The Ecuador Chronicles - 2010-14
Semana Santa - Holy Week in Ecuador;
A Unique Perspective;
Good Friday in Quito
Holy Week is a special time in Ecuador. The Faithful participate in processions around the country as part of the celebration. Live Well Ecuador principal, Mathieu Charles Guillory, is an American Catholic who has lived in Ecuador for more than eight years. Mathieu has put together a series of three Chronicles covering Holy Week. He provides a unique perspective on Ecuadorian Catholicism and its relation to Ecuador culture and life. Here Mathieu covers Good Friday and the El Jesús del Gran Poder procession in Quito
By Mathieu Charles Guillory
After our experience in Riobamba with the ancient procession “El Señor del Buen Suceso” we return to Quito for another grand procession, the “El Jesús del Gran Poder” touted as one of the largest Good Friday processions in the world…second only to Sevilla, Spain.
“El Jesús del Gran Poder” Good Friday Procession in Quito
For the non-Catholic visitor witnessing these serious manifestations of faith, these visions of sacrifice and self mortification seen in this procession may seem rather “bizarre” or “fanatical”. But I consider myself to be an "Old World Man". While I certainly live in the 21st century with all its technology, conveniences - and liberties, I also keep one foot in the Old World; I find solace in being part of grand traditions that go back for thousands of years. These scenes bring to reality what it means to sacrifice for someone or something that you love. Not a sacrifice of material suffering, but of physical and spiritual suffering - a cleansing from the soul of things that were not done correctly in the last year and offering a sacrifice to a higher source - a higher source showing love in return. The idea of Sacrifice is an ancient ritual that appears in many religions around the world; it is manifested to a high degree in the religion and culture brought by the Europeans to South America. This mixture of culture in Latin America - European and Indigenous - brought about the whole new Mestizo race of people who to this day whole heartedly embrace this Old World Catholicism, especially in Ecuador.
Images from the Procession
For an American living in Ecuador, these manifestations of faith can have a profound effect on ones beliefs. We as Americans - at center of the material world and the fast and good life - can certainly learn something from these humble yet faithful people.
We are not dealing with a simple credulity or with a superstition, or some kind of contagious virus. It is a way of living the faith for a community of believers who need to express their faith in a tangible form. These are not merely external and empty gestures, but rather, they are manifestations of a deep faith, which help people to survive, to bear suffering and poverty, to avoid despair and depression, to be able to forgive, to be able to die in peace with God, and in the arms of the Virgin Mary. This "popular religiosity" is not a faith that is poor, cheap or ignorant. It has emerged from the wisdom of humble people for whom God has shown His ways.
Mathieu Guillory in His LWE Quito Office
Thank you again Mathieu for your unique perspective. I saw the Good Friday procession last year in Quito - it passes right in front of our apartment building. And I will admit that some of it did seem quite bizarre to me. From my North American viewpoint people marching in pointed hoods does not leave me with a comfortable feeling. But in getting to know Mathieu over the years I have gained an appreciation of the comfort he feels in being part of these grand traditions - and I am really enjoying his Semana Santa series of Chronicles.
I would like to tell a little story about Mathieu - I hope he will not mind. When he left the States years ago Mathieu traveled the world looking for the right place to build a new life for himself. When he arrived in Ecuador everything seemed just right - and he soon met his future wife, Amparo. On a Good Friday in Quito while they were still dating, Mathieu and Amparo went to the El Jesús del Gran Poder procession. For Mathieu it was like a "coming home" experience - he was doing his best to express his feelings about this to Amparo. Suddenly Amparo said, "Would you like to march in this procession right now?" Mathieu replied, "Can we do that!" And within seconds Mathieu and Amparo were part of that long, winding River of Life, Tradition and Faith - Mathieu had found what he was looking for.
Would you like to visit Ecuador for Semana Santa -
Find out how atLive Well Ecuador: