Friday, October 29, 2010


Ecuadorians don't celebrate Halloween. At least not officially, and certainly not like Americans, who reportedly spend enough on decorations and costumes and parties and candy corn for it to be the second most expensive holiday behind Christmas. Holy jack-o-lanterns.

There is a costume party at one of the bars tonight, with live music and a free drink with purchase of your ticket in. I don't have one, since I don't have a costume. Last year, as a student, I convinced myself I could pass as a flamingo and spent the entire afternoon cutting and stapling and arranging pepto-bismol pink fabric into wings and a tail of feathers. I won nothing but the compliments of my fellow students, who I think had also consumed more than their fair share of caña at that point.

José suggested that this year I go as Snow White (because I am so incredibly pale, due to the unseasonably cool and cloudy weather) and he could be a dwarf. That's right, he's a shortie.

Since the 31st falls on a Sunday this year, I also had to cancel classes for Monday and Tuesday. Let me explain: This being a Latino Catholic nation, all religious holidays are regarded as such: sacred. November first is All Saints Day. No work, no school, I'm just not sure what.

Tuesday is Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. This is similar to Memorial Day, with family spending the day at the cemetery, visiting loved ones and honoring their memory, eating picnics and talking to all the other people also spending the day at the cemetery.

November third is the Independence Day of Cuenca, a town in the mainland. I told my students that we would celebrate in classand to feel free to bring traditional food.

Ecuador has literally hundreds of holidays: days of remembrance for battles, saints and martyrs, flags, teachers and parents and grandparents and babies, along with birthdays and Christmas and Easter week and New Years Eve. And Day. This is why the nation is composed of such a laid-back, festive and fun-loving people. They always find a reason to celebrate.

What is also funny is that the fashion of these festivals seldom differ: there is food, there are drinks, there is music, there is dancing, there are decorations, there is more food, there are more drinks, there are babies and great-grandparents and little kids and dogs and middle aged people and teenagers and pregnant women and everyone's family and relatives and dates and best friends and neighbors and people whom you met in the street on the way to the party.

At first I was frustrated with this habit of cancelled classes, closed stores, buckets of money spent on parties, it all seemed so excessive, like it was just too much. If you know me, you know how I feel about shopping and overwhelming holidays and the lavishness of festivities. But now I see that it is the generous nature of Ecuadorians, the open hearts and doors, the ability to step back and celebrate life, that is what I love so much about these people.