Posted by: ktzefr | March 30, 2018

Easter in Latin America: music, musings, memories

I’ve spent some of my favorite Easter weeks in Latin America — Mexico, Ecuador, Costa Rica.  Those experiences seemed, at the time, very different from the Easters I spent growing up in Kentucky.  So why did I always feel so eerily at home?   

A shop in San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

Today, listening to music from the Andes, I thought of Ecuador.  One Easter week we stayed in a monastery on the grounds of a 400-year-old hacienda at the foot of Imbabura Volcano.  We didn’t dye eggs or see any giant bunnies that year.  Instead, we rode horses up a steep, narrow trail at cliff’s edge and watched the sun set behind those high mountain peaks.  On the grassy slopes below us, the local women did embroidery work while keeping an eye on their sheep.  A young boy on a bike came zipping by us one day, cracking a whip, herding his cows home for the night.  Llamas ran to greet us from fenced-in pastures.  It was nothing like home, and yet this place the locals call the Valley of the Dawn, a flat slice of land between the towering Cayambe and Cotocachi volcanoes, seemed strangely familiar.  Perhaps it was the scent of wood fires at night, the roosters crowing before daybreak, or the “family” dinners around the table by the fire that reminded me of Kentucky.  When I was growing up I dreamed of faraway places; in faraway places I have often been reminded of home. 

Music is a powerful connector to the past for me.  My favorite Andean musicians — Nanda Manachi, Andes Manta, Leo Rojas.  I was in college when Simon and Garfunkel’s haunting melody, El Condor Pasa, was released.  One night 30 years later I heard this tune played by local musicians in the Andes.  S&G had added words to the melody, but no words are needed.  In fact, the words seem like an unnecessary afterthought.  Here…a version by Leo Rojas.

The year we were in Costa Rica it rained on Easter.  In fact, it rained every day and/or night in the rainforest.  The scent of wet earth never went away.  It smelled like the Appalachian woods after a spring rain.  I recreate that scent now each time I water my green things — the ficus and banana trees, the hibiscus and jasmine, the coffee bush and the orchids.  In the village of Tortuguero on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast the little one-room church was similar to the Apple Grove Baptist in eastern Kentucky where I spent many Easter Sundays as a child.  And the path through the rainforest led to a small village store much like the store my parents owned.  One big room with shelves of goodies, an ice box full of ice cream, candy on the counter.  And locals milling about swapping stories.  Like home.  

Church, Tortuguero,Costa Rica; Photo:MFawcett

The pilgrimages and parades and spectacular decorations and events during Semana Santa (Holy Week) in Mexico are far removed from my own childhood experiences of Easter.  But the spirituality that permeates everything, the ringing of church bells, and the devotion to tradition and to family all seem familiar.  There are few places I’ve been in the world where I feel closer to “home” and childhood than in one of my favorite Mexican hill towns — Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, and Doloros Hidalgo.

Palm Sunday Procession, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

Check out the amazing alfombras painstakingly produced in Guatemala during Semana Santa.  These amazing “carpets” are not the work of professional artists, but rather the devotion to tradition and the special sharing that takes place amongst family and friends.

 

The forsythia is in bloom, the daffodils have flowered, the crocus have buds ready to burst open.  The colored eggs are on the table.  I haven’t seen the yard bunnies yet, but I saw their footprints in the snow last week.  On March 20 at 4:15 pm the plane of Earth’s equator passed through the center of the sun’s disk.  Spring is here!

Years ago in Ecuador I stood over the equatorial line with one foot in the northern and one foot in the southern hemisphere.   Some days it feels like I’m still there.  

Happy Easter!

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