Fireworks, Clowns and Apes Celebrate the Virgin in Guápulo


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They say one of the three sisters, all born to the same father, knew about wood and carved the Virgins of El Quinche, Guápulo and La Churona, who has her home in El Cisne, near Loja. Today is September 8th, the Virgin’s feast day, and Guápulo is dressed to party!

It’s a day like any other in Guápulo. That is, if you weren’t paying attention to the calendar and happened to be there during the celebrations, when it would seem normal to see a mother making her way down the steep streets with her child, dressed like a clown with a mask and bonnet. But it’s not one, but two, six, twenty-four, one hundred… so many clowns!

It’s five in the evening. Clowns mass from every direction. They come dancing in colors, movements and sounds. We see gorillas, bulls, mother “chuchumecas” and “montubio” dancers. They’re all dressed up, with masks, guitars and tambourines. The colors flood the square as they dance, laugh and sing… here, there and everywhere!

Partiers, tourists, policemen and onlookers… A man dressed in velvet, seems possessed by every folkloric rhythm in the world as the band plays on.

His name is Segundo Parcas, son of Guápulo, born to Carmen Tacurri Parcas and José Rafael Parcas… a true guapuleño! He doesn’t work any more… he’s 75 and since he was a child, he has dedicated every 7, 8 and 9th September to Guápulo’s Holy Virgin.

He used to accompany his father, one of the band’s musicians, and tells me that the crazy mix is because “everyone here is extended family or curious people from other places”. He’s about to tell me more neighborhood secrets, but the band starts up again and José, with the same costume he’s used every September for 35 years, dances off and blends into the crowd with his wire mask with red cheeks, his princess hat and his velvet dress: a spinning old “chuchumeca” who flails her purse insinuating that tonight, the party will explode!

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