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Published: June 16th 2011
My first Semana Santa in South America when I'm not travelling so my first opportunity to see the processions that Easter in Quito is famous for.
Despite being so well-known it was surprisingly difficult to find out where and when it would actually be. The majority of Ecuadorians I asked said something along the lines of, 'mmm, I guess I went when I was a kid but I'm off to the beach.' So that was that. Fortunately random junk mail came in handy when the free newpaper came with an entire guide to Semana Santa.
We'd been warned to get there early so as to get a space so we set off for the Old Town at about 10am. The parade officially began at 12 but this is Ecuador so we were assuming it would be around 1pm. We were astounded to fid it actually started half an hour early - obviously the costumes and crosses were too heavy to wait any longer.
Although there were many tourists there to watch, it was obviously more about the religion than the spectacle - apparently anyone wanting forgiveness for something can take part in the penintential parade.
with an insanely loud brass band, followed by a large number of slightly scarily-clad penitents. I know the traditional outfits came from Spain and are much older but I think the connotations with the KKK are too strong to see them as anything else.
The majority were barefoot but there were some Converse in the mix! Some people obviously were taking it incredibly seriously and had chains around, what looked like, suspiciously real bloody ankles.
The worst we saw was someone who had a cross fashioned out of a cactus strapped to his bare back with blood dripping down him. Rather disturbing frankly, although I suppose there are actually people in the world who nail themselves to crosses as a demonstration of faith.
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