Lauren's adventure in Ecuador

Monday, December 04, 2006

¡Viva Quito…Viva!

The fiestas de Quito are in fully swing, and I am thoroughly wiped out because I’ve been all over the city festejando in the past week. Wednesday was my first Corrida de Toros, or bull fight. I had heard that bull fights are kind of vulgar town events, but I found the bull fight to be thoroughly entertaining and in good taste. The corrida is still going on, as there are nine days of activities, and I went on a day when six different toreros (bull fighters) from Spain, Ecuador, and Mexico fought. Bull fighting really is an art. People really dress up to come to the plaza de toros, and not a single man is caught without his Panama hat (by the way, “Panama hats” are really from Monticristi, Ecuador). It’s quite the who’s who. The first fight we saw was a Rejoneador, or a torero on horseback. He never actually got off the horse, but rather killed the bull and did everything else on horseback. He was only 22! There are actually five stages to a bull fight. (I never knew this.) The “autoridad” decides how long each stage will last, and he has a quorum of bugle-blowers that announce the stages. The bull first comes out and the helpers to the torero taunt it with their capes to tire it a bit. Then come the “picadores”, men on horseback (not the toreros) who jab a spear in the back of the bull, which begins the bleeding process because it’s a profound wound in their backs. Then come the “banderillas”, the little spears that the “banderillero” (another person who is not the torero) puts in the back of the bull. Then, FINALLY, comes the torero with his (or her) cape, which is technically called a “muleta”. During this stage, the torero displays his/her ability with the cape, and it is a sight to be seen. The bull is thoroughly tired by this point, so it’s not as if the torero has complete domination over the bull in a sense, but on the other hand, they do some really amazing things with their cape that I don’t really care if it’s not completely legit. I had the chance to see a woman bull fighter, and she actually prefers to be called a “torero” and not a “torera”, as if to signal her complete equality with the men I think. She was fearless.

As I’ve mentioned, this week holds the fiestas of Quito, which commemorate its founding in the 1500s by the Spanish. Many indigenous groups oppose this holiday because it signals the perversion and conquest of their people, and for this reason, there is a concerted effort to praise and honor the indigenous tribes. Thursday, November 30th, marked the official beginning of the holiday, and my friend, Karin, and I went to the Pregón, a HUGE festival in the center of the city. There were all kinds of traditional dances and presentations. There were so many people though that I was holding on to my purse like a madwoman while trying to push and shove my out of the throngs of people. Being here has taught me the importance of traveling light! I try not to take anything that won’t fit in my pockets, and if I do I have to leave the house knowing that it might not come back with me later. On Friday I went with friends to a wooden car race for children. It was a great event because the kids make the cars themselves, and they launch down an insanely steep hill. There are different heats for kids between 10-16 years old, and the kids have car racing uniforms and helmets and everything. We watched with baited breath sometimes though because the kids crashed, but nobody got seriously injured I think.

I also had the opportunity to go a fundraising party for a friend of an Ecuadorian friend of mine. We don’t have similar things in the US, so it was a neat concept for me. It’s a called a Fiesta de Solidaridad (Solidarity) The girl who organized the party has been battling with cancer for a while now, and in order to raise funds for medical costs, she invited everyone she knew to a dance hall. She charged a cover, and she also charged for alcohol, etc. I think it’s a really good idea because her friends can donate money to her while also celebrating having a good time.

Saturday was chock full of activities. I went to a traditional parade in the morning called “Desfile de Confraternidad”, and we saw all kids of school bands, beauty queens, traditional dances, colonial costumes, and traditional Inca dress as well. I learned that some indigenous communities here refuse to inter-marry with other groups, and they have maintained their pure blood since the founding of Ecuador. We also went to a concert called QuitoFest because I wanted to see what the punk rock scene was like here (just out of curiosity), and it was insane. We didn’t stay long, which is good because today I found out that ten people were stabbed in the mosh pit. Apparently there is not only great hostility between the roqueros and the police, but been the different roquero groups themselves as well.

The capstone of the Fiestas de Quito, was, without a doubt, seeing SHAKIRA! All I have to say is that if every woman danced like her the world would be a much happier and beautiful place. She is amazing. We arrived 2.5 hours early because we thought that this would give us PLENTY of time, but we were wrong. We were sitting in the third to last row! The coliseum was really small, which was perfect because we could see her really well. She sang most everything in Spanish, which I loved, but the good ol’ “Hips Don’t Lie” was in English, and I was glad. She is half Lebanese, and she is a trained belly dancer. This training, combined with Colombian blood, is fatal!

Sunday was my second fútbol game here, and it was a poorly played game. The best part of the games is the fans because they are absolutely loco. They have fireworks galore, huge flags that cover entire sections of the stadium, and they throw toilet paper on the field like it’s their job. I learned the Liga (Quito team) chant, so now I can sing with the best of them!

I almost forgot to write a quick note about the Chivas here. Chivas are open-top buses that have live bands on them, and they go around the city during this week. People pay to ride on them, and it’s truly a madhouse. The people drink and blow whistles while riding in the streets of Quito at literally all hours of the day. Yesterday’s big celebration involved the victory of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. He was re-elected as president there, and many of the Venezuelans here and Ecuadorians took to the street to celebrate. I felt a bit uncomfortable because of the U.S.-Venezuelan tension.

Needless to say, it’s been a busy week in Quito, and it makes me wish that we had such town pride in the U.S. Tomorrow is dancing in the street! Take care everyone…and an early Feliz Navidad.


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