While Brazil has a famous Carnival Parade in Rio de Janeiro and the United States in New Orleans (better known as Mardi Gras), Ecuador has Guaranda! This small city with views of the famous Chimborazo Volcano pulls out the stops with several parades taking place on the long holiday weekend. But it doesn’t stop there. Ecuador has many other Carnival celebrations throughout the Andes and a few along the Coast and in the Amazon. This article will help you know what to expect and where to look for them.
WHAT IS CARNIVAL
Carnival is a semi-religious celebration that takes place in Catholic communities throughout the world. Some are more raucous than others but all are based on preparing for the 6 week period known as Lent (Cuaresma). Lent always begins on a Wednesday, 6 weeks prior to Easter Sunday. That means it generally falls in February. The Tuesday before Lent is often called Fat Tuesday and, in New Orleans and French-speaking communities, Mardi Gras. But throughout Latin America, it is called Carnival (Carnaval).
In fact, in many Latin American communities, Carnival is not only celebrated on the Tuesday but for the full weekend before. In Ecuador, the government almost always declares a 4-day weekend. Ecuadorians flock to the coast for beach holidays or to one of the towns known for the best carnival celebrations. Parades can take place throughout the weekend though the largest and most important are generally held on the Monday. Everyone wants Tuesday to recuperate and to drive home, ready to work again on the following day.
MIXING CATHOLIC PRACTICE WITH INDIGENOUS TRADITION
Because many Ecuadorians still celebrate indigenous holidays, Carnival can often be blended with Pakwar Raymi, the March Equinox celebration. While not strictly the exact timing, February and March are generally seen as months to celebrate flowers and fruit. It is the time of the early harvest, following the beginning of the Andean rainy season in November and December. For that reason, many of the parades will be filled not only with dancers and musicians in traditional costumes but might be peppered with characters like Diablo Huma.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT AN ECUADORIAN CARNIVAL
Carnival is a time of joy, celebration, and trouble making. Most places that celebrate do so with a parade or two or three. Some also have other events like food fairs and music festivals.
If you attend a parade, or are just walking down the street in a community that celebrates, expect to get sprayed with water or spritzed with party foam. Water can be tossed from buckets from windows overhead or aimed and fired with water guns from a strategic location. Party foam is generally found only at the parade itself but is not