Dia de Los Muertos – Day of the Dead

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In the middle of independence celebrations is another very important day for Ecuadorians, All Saint’s Day also known as the Day of the Dead.

A combination between indigenous beliefs and Catholicism, on this day Ecuadorians go to the cemetery to clean the graves and pay their respects.

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There was no possibility of getting lost on the way to the largest cemetery in Cuenca as the roads were closed for the masses walking to the cemetery.

Along the way the streets were lined people selling flowers and candles. Inside hundreds of people were gathered burning candles and placing fresh flowers on the graves.

 
Cuenca Cemetery

In some rural areas this day becomes a big party with people eating and drinking all day but in Cuenca it was a really somber event.

There are times when I feel slightly icky about taking photos and treating people like a tourist attraction.

After snapping one or two I listened to my gut and put the camera away.

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Colada morada and Guaguas de pan

On the brighter side as with most events, food plays a central role in the celebration:

Colada morada is an Ecuadorian drink is prepared with black corn flour and fruit and served warm.

To some people the purple/red drink symbolizes blood, which in turn symbolizes life of the ones how have moved on from this existence.
 

ALSO READ:  Cuy in Ecuador

 
Guaguas de pan, a sweet bread that oddly is meant to look like a small child.

It is a tradition based on the indigenous culture that believed in an afterlife for the dead.

And it was more of a continuation of life and that the dead would need nourishment for their travels onto the next world.

Today it is served throughout the city and inside the cemetery.

Both were delicious and a highlight of the day.

I had hopes of sharing the colada morada recipe but it was 4 pages long with Ecuadorian fruit you can’t find outside South America.

So if you’re keen to try it both will be available in Ecuador again for November 2nd celebrations next year.

 

Join the Conversation

  1. That first shot has the most beautiful colors. Whoa- almost strawberry colored trees. stunning. I always love Dia de Los Muertos and although I’ve only been to festivals in L.A., I’m sure they are even more special in Latin cultures.

  2. Halloween is a bit like that too. A mixture of catholicism and paganism (when the veil between worlds is at it’s thinnest).

    Insightful, tactful (good move with the camera), yet light-hearted. Thanks.

  3. I love the top picture!

  4. Seconding what Natalie said. That top pic really sets the mood. Eerie colours. Bleached white, frothy pink-red…in a cemetery.

    *shiver*

  5. Your trip is a dream, girl. You’re doing the most amazing things. I had a neighbor who’d lived in Ecuador for a year, and I’ve been intrigued ever since.

  6. Such a cool post! I agree with the rest – great photos. I completely relate to feeling guilty when taking photos; I try to be sensitive to the fact that the people I see are just going about their typical day. Sometimes, words will just have to suffice.

  7. Carmie Brogan says:

    I remember seeing these types of cemetaries when we were in Ecuador in August. I thought they were ‘above ground”. Interesting that you are leaning more about the catholic religion now then when you went to Sunday School!

  8. Really nice photos, esp. the top one.

  9. Nice post and I’m glad you took the photos. The festivities seem similar to those in Cusco in Peru…the breads and the colada morada is similar to chicha morada (an everyday drink) in the Andes.
    Jason

  10. Cornelius Aesop says:

    I always thought this was more of a Mexican holiday and never really thought about how or if other Latin American cultures celebrated it. I could see Central America but would have never thought about South America. Thanks for the post.

  11. Dia de los muertos is celebrated in many countries. I always enjoy reading about your extended trip around Southamerica and am glad you caught this. The tree is fabulous.

  12. That 1st pic is just gorgeous, though I think it’s right that you put your camera down. I want that drink and bread right now por fa. 😉

  13. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World says:

    Nice post and show of sensitivity.
    That’s one freaky looking child-bread.

  14. Christy - Ordinary Traveler says:

    Thanks for the insight into the meaning of this day for the Ecuadorians. At first I was expecting your post to be about a huge party. It’s interesting how different towns celebrate in different ways.

  15. Wow,the bread children- that’s interesting. I completely know how you feel about having to put the camera away but glad you got to experience it first hand.

  16. Angelina,
    Eating small children again? Remind me not to let you babysit when you’re back…

  17. Michael Figueiredo says:

    Very cool article! I wrote something about the Dia de los Muertos celebration here in Los Angeles a few weeks ago. It’s interesting to read about another culture’s take on the holiday too. Thanks for sharing!

  18. Cathy Sweeney says:

    What a great event to experience. I always enjoy the food aspect, too. The pics are very cool!

  19. Lovely shots, but I can understand your hesitation with taking photos. Sometimes it’s good to experience something without the camera.

  20. Dude, that breaded child looks fucking delicious.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      @Candice

      Your comments always make me laugh aloud….

  21. adventureswithben says:

    Would really like to try the bread and drink. Sounds interesting.

  22. wow, a really interesting post! The chinese are a little like that too. (mainly the Buddhist) They believe that you need to burn “ghost” money and paper food so that the afterlife have things to eat.. Even a huge paper Mercedes-Benz has been burnt and sent over, so that the dead have a luxurious car to drive! LOL
    My family are Christians so we don’t believe in this practice, but it is still really cool to watch;)

  23. Matt | YearAroundTheWorld says:

    Can’t wait to drink a Colada Morada! Looks tasty.

  24. Zablon Mukuba says:

    i love various festivals, but not festivals whereby you go and visit a grave

  25. In Italy too the Day of the Dead is very much celebrated, I guess it’s ok taking photos, it’s not like a funeral, although I too last year didn’t feel like taking many in the cemetery, you never know what visiting a grave can mean for the relatives..

    For the day in Italy we also have weird traditions, such as preparing the dinner and leaving it all night on the table “for the dead”.. My grandmother does this every single year!

  26. Great photographs, and also insightful about ‘All Saints Day’, without giving too much information.
    Also, the bread that is supposed to look like a child..a thought it looked more like a rabbit!

  27. I was recently in Cambodia for Pchum Ben, their version of the Day of the Dead. I was struck by the fact that almost every culture has a similar day where people pay homage to their ancestors. I wish that Halloween in the US was more like this and less like the commercial enterprise it has become.

  28. In Mexico el Dia de los Muertos is very traditional too, being Patzquaro the place to be. But guess what? I couldn’t be there, even though I am in the country. Argh!!

  29. Jennifer Barry says:

    In the Mexican community here in Dallas, Texas there are special foods for El Día de los Muertos too. The candy skulls are cool. A lot of Mexican immigrants are getting into Halloween too. Most of our trick or treaters didn’t speak much English.

    For an insight into this day in Spain, I recommend the opening of the film “Volver.” It’s a great movie in general!

  30. Ayngelina Author says:

    @Gourmantic

    The drinks was like a warm rich punch with corn undertones, if that makes any sense. It was actually really delicious and I was disappointed I wouldn’t be able to replicate it at home.

  31. Camels & Chocolate says:

    It’s always floored me what a big celebration the Day of the Dead is. Crazy there’s a place where that’s NOT the case–and in South America at that. (Even San Francisco was one big masquerade on that day.)

    I love, love, love that top photo–it evokes such a sense of solemnity.

  32. Corinne @ Gourmantic says:

    I thought the bread looked like a squid! What did the drink taste like? Looks a bit like a raspberry drink..

  33. Pingback: wow day of the dead festivities
  34. The NVR Guys says:

    I had totally forgotten about Colada Morada and the Guaguas de pan! We used to walk down to the bakery in our part of Quito “Miel, Miel” (honey, honey) and by dozens of these tasty little tots.

    I thought they were supposed to be baby Jesus. Mmmmm… sacrilicious.

    And Colada Morada, that shit is GOOD!

  35. A small child and a cup of blood for lunch. Funny lot, South Americans…

  36. Chris - The Aussie Nomad says:

    That bread looks more like a lizard than a child, or do their children looks like lizards too 🙂

  37. Your MessageGuaguas de pan looks yummy. Is it very sweet? I wish I can get that form here. haha guess not..

  38. A Tramp Abroad says:

    Wow! That first image with the pink tree and the cemetery is absolutely break taking.

  39. A Tramp Abroad says:

    Sorry – I mean ‘breath’ taking!!

  40. Andrew Murray says:

    Gotta love posts like this! What a wonderful tradition to pay respect to the memory of loved ones 🙂

  41. I’ll be in Mexico for the Day of the Dead this year. I wonder how different the traditions will be between them and the Ecuadorians.

  42. I understand what you mean by feeling unsure about taking picture or not. I often feel the same in solemn situations. I’m glad you did though, it was a beautiful picture!

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