We could not understand Ecuadorian customs without taking into account their ethnic and regional diversity, formed by the presence of indigenous, white, mestizo and Afro-Ecuadorians spread across the mountains, the east, the island region and the coast. Discover below what 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 multiethnic 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 together 14 aboriginal nationalities different, each with its own worldview and unique traditions.
The best known indigenous communities are those listed below: Achuar, Huaorani, Cofán, Shuar, Siona-Secoya, Shiwiar and Záparo. There is one more people, the Tagaeri, although they were declared as an "intangible" group by the State, given their willingness to live away from the rest. On the other hand, in the Ecuadorian Andes the Quechuas of the Sierra reside, grouped in different ethnic groups such as the Cañaris, Saraguros, Otovalos and the Chachis, among others.
The Shuar aboriginals, 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, in this ethnic group the sonoral marriageThat is, marriage with 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, which means that men usually have several wives. Today, we are trying to move towards a type of monogamous and exogamous marriage (outside the group).
The beliefs of these groups of people are usually linked to the nature and 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, by 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 as their son or grandson, to begin a new life cycle.
An Afro-Ecuadorian person is one belonging to the ethnic groups that reside between Ecuador and southern western Colombia, descendants of the African groups that were brought by the Spaniards 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 live, 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 much of the enslaved black population.
Among the most popular customs of Afro-Ecuadorians, the music stands out, 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, as instruments such as drums and marimba continue to be used.
In the Chota Valley you can also hear a well-known rhythm called «Chota bomb«, Where guitars and drums are the star instruments. There is a big difference between Emerald and Choteña music, since in the first one African rhythms can be seen more strongly, while the Choteña bomb has become more detached from its origins and has more mestizo, indigenous and typical influences from the mountains Ecuadorian
With the following video we can know more about the Afro-Ecuadorian population that inhabits the Chota Valley while we hear their traditional music in the background. In it, we can verify that its inhabitants live mainly from the farming, since 75% of all Afro-Ecuadorians are dedicated to their crops.
For its part, it should be noted that Afro-Ecuadorian groups have almost completely separated from the religious customs of their black ancestors, unlike in the cases of Cuba, Brazil or Uruguay. The Emeralds, 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 that contain information about the eating habits of Ecuador date back to the 16th century and, in them, the importance of chili pepper, a product that could not be lacking in the Ecuadorian cuisine of the time, is demonstrated.
He chili pepper It is a chile that receives this name in Ecuador, while in countries like Spain it is a simple pepper. The cultivation of chili pepper is not only an ancient custom in Ecuador, but throughout Central and South America, dating back more than 6,000 years ago. In fact, in Ecuador it is where experts place the first crops of this vegetable at the hands of the Incas and the 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, also used to salt all their dishes.
One of the most traditional dishes of Ecuador is the cariucho (from Quechua cari-, what does it mean man, Y – a lot, Which is equivalent to chili pepper), which includes among its main ingredients corn and potatoes with a meat steak, either chicken or beef, cooked on the grill. Once prepared, peanut sauce and garden salad are added to this dish.
Another popular dish historically is the llapingachos, also native to the central Andean region of Ecuador and southern Colombia. It is one of the most representative dishes of mountain food. It is a kind of rounded tortillas made of cooked potatoes or cassava and subsequently crushed.
In addition, they can be eaten accompanied by sausages, rice, avocado, lettuce, roasted meat, fried egg, onion … It is also a popular dish in Ipiales (Colombia), where it is served with fried, 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 stick figures. Immediately after December 25 (Christmas), it is customary to start making paper or cardboard dolls, sawdust, old clothes or any other material that can serve to develop our imagination.
Once done, 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 they are mostly inspired by celebrities, politicians, family members or just someone who during the year gave us some disgust or was news. Once the doll's bust is made, a mask is put on and our puppet will be ready for the night of the 31st.
To burn them, the puppets must be placed in front of each other'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 shed made of palm leaves for display. In addition, in some villages, they are organized local competitions by the regional authorities.
Another of the typical customs if what you want is to start the year in Ecuadorian style is that of go out with a suitcase right at midnight and shop around the block. The objective of this tradition is none other than to attract trips in the coming year. It is also customary to take a grape for each bell of the clock before 0:00, that is, before the twelve bells after which the new year begins, something that is also part of the Spanish Christmas traditions.
The economy must also be taken into account when welcoming the new year. Therefore, custom dictates that you should leave a ticket inside our right shoe throughout December 31 and, once entered on January 1, 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 brought the new year.
Ecuadorian weddings are not far from those held in Italy or Spain, as well as in other Latin American countries. As regards 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 league and wear 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.
The majority of customs for weddings are done with the aim of attracting prosperity Yet the hope in life that will begin 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, meanwhile, represents the connection with the past.
The use of veil It dates back to the 18th century and is related to the Catholic Church, which instituted this accessory as a way to symbolize virginity, innocence, modesty and virtue of the bride. Instead, the custom of throwing the bouquet arose in France several centuries earlier, specifically in the fourteenth century. The bouquet is launched to the still single women who have attended the wedding to represent that, the one who 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 an event, above all, cultural that is celebrated in style with water, foam carnival, flour or cornstarch, talc, etc. and in which the attendees disguise themselves with elaborate costumes or paint their faces with plant-type paints.
In Ambato, known as the land of flowers and fruits, highlight the cultural groups in which parades of floats decorated with flowers and fruits of the area are held. Also, one of the cities where this holiday has more relevance (this is what Ecuadorians call it) is Guaranda, capital of Bolívar.
In Guaranda it is customary to have a drink called blue bird, which is a typical brandy of the interandina region. It is prepared based on sugar cane and its approximate degree is 30 ° GL. This bluish alcoholic drink, hence its name, also includes among its ingredients orange leaves, broth and chicken meat, tangerine, cane anise, etc. It is one of the favorite drinks by tourists visiting the carnival.
The Chimborazo Carnival is another of the most famous in Ecuador. In it, water also plays 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 African-American cultures, which are celebrated in places like 8th street and Las Palmas Spa. On the other hand, in Atacames the Marimodrome or a marimba festival, while in Montañita (province of Guayas), surf 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 called popularly Quito Chinatown. Therefore, it is not uncommon to find some of the main Chinese traditions intermingled with local customs.
And precisely because it is one of the oldest sectors of the city, some of the main ancestral customs of Ecuador can still be seen alive. For example, some families try to keep alive the celebration of their ancestors 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 is that each dancer (called yumbo) represent 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 moved by faith. In this way, there are those who become yumbos for San Sebastián, who is the patron of this party.
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 San Lucas and San Mateo. This is especially important in a country like Ecuador, where the Catholic religion is of the 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 meetings and meals are held.
The night of December 24 is key, since it is the night before Christmas day. That night is what is perhaps the most important dinner of this religious holiday. In it, entire families try to gather to celebrate the arrival of Christmas and Santa Claus or Santa Claus, who brings the gifts that night before 0:00 h according to tradition.
The main course at a good night's dinner usually consists of roast turkey or pork. For dessert, they are common pristiñosThat is, a kind of fried rings made of wheat flour dough, eggs, vanilla, sugar, baking powder, salt and water. What most characterizes them is their intense flavor of anise and panela honey. The most striking thing about this dessert is the way they are served, since they try to simulate the crown of thorns that Jesus Christ had on his ordeal.
The Christmas tree is adorned with colored lights, figurines and fake snow, which is either made with pieces of cotton or sprayed. It should be noted that, although traditional trees were traditionally used, in recent years this custom is ending, so that the trees used today are artificial, even the large tree that is planted in the 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, it is intended 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 the typical costumes of Ecuador to represent each province.
The Novena de Aguinaldos It is another of the most entrenched Catholic customs in Ecuador and Colombia. It is a prayer that is prayed for nine days (hence the name of ninth) in the time before December 25, that is, Christmas. This era, which goes from December 16 to 24, is what is known as Aguinaldos era 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 underworld behind. Celebrated on the day of the Catholic celebration of All Saints, this day is currently the result of combining an ancient tradition with a Catholic holiday. On this day, vigils and visits to cemeteries are carried out to leave loved ones flower offerings and traditional food.
The Day of the Dead, known in Spain as All Saints Day and in Mexico as Day of the Dead, is a party that is celebrated from the last days of October until November 1, although sometimes it can be extended for a couple more days. It is a typical festival of 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 the purple laundry, which is prepared with black or purple cornmeal, accompanied by the famous bread buses, also called bread figures. They are called guaguas because of their shape, which mimics a smiling doll or baby. The buses are prepared with sweet bread and looks like the typical dessert of French cuisine called Brioche. Sometimes, the buses can be filled with some sweet ingredient.
There are several legends that tell us 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 were taken to the graves of the deceased along with the offering of flowers. This custom possibly goes back to the Ecuadorian Indians, who made clay figures to take them to the graves of their ancestors, known as guacas For the 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. Indigenous people, on the other hand, far from longing, celebrate the renewal of a new life cycle and the transition from one life to another dimension. In some areas, it is still customary to take the cemetery to favorite food of the deceased and consume it next to his grave. It is also common to wear black or dark purple clothes.
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 especially for their fauna, since they live in a large number of endemic species. That's 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 encompass a whole culture worth studying. For example, women are responsible for taking care of their children and taking care of household chores. On the other hand, men, who are mostly engaged in fishing, are obliged to work.
However, given the beauty of these islands, in recent years the Galapagos have been gradually 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 customs of Galapagos is the practice of ecuavóley, which is a customized version of traditional volleyball. In this case, the ball is really football and in each team there can only be 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 somewhat rooted custom in this culture according to which it is usually to be late to all kinds of events.
Although this may sound like a topic and is a matter of debate since there are of course exceptions, however it is true compared to English culture, for example. It is a fact that in Ecuador if you are at an hour with a certain person, the other person will rarely be punctual.
From the outside, this is included in Ecuadorian bad customs and many are those who speak of the fact 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 time that had been previously agreed is of little importance, that is, they give little importance to punctuality, something that in many other cultures is a very valued way of acting .
According to data collected by a survey in 2008, 87.5% of the Ecuadorian population confesses to being Catholic. In this way, the Catholicism It is the cult that has a greater number of adherents in national territory and, within this, the cult dedicated to different saints and virgins, among them the Virgin of Mercy, the Virgin of the Swan and the Virgin of the Quinche, among others.
On the other hand, the indigenous towns do not include the previous percentage, since they have a worldview own, which results 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 Quichua. Afro-Ecuadorians have not been included in the previous percentage either because they do not have specific cults, but 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 is carried out in honor of this saint. The Feast of the Virgin of the Swan, on the other hand, 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. On the way back to Loja, several stops are made and, in each of them, it is customary to change the virgin of clothes.
The Feast of San Pedro de Bolívar It is also very popular and is in charge of the so-called priostes, who are responsible for covering the expenses derived from this event. In the host neighborhood the statue of San Pedro is prepared, which remains high throughout the day. Throughout this festival popular games and other celebrations such as the chamiza are held, which consists of taking litter through the streets and finally burning them. The natives also celebrate it, but with the name of Inti Raymi.
Of great importance throughout America, the Quito Jesus Fair of the Great Power of Pichincha is a bullfighting fair held 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 before May 1 and consists of a torchlight procession.
Holy Week is, as in many other South American countries, one of the most important festivities of the year. Closely related to the Catholic religion, during the 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 Ecuadorian cuisine.
Thus, the most important dish is a thick soup that Ecuadorians call Fanesca. As tradition dictates, the Fanesca Thursday Santom should be taken as if it were the Last Supper. However, the popularity of this delicious dish has not only taken 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 12 disciples. Likewise, fish represents Jesus. As for its origin, while some argue that it dates back to the colonial era, others say it was introduced by the Spaniards and Portuguese. Others, on the other hand, say that it could simply originate because the time of grain collection coincided with Lent and Holy Week.
In addition, how could it be otherwise, in Holy Week we live 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, bound and bleeding Christ leaves from the Church of La Concepción and is escorted by a crowd that prays the rosary. This massive procession ends in the Plaza de la Concepción with a mass.
During the night of Holy Thursday, it is also tradition to perform the famous Seven Churches tour. In this event, a character called 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, since this is a way to expel your sins.
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