Where guitars and drums are the star instruments. There is a great difference between esmeraldeza and choteña music, since in the former the African rhythms can be appreciated more strongly, while the choteña bomba has become more detached from its origins and has more mestizo, indigenous and mountain-specific influences. Ecuadorian.
With the following video we can learn more about the Afro-Ecuadorian population that inhabits the Chota Valley while listening to their traditional music in the background. In it, we can see that its inhabitants live mainly on the farming, since 75% of all Afro-Ecuadorians are dedicated to their crops.
For their part, it should be noted that Afro-Ecuadorian groups have almost totally dissociated themselves from the religious customs of their black ancestors, unlike the cases of Cuba, Brazil or Uruguay. The Esmeraldeños, however, have a great variety of religious expressions typical of the Catholic religion, also closely related to music and song, as can be seen, for example, when witnessing an Emerald mass.
The first documents in which information about the eating habits of Ecuador can be found date from the XNUMXth century and, in them, the importance of the chili pepper is demonstrated, a product that could not be missing in the Ecuadorian cuisine of the time.
El chili pepper It is a chili that receives this name in Ecuador, while in countries like Spain it is a simple pepper. The cultivation of chili is not only an ancient custom in Ecuador, but throughout Central and South America, dating back more than 6.000 years. In fact, Ecuador is where experts place the first crops of this vegetable at the hands of the Incas and Aztecs.
The first civilizations of Ecuador, although they used to do without it in their meals because it was almost a luxury ingredient given its limited access, especially in Imbabura, by the Chota river area, they also used to add salt to all their dishes.
One of the most traditional dishes of Ecuador is the sweetie (from Quechua honey-, Meaning man, and - a lot, Which is equivalent to chili pepper), which includes among its main ingredients corn and potatoes with a meat fillet, either chicken or beef, cooked on the grill. Once prepared, peanut sauce and garden salad are added to this dish.
Another historically popular dish is llapingachos, also native to the central Andean region of Ecuador and southern Colombia. It is one of the most representative dishes of the mountain food. It is a kind of round shaped tortillas made of cooked potatoes or yuccas and then crushed.
In addition, they can be eaten accompanied by sausages, rice, avocado, lettuce, roast meat, fried egg, onion ... It is also a popular dish in Ipiales (Colombia), where it is served with fry, that is, fried pork.
In Ecuador, as in many other countries, the New Year is synonymous with leaving the past behind and embarking on a new beginning. Thus, on New Year's Eve, there are many traditions that Ecuadorians keep alive to welcome a new year.
One of the most striking is that of burn puppets. Immediately after December 25 (Christmas), it is customary to start making dolls out of paper or cardboard, sawdust, old clothes or any other material that can be used to develop our imagination.
Once made, the puppets are burned on New Year's Eve, that is, on December 31. The characters, although there is no rule when designing them, it is true that most of them are inspired by celebrities, politicians, family members or simply someone who gave us some displeasure or made the news during the year. Once the doll's bust has been made, a mask is put on him and our puppet will be ready for the night of the 31st.
To burn them, the puppets must be placed in front of each one's house or in some corner of it. The important thing is that it is visible to those who pass by. That is why, in the most elaborate cases, the puppets are placed inside a kind of hut made of palm leaves for display. In addition, in some towns, they organize local contests by regional authorities.
Another of the typical customs if what you want is to start the year in the Ecuadorian style is that of go out with a suitcase right at midnight and strolling around the block. The objective of this tradition is none other than to attract travel in the year to come. It is also customary to drink a grape for each chime of the clock before 0:00, that is, before twelve chimes after which the new year begins, something that is also part of the Spanish Christmas traditions.
Also the economy must be taken into account as we welcome the new year. For this reason, custom dictates that a ticket inside our right shoe throughout December 31 and, once January 1 has entered, it must be repositioned in our wallet and left there throughout the year, which means that we will not be able to spend it or, otherwise, we will move away the good luck that the new year brought.
Ecuadorian weddings are not very different from those celebrated in Italy or Spain, as well as in other Latin American countries. Regarding brides, they marry in white as a symbol of innocence and virginity, a custom of the Judeo-Christian heritage. It is also a tradition for the bride to throw her bouquet, wear a garter and put on a veil. Another of the best known customs is to use something new, something borrowed and something old, a custom that dates back many years.
Most wedding customs are performed with the aim of attracting the prosperity and the esperanza in life that is going to start as a couple. The use of something borrowed, for example, really comes from the Celtic culture and symbolizes the maintenance of ties with the family and the acceptance by the family of our partner. The old, for its part, represents the connection with the past.
The use of veil It dates back to the XNUMXth century and is related to the Catholic Church, which instituted this accessory as a way to symbolize the bride's virginity, innocence, modesty and virtue. On the other hand, the custom of throwing the bouquet emerged in France several centuries earlier, specifically in the XNUMXth century. The bouquet is thrown to the still single women who have come to the wedding to represent that whoever catches it will be the next to marry.
One of the most popular festivals in Ecuador, along with Holy Week, which we talk about below, is Carnival. It is a cultural event, above all, that is celebrated in style with water, carnival foam, flour or cornstarch, talcum powder, etc. and in which the assistants dress up in elaborate costumes or paint their faces with vegetable-type paintings.
En Ambato, known as the land of flowers and fruits, the cultural comparsas in which parades of floats decorated with flowers and fruits of the area are carried out. Likewise, one of the cities where this holiday is most relevant (that's how Ecuadorians call it) is Guaranda, the capital of Bolívar.
En Guaranda it is customary to have a drink called blue bird, which is a typical brandy of the inter-Andean region. It is prepared based on sugar cane and its approximate degree is 30 ° GL. This bluish-colored alcoholic drink, hence its name, also includes among its ingredients orange leaves, broth and chicken meat, mandarin, cane anise, etc. It is one of the drinks preferred by tourists who visit the carnival.
The Chimborazo Carnival is another of the most famous in Ecuador. In it, water also has an important role in the purifying rites that are carried out in this event, in which different songs, dances and songs representative of the Andean carnival are typical.
In Esmeraldas, in addition to the celebrations with water, foam, balloons and other elements, the so-called international festivals of Afro-American cultures stand out, which are held in places such as 8th street and the Las Palmas Spa. On the other hand, in Atacames the marimbadrome or a marimba festival, while in Montañita (Guayas province), surfing competitions are held.
The parish of Cotocollao is one of the 33 parishes that make up the capital of Ecuador. It is one of the oldest sectors of the city and, currently, it is where the highest concentration of Chinese inhabitants is in the country; so much so, that it has an area popularly called Quito's Chinatown. For this reason, it is not unusual to find some of the main chinese traditions.
And precisely because it is one of the oldest sectors of the city, here some of the main ancestral customs of Ecuador can be observed still alive. For example, some families try to keep the celebration of their ancestors alive through the dance of the yumbada to the rhythm of the pingullo and the drum. It is an ancestral dance with great cultural value that has been kept alive generation after generation. Let's see with this video what the Yumbada really consists of:
The Yumbada consists of each dancer (called yumbo) represents a mountain. This means that each yumbo represents the appearance or manifestation of a God in human form (theophany). Therefore, the meaning of this event is related to the religious belief system of these people, who act mainly out of faith. In this way, there are those who become yumbos for San Sebastián, who is the patron of this festival.
Christmas is a very important time of the year throughout the Catholic and Christian world, so we must not forget that the original purpose of this holiday is remember the birth of Jesus Christ according to the Gospels Saint Luke and Saint Matthew. This is especially important in a country like Ecuador, where the Catholic religion is of utmost importance.
Thus, Christmas in Ecuador is lived in style and is synonymous with reunion with loved ones and closest friends. It is a party where gifts are given and received and family gatherings and meals are held.
The night of December 24 is key, as it is the night before Christmas Day. That night, what is perhaps the most important dinner of this religious holiday takes place. In it, entire families try to get together to celebrate the arrival of Christmas and Santa Claus or Santa Claus, who brings gifts that same night before midnight according to tradition.
The main dish for a good night dinner usually consists of roast turkey or pork. For dessert, pristine, that is, a kind of fried rings made of wheat flour dough, eggs, vanilla, sugar, baking powder, salt and water. What characterizes them the most is their intense anise and panela honey flavor. The most striking thing about this dessert is the way they are served, since it tries to simulate the crown of thorns that Jesus Christ had on his Calvary.
The Christmas tree is adorned with colored lights, figurines and fake snow, which are either made with pieces of cotton or sprayed. It should be noted that, although natural trees were traditionally used, in recent years this custom is ending, so that the trees used today are artificial, including the large tree that is planted in Parque de la Carolina (Quito) .
Mount the manger, representing the birth of Jesus is, as in Spain and other Latin American countries, a deeply rooted custom in Ecuador. In the most elaborate, the intention is to represent the scene as accurately as possible, so elements such as moss, stones, water fountains, earth, animal figures, etc. are added. In addition, it is striking that the characters are usually dressed in typical Ecuadorian costumes to represent each province.
La Strenna Novena It is another of the most deeply rooted Catholic customs in Ecuador and Colombia. It is a prayer that is said for nine days (hence the name of novena) in the time before December 25, that is, Christmas. This time, which runs from December 16 to 24, is what is known as Aguinaldos time And, despite its religious origin, today it is rather a social event.
Day of the Dead
Specifically in Ecuador, the Day of the Dead is celebrated to honor the lives of loved ones who have left the earthly world behind. Celebrated on the day of the Catholic celebration of All Saints, this day is currently the result of combining a thousand-year-old tradition with a Catholic holiday. On this day, vigils and visits to cemeteries are held to leave loved ones flower offerings and traditional food.
The Day of the Dead, known in Spain as Hallowmas and in Mexico as Day of the Dead, It is a festival that is celebrated from the last days of October until November 1, although sometimes it can last for a couple of days. It is a typical festival in Latin America and some European countries in which death is celebrated or, specifically, life after it.
The Ecuadorian drink par excellence of this day is purple laundry, which is prepared with black or purple corn flour, accompanied by the famous bread guaguas, also called bread figures. They are called guaguas due to their shape, which imitates a smiling doll or baby. The guaguas are prepared with sweet bread and it resembles the typical dessert of the French gastronomy called brioche. Sometimes the buses can be filled with a sweet ingredient.
There are several legends that tell that this tradition was not the same in its beginnings, but that the ancient custom was to prepare the buses with an inedible mass and they were taken to the graves of the deceased along with the offering of flowers. This custom possibly dates back to the Ecuadorian natives, who made clay figures to take them to the tombs of their ancestors, known as guacas by Ecuadorians.
In short, flowers and memories cover the graves of all Ecuadorian cemeteries on this day when the presence of deceased loved ones is longed for. The indigenous people, on the other hand, far from yearning, celebrate the renewal of a new life cycle and the passage from one life to another dimension. In some areas, it is still customary to bring the favorite food of the deceased and consume it next to his grave. It is also common to wear black or deep purple clothing.
Galapagos is an archipelago located in the Pacific Ocean, about 972 km from the Ecuadorian coast. Made up of 13 large volcanic islands, 6 smaller islands, and 107 islets and rocks, the Galapagos Islands were annexed to Ecuador in 1832.
They are famous for their flora, but above all for their fauna, since a large number of endemic species coexist in them. That is why they are popularly called enchanted islands, because the flora and fauna that can be found in them is unique.
But the Galapagos are not only tourist islands, but they encompass a whole culture worth studying. For example, women are the ones who have the responsibility to take care of their children and take care of the housework. On the other hand, men, who are mostly engaged in fishing, have the obligation to dedicate themselves to work.
However, given the beauty of these islands, in recent years the Galapagos have gradually been oriented towards tourism and the economy, so the customs of the past are gradually being lost. Thus, today, their customs are similar to those of the rest of the country. It should be noted, however, the warmth of the Galapagueños when treating others, since they are always friendly and willing to help.
One of the most typical Galapagos customs is the practice of equuavolley, which is a custom version of the traditional volleyball. In this case, the ball is really a soccer ball and each team can only have a maximum of three players. The rest of the rules are the same as those of international volleyball.
When we talk about Ecuadorian time, we refer to a custom somewhat ingrained in this culture according to which it is usually to be late to all kinds of events.
Although this may sound like a cliché and is a matter of debate since of course there are exceptions, however it is true compared to English culture, for example. It is a fact that in Ecuador if you meet a certain person at a certain time, the other person will rarely be punctual.
From the outside, this is included within the bad Ecuadorian customs and many are those who speak that the country has lost large amounts of money over the years for this reason.
With the expression "it is the Ecuadorian time", Ecuadorians refer to the fact that the previously agreed time has little importance, that is, they give little importance to punctuality, something that in many other cultures is a highly valued way of acting .
According to data collected by a survey in 2008, 87,5% of the Ecuadorian population confesses themselves Catholic. In this way, the Catholicism It is the cult that has a greater number of followers in the national territory and, within this, the cult that is dedicated to different saints and virgins is especially relevant, including the Virgen de la Merced, the Virgen del Cisne and the Virgen del Quinche, among others.
For their part, indigenous villages are not included in the previous percentage, since they have a worldview own, which derives in a series of religious beliefs in many cases far from the Christian religion. However, there are groups that have ended up syncretizing with Catholicism, as is the case of the Quichuas. Afro-Ecuadorians have not been included in the previous percentage either because they do not have specific cults, but they do have some specific manifestations through which they worship Catholicism.
One of the most popular festivals in Ecuador is that of Cristo del Buen Consuelo, in which a pilgrimage of 14 stations of the Via Crucis takes place in honor of this saint. The Festival of the Virgen del Cisne, for its part, is celebrated in the city of Loja on August 15 and, in it, a tour is undertaken and the mass of united souls is celebrated. Back in Loja, several stops are made and, in each one of them, it is customary to change the virgin's clothes.
La Feast of San Pedro de Bolívar is also very popular and is run by so-called priostes, who are in charge of covering the expenses derived from this event. In the host neighborhood the statue of Saint Peter is prepared, which is kept high throughout the day. Throughout this festival, popular games and other celebrations such as the chamiza are held, which consists of carrying litter through the streets and finally burning them. The natives also celebrate it, but with the name of Inti Raymi.
Of great importance in all of America, the Quito Jesús del Gran Poder de Pichincha Fair is a bullfighting fair that takes place during the last days of November. The winner takes the acclaimed Statuette of the Jesus of the Great Power, which is a replica of Jesus carrying the cross. In the parish of Checa (Quito), the Feast of the Lord of Good Hope is celebrated, which begins in the nine days prior to May 1 and consists of a torchlight procession.
Holy Week is, like in many other South American countries, one of the most important holidays of the year. Closely related to the Catholic religion, during Ecuadorian Holy Week a wide range of ceremonies and celebrations are held throughout the different cities of the country. Like the Day of the Dead, it is also closely linked to the ecuadorian gastronomy.
Thus, the most important dish is a thick soup that Ecuadorians call Fanesca. As tradition dictates, Fanesca Thursday Santom should be taken as if it were the Last Supper. However, the popularity of this delicious dish has meant that it is not only eaten on Holy Thursday, but any day throughout the entire week is a good occasion. It is prepared with dried cod and a selection of different grains and native vegetables from the Ecuadorian Sierra.
A custom that surrounds this dish is to add at least 12 grains and vegetables, representing the 12 disciples. Likewise, the fish represents Jesus. As for its origin, while some argue that it dates back to the colonial era, others say that it was introduced by the Spanish and Portuguese. Others, for their part, say that it could simply originate because the grain collection season coincided with Lent and Holy Week.
In addition, how could it be otherwise, in Quito Holy Week is experienced in a very special way, since you can find endless activities. For example, in Riobamba the most visited by tourists and locals is the Procession of the Lord of Good Success, where the flagellated, tied and bleeding Christ leaves from the Church of La Concepción and is escorted by a crowd that is praying the rosary. This massive procession ends in the Plaza de la Concepción with a mass.
During the night of Holy Thursday, it is also a tradition to perform the famous tour of the Seven Churches. In this event, a character named Cornet with lilac suits that cover the entire face of the wearer, so that only the eyes are exposed. It is very important that the Cornet walk barefoot, as this is a way to expunge your sins.
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