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Carnaval Warm-up in Guaranda

I’m back in San Francisco now, and so swamped with projects and responsibilities here that it’s been difficult to find time to continue my travel reports from our just finished 30 days in Ecuador and Peru… so here is the next installment, with another to follow soon after… hope to get the whole trip blogged in the next week or two at most.

This photo gives an idea of the beautiful setting of Guaranda, sitting amidst green hills full of terraced farms stretching in every direction.

We woke in Guaranda after watching the sunset the night before, and having already experienced the constant threat of having water poured on us as we walked through the streets (or shot at us with water pistols, or landing us by way of water balloons… all pretty common here!). It’s a beautiful, very mellow town, so we walked down to the center from our hotel, following our ears towards the carnaval music emanating from the streets.

There were several dozen contingents in this warm-up procession for the Carnaval.

We have a pretty beautiful Carnaval in our own Mission District, which encompasses traditions from the Caribbean as well as throughout Latin America, including the Andes, so in some ways this small-town Carnaval reminded us a lot of ours at home. There were lots of kids in this procession, some in sparkly, sequined Carnaval costumes, others in Halloween/Hollywood face masks. One particularly energetic group sent their members running into the crowd to find people to engage, and of course they found us and danced with us for a few minutes… they looked like partisans of V for Vendetta or spooks from one of the Scream films! Most of the groups were teens following regular routines.

These were some of the better dancers in the parade.

Flowers decked out the historic street where this was taken.

Were these City Fathers? Looked like it but we really didn't know...

Kids as absorbed by their popsicles as the passing spectacle.

Like most Carnavals, Guaranda’s had a sense of humor too… here are a few shots of a Roman Legion who were having a great time.

Here's the Roman Legion's leader...

A pretty comic look, given the time and place.

They weren't deterred from having a blast though...

Housewives of 1966? Hilarious contingent but I never was quite sure what they were trying to achieve...

The Taita is a regular figure at every Ecuadorian Carnaval. The role dates to the time of big ranchers and near serfdom for everyone else. When Carnaval would come around the local big landowner would be expected to help make a good party for everyone by providing drinks and food. As it evolved over the decades, the Taita is now a prestigious position vied for by various elders in the community, and once they’re so designated, it’s their job to keep the party lubricated… this guy was doing a great job, and Adriana managed to get a swig.

Taita Carnaval, the traditional role, it's his job to ply everyone with alcohol.

After we walked with the parade and it began disbanding, we wandered around the beautiful town a bit more, including making a stop for bananas at the local market.

We had to avoid these guys who were nailing people from the roof of a nearby building.

Guaranda is just a gorgeous town!

We really like this sign on the market, embracing its historic role and giving public recognition to the importance of such markets. We remarked to many people we met along the journey about how lost the tradition of public markets is in the U.S.

The market is an ancestral tradition...

Adriana went down to snag us some bananas...

After this, we headed back to our hotel and grabbed our bags for the next leg. A camioneta ride about an hour and a half to the old salt-producing village Salinas de Guaranda, further up into the mountains from Guaranda itself. We knew we had reason to be interested in it, but we didn’t realize it would seem like a fantasy to us, a veritable Nowtopian town deep in the Andes! That’ll be the next post.

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