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Fiestas de Quito

If you are in Quito during the last days of November and during the run-up to December 6, you cannot fail to notice a distinctly fiesta-ish atmosphere in the city. During these days, Quiteños let their hair down to commemorate the Spanish founding of the city on the same date in 1534.

Fiestas de Quito celebrate Ecuador's Spanish roots, so traditional Spanish culture is appreciated and enjoyed during these days. Traditional food like fritadas (fried, chopped pork) and llapingachos (potato pancakes with cheese), as well as copious amounts of wine, are commonly consumed. Pasillos, or traditional Spanish music, is widespread and games like trompos (spinning of tops) and carros de madera (wooden car racing) are played. Joke-telling in theaters and cuarenta card game competitions are two other traditions during the festivities.

Previously, and for the ten days that ran up to December 6, there were also bull fights at the Plaza de Toros - the only time during the year when the bull ring was actually used for bull fighting. The fights were considered by most to be a high-class social event, and Quito’s elite used to flock to the fights, dressed in their finest smart-casual wear, donning cowboy or panama hats to keep the sun off. Many would also take botas (wineskins) along for the show. Lamentably (much to the chagrin of the diehard fans), the days of this cultural trademark are long-gone ever since Ecuador's government made a sweeping reform in their laws which outlawed the slaying of the bulls. In return however, pro-life and animal activists rejoiced in what many beheld as progress from their nation's "outdated" and "cruel" traditions.

In late November, the festivities start with the election of the Queen of Quito. From this point onwards, in the streets you can see chivas, or colorful open-topped buses driving through the streets, carrying as many as 50 people who may be dancing to the banda del pueblo (town band) which play on the top, or drinking canelazo, a potent alcoholic drink with a sugar cane alcohol and cinnamon base. This happens night and day, and chivas are reserved well ahead of time for the early days of December.

On the night of December 5, the partying reaches a climax and there are street parties all over Quito. The Mariscal district is more alive and crowded than usual as bars and clubs overflow with revelers. Large parties in haciendas in the surrounding valleys are also common occurrences. A good place to head is Carolina Park, where there will often be open-air concerts and fireworks. In some of Quito's traditional neighborhoods, like the Centro Histórico, roads are closed for dancing and candelazo drinking as vacas locas (crazy cows), or cows made out of fireworks, spark in the streets. If street parties are your thing, head to Vancouver and Polonia streets (located behind the Petrocomerical gas station on Amazonas), where there is usually a DJ, decent music and plenty of dancing to be enjoyed.

Those with leftover stamina will continue to party throughout the day and night of December 6 into the morning of December 7. Street parties persist throughout the city and in the valleys as more dancing and drinking takes place. Some places serve breakfast on the morning of December 7 for a small cover, so those who stay up all night can enjoy some food with friends as a farewell to the year's festivities. However, for many, December 6 itself can end up being a fairly quiet day, as many Quiteños and foreigners sleep off their hangovers.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Ecuador: Holidays and Fiestas, Carnaval , The Day of the Dead in Ecuador, Fiesta de la Mama Negra, New Year's Eve, Ceremonia de Reseña o Vísperas and Good Friday.

By Paula Newton
I am V!VA's operations expert. With an MBA and a background in the Interactive Television industry in the U.K. I am the organizing force behind the...
04 Dec 2013

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