Dia de los Difuntos

Merle Nye - Ecuador


March 30, 2017

Ecuador celebrates their Day of the Dead on the night of November 1st through the afternoon of the 2nd. In the days leading up to this celebration, you can find "guaguas de pan" and "colada mordada", the traditional food and drink for these festivities, on every street corner, in the school cafeteria, or in the Illescas household (my host family). Every year, My host mom purchases a copious amount of these “guaguas” (pastries in the shape of little boys), cooks her own "colada mordada" (a thick, purple, fruity drink) and sells both alongside some of her other concoctions in a tent near the entrance of the local cemetery.

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Because the timing of the holiday coincides with the Cuenca independence days, most people have work of the rest of the week, making for a late night of celebrating their deceased.

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The late night combined with the early morning necessitates my host mom staying the night with her goods 
rather than hauling them back to the house. Because there was no school the following day, I figured this slumber party would be a rich cultural experience. We fell asleep around one in the morning after the crowd had died down and we had drug a mattress and about seven blankets from the house. Though it does get cold at night here, with the coldest nights being around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it doesn’t get seven blankets cold. On top of the surplus of blankets and bedsheets covering all sides of the tent and ensuring no airflow entered or exited, my host mom left her gas stove on overnight on to ensure our safety. I awoke at about five thirty the next morning due to a rapidly passing semi-truck with little concern about the narrow dirt road crowded with market stalls it was barreling through. My host mom was nowhere to be found. As the morning wore on and I conversed with my fellow vendors, I noticed it was approaching seven o’clock, the time my family had said the mass began in the cemetery, and we would need to ready the stand for the ensuing rush of customers. Seven o’clock, and then eight o’clock passed without any sighting of the mass goers or my host mom. About eight thirty my host mom did finally show up, relieved me of my post, and broke the news that the mass would now start at ten. 


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Me and my Quito host family.

After breakfast that day, I got a call from my Quito host dad that he and the family were in Cuenca for the independence days. He insisted that they come familiarize themselves with my new family and life in El Valle. The absence of an official address didn’t aid their finding the house, but eventually I spotted and flagged down the shinny, white Ford Escape on the dirt road behind the house. My Quito host dad suggested that we visit my El Valle host mom’s market stall for some guaguas de pan. Luckily, there was ample time for proper introductions between my two host families as the mass was now rumored to be starting at around one in the afternoon. 


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 Later that night, I tagged along with my Quito host brother and his friends to the Chino y Nacho concert that night in the stadium in Cuenca. The annual independence concert is one of the bigger events of the year and served as a delightful first exposure to Latin American pop concerts.

Merle Nye