Latacunga and the celebration of “Mama Negra”

In the heart of the Andes, a two hours ride from Quito, we find the city of Latacunga. Like a lot of other places in Ecuador, it is surrounded by beautiful montains.

But don’t let this picture cheat you. These peaks are not allways too nice. On three occasions the volcan Cotopaxi has destroyed the city, in 1742,1768 and 1877, each time rebuild by the bold citizens of Latacunga.

Here, beyond these mighty powers of the nature, they celebrate la “Mama Negra” (“black mama”) every year. It is one the greatest “fiestas” in Ecuador. And they do it twice. The first time in the oficial day for  the celebration the of octobre and they repeat it on the first weekend in november, which is the independence day. The population of 50.000 inhabitants is dobbled during this popular celebrations.

The procesion starts early in the morning and is continuing all day along. The orchestras come marchin in with carnival-like rythms. Dancers and costumed people are following. We have Las Camisonas. Tall and well built women with hairy legs. Don’t try to lift their shirts unless you are ready for a surprise. Los Huacos dressed in white, are able to cure illness. They are also very  cabable of embarassing people. If you are selected they will drag you out on the street and give you their special dance combined with a spray of home-made licor. Los Negros Loantes are riming demons and the Champuceros (picture) are carrying traditional drink in their buckets for sharing.

In order to stimulate the mood further, there is lot of beer to be bought. The party is duly sponsored by the country’s breweries.

And do not forget the main caracters; The captain, the angel of the stars, the king of moros and Mama Negra herself. These caracters are every year selected among the high society people in Latacunga. It’s a great honor to be choosen, even if they have to dress in strange costumes for common entertainment. And the greatest honor  becomes to Mama Negra herself. If you doubt, she is a man. She couldn’t be less.

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