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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saraguro, Ecuador

Dear Family and Friends,

We headed back from Loja last weekend on Sunday, June 21st. Chuck saw where there were celebrations going to take place in Saraguro, a village about 2 hours by bus north of Loja. The celebration was because of the soltice. The shortest day of the year in this hemisphere.

We left Loja early so we could stay in Saraguro for a few hours and see what was happening. We read that in Saraguro this celebration is held four times a year. At the two solstices (either of the two times a year when the sun is at its greatest distance from the equator) and equinoxes (when the sun crosses the earth's equator, making night and day of approximately equal length) . This custom is very old going back to pre-Columbian times.

Originally from the Lake Titicaca region in Bolivia, the Saraguros were moved to their present location by the Incas. As a result, the Saraguros have maintained their age-old traditions and have become leaders in the indigenous movement, both in Ecuador and internationally.

One of the things that makes Saraguro a favorite tourist spot is how the people dress. They dress in black wool. Some people say this is because they are in mourning for the death of the Inca Atahualpa. Others say it is because they are mourning their relocation from Bolivia. Most of the clothes are handspun and handwoven. Most striking is the women's jewelry. They wear large nickel or silver shawl pins (called tupus) to hold their wraps together. They also wear beautiful, colorful beaded necklaces. The necklaces are made of tiny beads and the color of the beads and number of rows indicates their community.

This lady was happy to pose for me. She was beautifully dressed. You will notice her right cupped hand. She was indicating to me that I should pay her for her generosity to pose. This picture was well worth the $1.00 I gave her. We were both very pleased.

Most of the men in Saraguro wear black short calf-length pants and black ponchos.

Chuck went to visit the market while I stayed in the central plaza. I was not surprised to see a procession come from the church carrying a statue of Jesus around the plaza. It was quite common that the Catholic religious calendar came to overlay the traditional sowing and harvest celebrations of the Saraguro.

Today, the Saraguro people have intergrated their pre-Columbian celebrations with Christian relegious celebrations.

While the statue of Jesus was being paraded around, there were sky rockets going off in the square and a band playing traditional music.

Chuck and I were glad we took the time to stop and enjoy this interesting place.

Now we are now back in Cuenca. Hugo came last week with some workers to start our patio cover. We are hoping that it will be completed before we leave for China.


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