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Good Friday Processions, Quito

José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (Guayaquil) and Quito


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While I was working in Guayaquil, Emma, Kate, Mark and Andrew left Cuenca for Baños on Tuesday, spent a full day there and got a bus to Quito yesterday. I spent last night at José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil because my flight to Quito was at 6 am and I thought it would be much easier just to get a taxi from work when it closed on Thursday night than it would be to try and find a safe taxi at 3 am on Friday morning from Alborada.

The flight was uneventful but I did get some good photos of the mountains and a snowcapped volcano near Quito - probably Cotopaxi Volcano.

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The hour-long taxi journey from the new airport to the hostel was also uneventful. I was joining the others at the same hostel where Mum and I stayed in February; I arrived at about 08.30.

The main aim of the day was to go into Quito Old Town to view the world-famous Good Friday procession, which we thought started at midday. We got the Trolebus and duly arrived at Plaza San Francisco, where the procession would begin, nice and early at around 9:30. There were more people than normal around even at that point, including lots of police, and there was a Catholic radio station playing on loudspeakers.

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We were wondering where to stand to get the best view, then noticed that on the raised ground along one side of the square, directly in front of San Francisco church and monastery, people were sitting on the wall with their backs to the main square. This made us think that the procession would probably go along there, so we made a beeline up the steps and found a good position next to the wall. It was wonderfully sunny at that point and there was a really good atmosphere, full of anticipation and preparation.

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From our raised position we had a good view over the square, and on and to the side of the raised area we could see preparations apace; some big wooden crosses propped up in a couple of places, men holding brass band instruments and penitents wearing their costumes of mainly purple robes and purple pointy masks.

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At around 10:30 am we, and everyone else on the raised area, started to be moved by police, which disappointed us because we wouldn't get as good a view from the ground. I think it was because part of the procession was going to emerge from the front of the church. Anyway, we descended into the main part of the square and found a position by a road on the opposite of the square, where lots of people seemed to be congregating. Then we started to see bits of a procession going along one of the other sides of the square, and realised that the procession had started an hour earlier than expected and wasn't going along our road after all!

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The crowd was thick by the edge of the relevant road, but some of us managed to squeeze through to the front (or near the front) and get a few photos. The procession mainly seemed to consist of the penitents (some of whom held crucifixes, pictures of Jesus or Mary etc.), men dressed up as Jesus carrying along the big wooden crosses I'd spotted earlier, and brass band musicians playing a couple of tunes I didn't recognise.

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Kate says that at one point and a couple of times later in the day she saw a couple of the penitents flagellate with ropes tied round their waists, though only lightly by the looks of it so it wasn't harsh to watch; I saw chains dragging from some of the penitents' ankles.

The day then went downhill for a bit because Mark had his wallet stolen. He'd had it in his pocket rather than in a bag. The police didn't speak English but he managed to find a tourist security place nearby so went there. Meanwhile Kate and I found Emma and, when walking along, found Mark at the security place. Kate and I didn't know where Andrew was in the crowds but Emma said that he'd said to meet up at the Trolebus stop if we got split up. With that in mind, Kate and I then took Emma to an internet cafe with phone booths to cancel the stolen cards while Mark stayed at the security place to sort stuff out there. The procession had reached where we were so the crowds were quite hard to fight through...

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...but luckily we found the internet café not far away. I hung around outside Emma's phone booth while she made calls and meanwhile Kate fought her way through the crowds to the Trolebus stop to see whether Andrew was there, but he wasn't so she came back again. Once all the cards were cancelled we went back to the bus stop and waited for quite a while to see if Andrew would turn up, but he didn't so in the end Kate got the bus back to the hostel to check whether he'd gone back there. Luckily she found him nearby the hostel so they came back into Quito Old Town and met up with us there.

Things then improved further, because while Kate was gone Emma and I had lunch, a special Ecuadorean Holy Week soup called 'fanesca'. Once Kate and Andrew got back they had some too but at a a different place. It was lovely - among other things it contained twelve different grains/pulses to symbolise the twelve apostles, half a boiled egg, dried cod, some little hard-baked bread things, a miniature empanada, milk, plantain and vegetable stock. Emma and I didn't get any accompaniments with ours, but the others did; plates of molo mash (potato mixed with milk, cream and possibly garlic and onions, served on lettuce leaves and with half a boiled egg and some spring onion sliced lengthways on top), and a dulce de higo each (a whole fresh fig cooked until lightly candied in a spiced brown cane sugar syrup and served with the syrup and a slice of queso fresco (white softish cheese). Figs are a traditional Lenten food and eggs, fish and cheese are fasting foods, so it was all appropriate for eating on Good Friday.

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After lunch, after walking up a street through which a shrine was moving with lots of people walking alongside or watching from the roadsides...

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...we all went back to Plaza San Francisco to visit Tianguez, an amazing handicrafts shop that I visited with Mum in February. The shop extends into catacombs under the monastery and contains all sorts of handicrafts, pottery, woven items, etc., as well as Ecuadorean coffee and other things. Some of the catacomb passages have interesting information about the traditions and meanings of the items made by particular tribes.

Following this we were all tired so we walked to Plaza Santo Domingo to get the Trolebus back to the hostel.While walking through Plaza San Francisco Kate pointed out that the shrine had ended up in the open doorway of the monastery, and various nuns and monks were standing around on the raised area in front.

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In the evening we had dinner at KFC (only the second time I've been there in Ecuador) and checked our emails.

Posted by 3Traveller 08:34 Archived in Ecuador Tagged mountains airport sisters quito andes ecuador procession unesco_world_heritage_site ecuadorian_cuisine plaza_san_francisco fair_trade_shop plaza_santo_domingo traditional_customs easter_celebrations

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