Ecuador and people traditions reflect a degree of mixture or fusion between Catholicism and aboriginal customs.
Although other Christian and non-Christian religions are also present. The majority of the population in Ecuador is Roman Catholic. One example is the presence of crosses.
Their Catholic significance is obvious, but before the Spanish conquest native people also made cairns (pyramids of rough stones) and put crossed sticks over them to mark important intersections. Religion in Ecuador and its people is closely related to the festival calendar.
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It is at once a festival, a feast, a party, a holiday, and a holy day. It is a day to be looked forward to and prepared for a day in which to be very happy or very solemn or very patriotic.
It is a day when the restraints of social hierarchy may be temporarily relaxed, when rich and poor can celebrate together.
The most authentic Ecuador and people celebrations are the village festivals held to honor a community's patron saint to commemorate the founding of a canton or parish or to celebrate the season's harvest. Every single town and village in Ecuador has its own special feasts.
This is usually celebrated with a solemn mass, a parade with floats and folkloric dancing, exhibits, bull fights, live music, dancing, fireworks (a lot of them), traditional foods, and much drinking.
If in your Ecuador vacations you walk through a village during its celebrations, take advantage of this special opportunity.
You may be invited to dance, have something to eat, and even more likely, you will be offered chicha (a fermented corn beverage) or aguardiente (literally "fire water"- home brewed cane liquor).
This situation happens especially in the Mama Negra celebrations in the city of Latacunga. It is an amazing festival with parades, folkloric dresses, dancing and much drinking. People will be offended if you do not accept and you must find a polite way to say no if you wish to abstain or when you've had enough.
Transportation to a village is likely to be crowded during festivities, hotels may be full and shops and services closed.
The majority of Ecuador and people is Mestizo of mixed Spanish and Indian blood, many native people retain their cultural identity and belong to a number of different nations.
There are also Afro-Ecuadorians (descendants of slaves brought from Africa in the eighteen century) a few direct descendants of Spaniards and other smaller minorities.
The coast plain is the most densely populated region, with just over half of the country's people. Here you find the Montubios, a generic term for coastal country dwellers.
The northern coastal province of Esmeraldas has the highest concentration of Afro-Ecuadorians.
There are also a small number of coastal native people such as the Awas, Chachis, and Tzachilas or Colorados (which live in the town of Santo Domingo 2 hours from Quito).
The inter-Andean region was historically the most heavily populated in the country, dating back to pre-Inca times. Today it is home to the highest proportion of native people, with a common language (Quichua) inherited from the Incas.
These natives live mainly in the rural areas throughout the Sierra, and their typical dress and hats vary from one region to another.
Highland native groups with a distinct cultural identity include the: Otavaleños, Salasacas, Cañaris, and Saraguros. You are sure to meet many highland native people during your visit to Ecuador.
Although the Amazon lowlands account for less than four percent of the country’s population, this has been the area of fastest growth and greatest natural destruction since 1972, when petroleum extraction began in the region.
Most colonists migrated to the jungle from the highlands and settled in towns along the foothills west of the Amazon jungle, while many natives maintain a semi-nomadic lifestyle in the rain forest.
As a result of increased contact with colonists and oil workers, cultural assimilation among rain forest native people is running high.
The most numerous of Amazon native groups are the Quichuas del Oriente (Jungle), a group distinct from highland Quichua speakers. Smaller groups include the Shuar, Achuar, Huaorani, Cofan, Siona, Secoya and Zaparo.
As a rule, if you plan to visit these communities and surrounding areas you will need a permit (often several permits) from native communities along the way.
It is best for you and the native people you might encounter if you go with a qualified guide. Click here to have more information on Ecuador
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