The pickup truck squealed to a stop in front of me and six suit-clad men scrambled out of the open bed. A tall, thin, mustachioed man held out his hand. “Bienvenidos a Ecuador,” he said. Welcome to Ecuador. Surprised, I looked around and realized I was the only white face on the street; it was obvious that I was a tourist. He pumped my hand and smiled broadly, his brilliant white teeth gleaming in the light streaming from the school gymnasium in front of which we stood. I had previously peeked into the gym, where thousands of indigenous Quichua were seated in the bleachers, but had hesitated to enter because I had no idea if I would be welcome. “Where are you from?” He asked. “The United States,” I answered. “Please, I invite you to be our honored guest tonight. We are celebrating the Independence of our town.”
The city fathers escorted me to a seat in the second row of plastic folding chairs set up on on the main floor. Music boomed from giant speakers and the room erupted in song. I stood and clapped along, marveling at the passionate faith and the brilliantly colored Quichua costumes on display. Green skirts were topped by pink capes, orange over maroon, red and turquoise; hats and long stockings in contrasting colors completed the traditional ensembles. Groups of Quichua women, each from a different sector within the canton of Alausi, shyly walked to the front of the room, stood shoulder-to-shoulder and recited a biblical verse in their sing-song Kichua language. Their testimony was followed by a song of worship, performed as they rocked to and fro in unison.
Four hours later, having been introduced as an honored guest, serenaded by a male solo vocalist, and gifted with christian music CD’s, I finally begged off. At midnight, the celebrations were still going strong but I had to return to my guest house before it was locked down for the night. I thanked my hosts profusely for providing me with a unique opportunity to witness Quichua culture up close, cognizant that I had seen in one night what might otherwise have taken months of travel throughout Ecuador.
7 thoughts on “An Exceptional Welcome in Alausi, Ecuador”
AAh i wish i was there too
South Americans sure know how to welcome people!
You are soooo lucky to have been there when they were celebrating !! Great pictures and thank you for sharing
What a fabulous opportunity and great experience to celebrate with locals. Often I am so surprised how generous people are when they see that you are interested in what they do – that’s what makes me addicted to travel.
Hi Fida, Jim, and Peggy: You’re absolutely right about these kind of experiences being the best part of traveling. But I continue to be amazed by how often they happen. I’ve been adopted by a family in Nepal, stayed with Maasai in Tanzania, and been invited to stay in the homes of people I’ve met on the road from so many places I can’t count them any more. It’s the best possible proof of the goodness of mankind.
What a great surprise and experience! Aren’t these unexpected moments the most memorable? I’m heading to Ecuador soon but certainly wish I had already been there to enjoy this celebration.
How fortunate that you were able to participate in this ceremony! What an incredible experience it must have been.