We have been lucky enough to spend the Easter week in Quito, Ecuador. Semana Santa is one of the biggest celebrations in Latin America. Every little town has its own traditional and peculiar Easter procession. Ecuador in particular, where most people are Catholic and cultural traditions are very rich, celebrates Holy Week with a great variety of events, and religious ceremonies. Even though most of the Ecuadorians prefer to travel in this period, Easter week in Quito is a big thing. We couldn’t miss it.
There are several events during the week, but the Good Friday procession of Jesús del Gran Poder – Jesus Almighty is the most iconic one. The other big processions are held in the cities of Guayaquil and Cuenca.
EASTER WEEK IN QUITO: WHY YOU SHOULDN’T MISS THE EASTER PROCESSION
Thousands of believers named Cucuruchos, gather in Quito’s old town, wear a purple tunic and walk in the main streets. The procession starts in San Francisco Square before noon and goes around the colonial district, up to the Basilica Church and back to the square after 3 hours, approximately.
We were so lucky to attend this incredible event. Spending our Easter week in Quito was unique and here it is why you shouldn’t miss the Easter procession.
PROBABLY ONE OF THE BIGGEST PARADE
The procession of Jesus of the Great Power attracts a large number of believers. This is one of the largest human concentration in the country. Last year there were more than 1.600 people participants and around 250.000 spectators.
The participants are divided in two groups, Cucuruchos and Verónicas. The Cucuruchos are dressed in long purple gowns and have a pointy hat who covers their faces too; most of them walk barefoot and inflict real suffering onto themselves, from self-flagellation to attaching cacti onto their exposed backs.
While the Verónicas are the women that personify the biblical woman that washes Jesus’ feet on his way to the crucifixion. They also wear purple gowns and cover their faces with veils.
The reason why this procession is so popular is that it attracts both locals and tourist, believers and not believers, everybody comes to admire this demonstration of religious faith.
SEE QUITO IN A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
Among all the events held during the Easter week in Quito, the Good Friday procession is definitely the most iconic. By observing the people during the procession you can feel their faith and devotion. Penitents strongly believe in what they are doing and are not acting towards the audience.
This aura of respect and adoration is something unique for a chaotic city like Quito.
At the head of the procession, there is the sculpture of “Jesus of the Great Power”. It is a colonial relic that belongs to the Church of San Francisco. This is taken out only once a year for this ceremony. A river of people, dressed in purple, walk along the footpaths of the historical center of the city. Something really different from Quito’s everyday routine.
EXCITING BOTH FOR BELIEVERS OR NOT
This procession is one of the greatest demonstrations of faith in Catholic people. People emulate the figure of Jesus Christ, carrying wooden crosses and flagellating themself to simulate his pain. The Cucuruchos do that to get rid of their sins. Even though the occasion is very Catholic, and we consider ourselves not believers, we felt truly overwhelmed by this experience.
Passion, empathy, fear, curiosity, we felt this mix of sensations all in one. It is very hard to put all of this into words, only by being part of this event you can really understand this incredible mix of emotions.
Whether you are Catholic or not, this cultural expression ought to be witnessed.
TAKE AMAZING PICTURES
People drag heavy chains tied on their ankles, others carry heavy yokes, some tie cactus and stingy nettles to their bodies. Several walk the route as Jesus Christ, carrying heavy crosses while accompanied by Roman soldiers. In our opinion, all of these images can be transformed into beautiful pictures.
Cucuruchos and Verónicas are the main targets for photographers and they don’t seem to care about it. The parade goes on very slow so there are many spots where we could stop and take pictures.
Most of the people in the parade cover their faces to keep their penitence anonymous. Because of that, it was so interesting for us to seek for tattoos, and distinguishing marks to capture in a photo.
Pro Tip: Use parallel streets if you want to move faster and reach a specific point of the parade.
Whenever you have the possibility we strongly suggest spending the Easter week in Quito and attend this unique parade. Some of the images may be strong but the emotions they generated to us are still vivid and memorable.
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