The Most Complete Guide of Ecuador

Riobamba: Celebrations in the Andes!

Andean celebrations are based on the relationship between nature, the human being, the deity and ancestral beings. Every year, in the Andes, 4 events are celebrated based on reciprocity, agriculture and festivities. Two of these celebrations are dedicated to femininity (Pakwar Raymi and Kulla Raymi)  and two celebrations are dedicated to masculinity (Inti Raymi and the Kapak Raymi.)

Reciprocity and thankfulness towards Mother Earth

The Puruhá culture, during the time of the equinox, celebrates the flourishing of flowers and the first tender grains- that were given life by the earth and water. This festivity in Kichwa is known as Sisay Pacha or Aymara Pawkar. In actuality, these terms are unknown due to the spread of the Spanish language and the adoption of “Palm Sunday” or “carnival.” However, the essence of the celebration has been preserved collectively, as an act of gratitude to nature and the deity. This gratitude is expressed in the form of singing, dancing, the sharing of food and the sacred ritual of the Kapak Jocha or Ritual Bath.

The celebration is also a demonstration of reciprocity and being thankful for the harvests that Mother Earth has given us. The act of receiving and collecting the first fruits, flowers and grains of the season and thanking Pacha Mama is known as “Huchana”(reciprocity for nature). With this holistic comprehension the townspeople manifest themselves through poems, songs, the preparation of delicious foods, offerings, and visits from house to house.

The Characters

The main characters that characterize the Puruha are specific and unique to every town.  The Wiracocha, Warmitukushka, Hantsapa, Urku Tukushka and Ruku Yaya, all have a different and protagonic role. Nowadays, with a certain fusion of this festivity and the upcoming carnival celebrations new characters have emerged.  You can observe policemen, kings, captains, and mayors from colonial times.

The Warmi Tukushka represents the role of women, and personifies Pachamama herself- in a mischievous and whimsical manner.

The Wiracocha or Urkutukushka is an expression of the spirit of the mountains and the mythical being recognized as the god of water during Inca times.

In the local culture of Flores the main character is the Wiracocha. In other towns its the Warmitukushka, who transforms into the guide for the festivities, representing a deity incarnated as a human being, and a human being transformed into a deity during the celebration.

Colors, fruits and astronomy

During this time, astronomy-wise, the sun arises from the center of the country, above the Kapak Urku (otherwise known as El Altar). An abundance of rain revives the color of the plants, and revitalizes Mother Earth who then flourishes in all her plenitude, and gives signs of the first grains, initiating the celebration.

Within the communities, the rituals consists in the collection of flowers Ñakcha Sisa and waters from different streams. These elements, believed to have healing and restorative powers are then used to wash the faces of the young Wamprakuna. By doing so they are being purified and at the same time they are assuming their new role of embracing the season.  The Pawkar Raymi has festive, astronomical, social, gastronomic and ritualistic components.

During the celebration, those who personify Wiracocha (the mythical god), Urku Tukuska (the spirit of the mountain), Warmi Tukushka (the essence of femininity), represent nature and the deity. Kids, teens, adults all receive and celebrate the flourishing of the valleys with great joy. They are also thankful for the old grains “wata muru”, and very welcoming of the new tender grains that will feed them for the next year. This guarantees the survival of their families.

Pakwar Raymi means “many colors.” This name was given because during the celebration, all of the products that come from the earth are exhibited, and they have bright and varied colors. This colorful celebration is also known as Sisay Pacha (the Season of Blooming) or Tumari Pukllay ( a ceremonial game with water and flowers.)

For the ceremony a “Pamba Mesa” is put together. The Pamba Mesa are several ponchos stretched out in the ground, the food is placed on top of them (the ponchos are used as a tablecloth) and the community donates food for the table. In this collective lunch you will find potatoes with cheese, mote, mellocos, peas and more. As for drinks, there is Chicha de Jora (malted corn).

Cerro Alajahuan

Cerro Alajahuan is a hill with an elevation of 3.656m (above sea level). On the top of the hill stands a church where you can find a huge stone that bears a cross.  This place is considered to be sacred. It is the site of many festive rituals, where traditional music is played, dances are danced, and pilgrimages to the top of the hill take place. While it is visited throughout the whole year, Carnival and Corpus Cristi are busy times.

Many of the indigenous peoples who perform the pilgrimages are Catholics and do so out of their devotion to the Christ of Alajahuan. However, they also rescue their ancestral beliefs by acknowledging the sentimental value (or sacred value) of the hill and the rock.

Devotees climb the hill asking for blessings, but also thanking for everything that they have been given. The rock and water are essential elements in this process, and the majority of rituals refer to the relationship of the soils, the harvests, the animals, and the cycle of life.

When someone reaches the top and finds the church to be closed, that person leaves candles and yarn/fur from their animals in its surroundings. When the festive season arrives, they come into the church and leave the lit candles in the interior. As you enter the church, practically all of the devotees make their way to the rock, touch it, say a few words and then retreat after leaving candles and flowers around it.

This year there are plans of a symphonic concert with quichua voices. This event denominated Alma Puhara will take place on March 7 in Alajahuan.

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