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Tony Gavilanes / Lacy Sarco

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"Fiestas de Quito"
(episode 3)

Can't see the movie? Click here to download Quicktime

This episode chronicles almost a month of footage.

Everything that culminates in Quito leading up to the "6 de diciembre" is pretty much a party. On that date in the year 1534, the city of Quito was founded by Spanish settlers led by Sebastian de Benalcazar on the ruins left by the Inca warrior Rumiñahui who burned the city to prevent the Spanish from taking it but was himself captured by the conquistadors and executed. The founding date, December 6, 1534, is celebrated annually with the Fiestas de Quito. The city lights up every night, and most business people hardly work for at least two weeks prior. There's a lot of drinking, but Quitonians are famous for that. Take for instance the "Chiva." It is a traditional Ecuadorian party bus, complete with a band del pueblo up top jamming Ecuador's most famous folk songs. No where else in South America does a group of already drunken people pile into an open-air bus and drink more while riding around the city... with a band on top. Amazing!

Fiestas de Quito also include the Ferias, which are the bullfights. Although the family - and most of the world - are split on the humanity of a bullfight, we had the opportunity to see one of the very best named El Juli. He came from Spain, like many matadors in the Ferias traveled from around the world to fight. It was phenomenal though. He worked like a ballerina and deserved all the praise the crowds showered on him.

I almost forgot to mention that my Dad, Diego, arrived for the Fiestas. He has made it a special tradition of his to be in Quito during this time of the year, although in the 11 or 12 times I've been to Ecuador, I've never been for the 6 de diciembre. It was awesome hanging out with him in his homeland. If you know Diegs, you know him as an energetic and fun person, but until you've seen him in Quito, you have no idea the kind of excitement and boyish joy he has while here. It was great being around him. In fact, he was so inspired by us being here that he found a new girlfriend and got very serious. So serious that he took us house hunting one day because he is determined to move to and from Quito from now on...

So anyway, with Nancy Dominguez (a family friend.. and former member of our family), we stopped first at a house overlooking the valley just outside of main Quito. The neighborhood is called "Miravalle," or "check out this valley." Here, the rains and cold of the city have slim effect. It's warm and beautiful. And the house was a fair fit. It was the house featured in the movie "Proof of Life." The gardens were spectacular, mature palm trees, flowers, pool, hot tub.. all overlooking a breathtaking view of a drop-off valley in front of the house. The home was build with floor-to-ceiling glass on a complete 180 degrees, never letting the natural beauty of the site out of view.

So he put a bid on it... Keep updated on this one...

We did so much... Tio Hernan and Ivan took us to a futból game of Liga (one of Quito's very best teams) who beat Barcelona 2-1 that day. They went on to win against Argentina, and in fact played for a world championship against Manchester, UK's team. Manchester is worth some millions of dollars with the world's best and most highly paid players, and Liga almost took them. The game finished 1-0 Manchester. All of Ecuador was amazingly proud of their team, and you see Liga's white jerseys being worn by people of all kinds to this day.

We toured Colonial Quito by day and night. Tios Guillermo and Lourdes took us to the presidential palace for a very cool tour, and then to La Compañia. It is a mind-blowing example of Quitonian architecture inside and out. Gilded with 24-carat gold inside, the church boasts one of the greatest sights we've seen here so far. They took us to the house of Maria Urrutia, a famous aristocrat and philanthropist of Quito's history. She's gone, but her home is now a museum of colonial living in the city. Marvelous. Courtyards, bodegas, stained glass, paintings, furniture, everything was such a wonderful view into the city's past.

We came again with my Dad and his girlfriend, Dianita at night. We saw Calle de Ronda, which is a renovated avenue of colonial Quito with delicious canelazos and empanadas de morocho being sold from doors on both sides of the street. There are great views of the Panecillo from there. The Panecillo is a little hill in the center of the city with a statue of the Virgin Mary atop. At this time, there was a nacimiento (or nativity) of lights installed around the Virgin. Diego told us about how when he was a young boy, his grandfather owned the entire hill and had a house on the south side. They used to play on it as if.. well it actually was their backyard.

I was amazed to find that I come from a stock of Ecuadorians who are and were very powerful in the country. My tio Fernando is a retired Captain of the Navy and brought the evolution of helicopter flight to the Ecuadorian military. My grandmother was visited by the President, and upon her passing, the most famous piece of religious art from the country’s history was brought to her as a blessing. Doctors, attorneys, diplomats... Even my cousin Fernandito currently works for the Vice President after moving from his position as Secretary of Immigration. Definitely something to live up to.

While we had a ridiculous time during Fiestas, I'm sure there is more to come as we get into the Christmas season and the New Year. For us here in Quito, that's a wrap for this edition. Thanks for checking in. See you soon!

POSTED: December 19, 2008