At the recent International Living “Ecuador” conference in Quito, I heard my friend, Suzan Haskins, (Editor and Writer for International Living Publications) say that “Ecuadorians Live Life Loudly.” She went on to characterize the various ways they celebrate for seemingly little reason and all those ways involve an incredible amount of loud noise; most often the loudest possible music and fireworks. She is exactly correct! And by the way, the passion for living loudly apparently supersedes the need for sleep. Then, of course, there is the seeming obsession with loud car alarms. These are a people who joyously celebrate their existence with loud parties, dancing, singing, and fireworks and, yes…even car alarms.
Soccer (futbol as it is known here) is another deeply seated passion and is also wildly celebrated. You always know when a game is being televised as cities and towns cease their normal activity. Stores and offices are mostly devoid of customers and the streets carry only a fraction of the traffic they normally carry. Large groups of men wearing bright yellow shirts in support of their team, share beer in small plastic cups and crowd around storefronts and doorways. Many bring their own chairs. Store owners and businesses regularly turn their televisions to face the doorways for their customers as most families in this area of the country do not own television and cannot afford satellite reception. Fighting through those crowds to attempt to purchase anything or conduct any business while a game is being broadcast is not a pleasant affair! Here, like much of the rest of the world, Soccer is nearly sacred! And yes, stores and businesses often have televisions in their places of business primarily, I think, to watch futbol and the occasional rerun of Bonanza, dubbed in Spanish. Yep…I swear! Hos, Little Joe, Adam, Pa and Hopsing seem to have quite a following here!
In neighborhoods, you can easily spot the few houses with televisions as crowded doorways spill over with friends and neighbors cheering and moaning and pacing and cursing with great drama and….of course, passion! A small television is typically sitting on a chair in the doorway pointed into the small front yard.
Should the favored team win the match, the streets erupt in spontaneous parades of motorcycles, taxis, cars and marching groups of people waving flags, singing and cheering. All the cars use the same rhythmic horn honks to declare their joy at the victory and hidden loudspeakers blast Latin Rhythms at full volume into the late night. Firecrackers are thrown randomly from moving vehicles into the crowds and whoops and cheers fill the air.
Fireworks in the States are most certainly a tradition on Independence Day and often follow a day of picnics and outdoor activities. New Year’s Eve is another occasion when fireworks are expected. Like many other things in the states, their sale and use are highly regulated. That is most certainly not the case in Ecuador. City life can be much noisier here than city life in the States or Canada. There are no regulations regarding noise here. Celebrations…LOUD celebrations abound!
Today is the first day of Carnivale and the celebration will last for several days. Carnivale is an uncensored festivity that, believe it or not, has close ties to the Catholic Church. It is a time of unbridled merriment before the 40 days of Lent. That said, the people celebrated the second moon of the year even prior to the arrival of the church. Coastal communities, like ours, are usually filled with travelers from the high country who come to the beach to celebrate. Naturally, there will be fireworks and loud music with the addition of several interesting customs such as throwing water on each other or even small paper bags of flour. Simply walking down the street invites a friendly attack and you could easily be drenched by a bucket of water or powdered by a bag of flour. It is all in good fun and these days, Diane and I go to town armed with our own water or my personal favorite…Silly String!
Silly string (that stringy stuff sold in aerosol cans that sprays gobs of harmless colored foamy string) is a preferred weapon ‘round these parts. Last year, I took great joy in blasting motorcycle riders and passengers in traffic. I had my cans of silly string stacked up between the seats of the car and I LOVED hosing down unsuspecting pedestrians or bike riders. I took a few hits myself as others got into the spirit. The true silly string ninjas appear to be the harmless kids about 5 -6 years old. Trust me! They are not harmless and they shoot for the mouth. That’s right! Offer them a warm smile and show some teeth and in an instant, you’ll have a mouthful of orange silly string while they have turned tail and are running away, leaving a trail of laughter and glee! Yeah..this year, they will be my target! <Insert Evil Laugh Here>
Diane was a little nervous last year but this year…I think she’s definitely gonna’ get into the spirit. After all, this will be our last Ecuadorian Carnivale so ….can’t waste it! I’m hoping my first target will be some 6 year-old Carnivale warrior with his can pointed in my direction.
Come on, punk! You feelin’ lucky? What ‘chu got? Bring it!