Sunday, February 19, 2012

The History of Carnival in Guaranda, Bolívar, Ecuador

Guaranda, known as the City of the Seven Hills, has traditional Carnival festivals and parties that go on for days. The visitors during these days excitedly drink a traditional fermented corn beverage called “chicha” and the popular alcoholic beverage aguardiente to set the tone for the joyful and communal spirit of the festivities.

There are a couple theories regarding the origin of Carnival in Guaranda—the first claims that the Guarangas, an ancestral tribe belonging to the Chimbus nation, held the celebration in honor of their chief (El Cacique Guaranga) and to give thanks to Pachacamac, the god they worshipped, and to nature.

According to this theory, everyone used to prepare food and drink to host the tribes from the surrounding areas that assisted this celebration, which lasted three days. In the festivals there were many dancers and people in costumes. The people sang religious hymns, painted their faces, dressed in animal skins, drank chicha and ate corn-based foods in their homes, as well as those of neighbors, family, and friends.

Many people went through the streets celebrating and invited others to join, dancing and throwing corn flour, perfumed water, and flowers at onlookers to the sound of the drums, flutes, and panpipes.

The arrival of the Spanish conquistadores brought a Spanish festival called “Carnival” and the Guarangas saw it as an opportunity to maintain their celebration, though disguised under another name, in order to continue their ancestral tradition mixed with European customs.

The second theory is a myth that the god “Gran Taita” was sympathetic towards Carna and Valerio, a young couple that were ordered to marry by chief Guaranga. When Gran Taita saw the couple asleep in a field, he commanded nature to compose a song for them. Immediately, the birds sang cheerfully, the wind blew mournfully, and the tree branches twisted up, while the river waters playfully churned and danced. These sounds combined to form a sad yet happy tune.

This soft and sweet song made Chief Guaranga proclaim that it should only be played in the Great Festival. This great festival is what we know as Carnival. Carnival in Guaranda is celebrated as it is in the rest of the country, except with additional costumes, parades, music, poetry, and dance in all parts of the city. It is considered to be one of the best Carnival celebrations in Ecuador.

Carnival is celebrated by throwing water all over the country (except in Ambato). Carnival Taita is a grand opening celebration in which the sponsor of the party makes his or her grand entrance into the city. After the opening celebration, the rest of the festival kicks off. The celebrations last for around eight days.

Source: RTU