Quito’s Holy Week is one of the most important and biggest ones in South America
The Good Friday Procession in Quito’s Holy Week is one of the most important and biggest ones in South America. In colonial times, the entire city participated in this event. Nowadays Quiteños and tourists arrive from every corner of the city to get a good spot in the narrow streets from where to watch the procession. Today it represents one of the most important acts of religious faith in the city, gathering around 90,000 devotees and spectators who flood the historic centre.
The procession of Jesus the Almighty begins in San Francisco Church at noon, at the time that Pontius Pilate is said to have condemned Jesus to death on the cross. Traditional characters such as the “Cucuruchos” and the “Veronicas” follow the figures of Jesus Christ and Our Lady of Sorrow through the streets of old Quito. The whole procession takes about 2 hours. The “Cucuruchos” symbolize penitents who, dressed in purple tunics and cone-shaped hoods, demonstrate their deep remorse and desire to change. The “Veronicas” symbolize the woman who came up to Jesus Christ and wiped his bloody face clean, on whose cloth His image remained. In Quito, “Veronicas” are also dressed in purple and their faces covered in a black veil. They sing and pray the rosary while they are walking.
It is an interesting, but sometimes strange spectacle, even for me as a catholic – watching the “Cucuruchos” walking barefoot and carrying extremely heavy wooden crosses or trunks through the streets of the old town, their feet chained – some have cactuses, others nettles on their backs…being wrapped in barbwire must be a very painful experience!
After the procession I enjoyed a “Fanesca”, a heavy soup which is typically served during the Holy week. This delicious soup is prepared with different grains and legumes. To this filling mix , most restaurants add fish (bacalao), small empanadas and boiled eggs, some serve it with a special kind of Andean mashed potatoes. A typical dessert afterwards is “arroz con leche” (rice pudding). The origin of the “Fanesca” is often discussed, but possibly its significance is religious: its dozen grains and legumes symbolise the 12 Apostles and the 12 tribes of Israel; the fish symbolises Christ and the way that his message feeds the Christian community.
The Holy week in Quito is a great culinary, cultural and religious experience: a unique event that is definitely worth participating!