The Fiestas of Quito

By: Eric Castro

In Quito, the Capital of Ecuador, the enormous influence that the Spanish had in the origin of many Ecuadorian celebrations is most evident. During December Quito celebrates its "Spanish Foundation", by the Conquistador Sebastian de Benalcazar on December 6, 1534. This was the second site where the city was founded - the first foundation was in August of the same year in Sicalpa, near the city of Riobamba.

One of the central events during this celebration is the bullfights, with the participation of more Spanish "matadors" than local ones. During the week of festivities Quito lives a Spanish fiesta, with flamenco dancers, manzanilla drinking, people wearing the typical Spanish hats to the bullfights and afterwards, enjoying long lunches with the most famous delicacies of the Spanish cuisine to delight local palates. This year, bullfights will take place between November 30 and December 6, 2005, at the Plaza de Toros of Quito.

The different "barrios" organize dancing in the streets - the largest events take place at Rodrigo de Chavez Street in the southern section of the city and in Shyris Avenue in the north. These are all-night events with orchestras playing Latin Music. People come in groups of friends or family, to socialize, listen to the music, dance and drink the famous canelazo, a hot drink with cinnamon and "firewater".

Traditionally, parades take place in different areas of the city, with the participation of dancing groups of the schools of Quito and music bands. Many cultural events that keep the traditions of Quito alive take place during the week, like fireworks, poetry reading, recreation of legends and traditions, art exhibitions, food and traditional sweets festivals, folk dancing and much more take place the first week of December.

In the homes, families and groups of friends of all ages get together to play an Ecuadorian game of cards called "cuarenta" or forty, since it is played with 40 cards. The World Championship of Cuarenta takes place as one of the highlights of the festivity.

Throughout the week, open sided buses called chivas, originally from the Coast, take groups of friends who climb to the roof to party, singing, dancing and drinking, accompanied by music bands. Many chivas run along the streets of the city in this festive mood. The first week of December is a great time to be in Quito, come join the festivities!

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