Fall Equinox in the Andes
La Fiesta de la Mama Negra
One of the most well-known Andean festivals of the season occurs in the Ecuadorian city of Latacunga. Known as La Fiesta de la Mama Negra, this celebration has made Latacunga internationally famous.
La Mama Negra is a local depiction of the Virgin Mary and is said to have her roots in Afro-Ecuadorian and local indigenous culture. The holiday exemplifies the complex mix of cultures that blended together across Latin America, where local indigenous civilizations met with European colonizers and African slaves.
The weekend is full of feasting, family gatherings, music, and dancing. The festival culminates in a parade during which the effigy of La Mama Negra is carried through town followed by a colorful cast of huacos (dressed in white and representing the pre-Colombian inhabitants of the region), the “Moorish King”, and other masked and costumed characters. La Mama Negra is dressed to the nines, and she sprays milk and water over the spectators to bless them with good luck for the year to come.
The origins of this flamboyant festival are a little bit obscure, but local legend traces it back to an eruption of the Cotopaxi volcano in 1742 when locals prayed to the Virgin Mary to protect their city. After the city was spared the wrath of the eruption, an annual celebration in the Virgin’s honor was instituted.
If you’re ever in Ecuador during the fall equinox, I recommend making a stop in Latacunga to see this one of a kind cultural event. What better way to celebrate the fall season than with a unique mixture of dancing, local culture, colorful costumes, and being saved from a deadly volcanic eruption?
I hope you have a lovely autumn and a fabulous fall equinox!