Mara and I LOVE the northern Andes region of Ecuador near Cotacachi and Otavalo. Every time we visit we get to experience the beautiful scenery of the "Volcano Alley", the lush green countryside, and the rich culture of the local Quechua people. This is why we decided to move the Body + Soul Camp to this area and started including some activities in these communities.
Last year we were lucky enough to be in Cotacachi during the last few days of Holy Week leading up to Easter Sunday. It really was quite a treat, since nearly the entire community is Catholic and the town is alive with celebrations. We heard the biggest event would be the procession on Good Friday. So we made our way to the church (which doubles as the town square), and watched as hundreds (probably thousands) of Quechua farmers and merchants gathered together in the shade of the chapel.
The Quechua still dress in very traditional clothing that is unique to their region, and they don't just dress this way on holy days. These are the outfits they wear every day as they work in the fields, care for the livestock, tend to their businesses, and do chores around the house. Each region has their own style of traditional hats, skirts, embroidered shirts, and color schemes. This region has my favorite style.
Everyone awaits the arrival of the Passion play - the dramatic depiction of Christ's trial, suffering, and death.
I don't know that I'd ever watched a full/live presentation of the Passion of Christ. To be honest, the other times I'd been exposed to it in passing in Brazil or through the news, it never left a powerful impression upon me. Even though I usually find myself reading the passages from scripture every Easter, the actual reenactment of the suffering and mockery Christ experienced always left a feeling of slight discomfort. For some reason it never felt sacred.
But this time it did feel sacred. It was beautiful to see an entire community come together in unity to celebrate and honor their faith and their belief in God. We were moved to see the devotion of the actors, the reverence and attention of audience, and the general sense of community as all participated in the reenactment of this biblical scene. If felt more like worship, and less like spectacle.
I'm always touched by the warmth of the people in this particular community. Locking eyes for a moment with a stranger will often result in the exchange of big smiles and a friendly greeting, like this couple below :)
After sharing some pleasantries with this next couple, I learned that they had been married since they were 15 (it's not unusual for this community to marry and start their families at a very early age). Though the picture I caught below shows a more serious face, they were all smiles as they slowly and gently helped each other, arm in arm, to find a seat on the church steps.
As the procession finished and the crowd began to thin, we made our way over to a little restaurant (the kind that looks more like someone's dining room), and had Fanesca Soup - a traditional Ecuadorian soup during the Holy Week. It's made with pumpkin, fig-leaf gourd, twelve types of beans, and salt cod (with the twelve beans representing Christ's apostles, and the salt cod representing Christ). Seriously DELICIOUS! Making this soup is an all day production. If you're interested, you can check out this recipe (not dairy free).
And I think this photo of this adorable little girl is the perfect way to end this post.