This past weekend my wildest dreams came true at the festival of the "Mama Negra," in Latacunga, Ecuador. The festival is a mixture of Spanish tradition and indigenous beliefs. Every year thousands of people flood into the small town of Latacunga for this day-long celebration. This year happened to be the 50th anniversary of the festival, so I was lucky enough to enjoy the grandest festival in its history. Bright and early at 10:00 am, the parade begins. Everyone is in traditional garb; both Colonial Spanish and traditional indigenous wear. There is traditional Ecuadorian music constantly playing during the 3-4 hours that the parade marches on.
Waves of traditional dances prance by as people of all ages jump from foot to foot in the repetitive steps of their ancestors. For every few groups of dancers and music there were men dressed in white with white masks covering their faces. They held various plants in their hands and moved swiftly through the crowds grabbing by standers at random. They would then encircle the chosen person, quickly rotating in a circle around them. As the men circled them they would tap them on the head repeatedly with the plants and utter a blessing from the mother volcano Cotopaxi. These men represented indigenous medicine men and their blessings. I was blessed 3 times!
Even more than a fun time, the Mama Negra festival in Latacunga was an incredible cultural experience. I can't wait to go back or discover other Ecuadorian celebrations like it.