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Salasaca: Day of the Dead



Día de los Difuntos, or Day of the Dead, is without a doubt one of the most important and highly respected days in the Ecuadorian highlands, taking place on November 2nd. A chance to experience it firsthand in a community such as Salasaca will never be forgotten. Mumbled monologues and the pouring of alcohol onto the ground might, to many Westerners, seem like scenes from an anthropology class, but these rituals are quite the norm for members of the indigenous community of Salasaca. On this day when families celebrate the spirits of their ancestors through elaborate gestures such as the sharing of food, drink, and good conversation with the deceased.


The dry and dusty town of Salasaca, located 14 kilometers from Ambato on the road to Baños, is home to one of the most distinctively indigenous communities of Ecuador. In addition to their characteristic clothing - men wear long black ponchos and women dress in naturally dyed bayetas (a type of female poncho) and black anakus (wrap-around skirts)—the community is known for its tapestry weaving. Many of the tapestries sold in the more popular markets of Quito and in Otavalo are in fact woven on wooden looms in Salasaca and generally, prices of textile goods in the central plaza, where vendors sell what they have woven, tend to be lower. The other principal economic activity of the community is highland agriculture, the main produce being corn and potatoes. Fava beans, barley, wheat, and agave plants and their cuchinilla bugs which are used for dying are also harvested.


Día de los Difuntos is also known as Finados. On this day, villagers celebrate the spirits of the dead by dressing in their finest clothing and sharing food, alcohol, and conversation with them. The Salasaca, as they call themselves, wake up early and walk in groups to the cemetery with supplies of food and drink. Hunched over graves and speaking softly in Quechua, they pass around bowls of chocho (lupine beans), corn, hominy, potatoes, bread, and cuy (guinea pig), eating some with their hands and leaving some on the tombs of their beloved. Drinking also begins early and, as the “spirits” flow, conversations between the living and their dead begin to grow more animated. It is not long before liquor bottles and cartons of boxed wine are piled high next to the flower-covered crosses and simple headstones.


Although it may appear bizarre to western onlookers, to the Salasaca and other highland indigenous groups, this process is one of renewal and reconnection with their roots. Participating in or merely observing this holiday provides a unique insight into the indigenous Andean cosmology.

Did you like this article? Then you'll like these: Guiding Yourself In Your Travels, Hacienda Pinsaqui , Otavalo Market, Best Places For Brunch In Quito, The Ultimate Guide To Exploring The Galapagos Islands, Cell Phones In Quito, Getting your head in the clouds in Ibarra, Ecuador; Glaciers, Class V, Killer Waves & Guinea Pigs?, Consejos De Viaje Para Ecuador and Quito Clubs for Expats.

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