Since Ecuador is primarily a country of Catholics, La Semana Santa (Easter), and the 40 days of Lent leading up to it, are a big deal. In the United States, Easter Sunday is the important holiday.  Here, Good Friday is the day of remembrance, memorialized with long church services, re-enactments of Jesus’ walk to the cross, the crucifixion, and the laying of Jesus to rest. 

Quito, is known for its Easter reverence, and I joined my friends and family to experience this cultural tradition in the streets. 

The most famous of all traditions is the Procession for Jesus del Gran Poder.  Men and women chosen by the church take part in a Good Friday procession to commemorate his walk to the cross, and the his suffering for our sins. 
Thousands of men and women chosen by their church join the procession as Cucuruchos. They wear their veil of penence and many walked barefoot, dragging chains, in order to gain redemption.  
Some were burdened with heavy wooden crosses, others had whips or nettles to self-flagellate, while others carried instruments playing the same death march music over and over again.
Some floats of flowers, honoring the Virgin Mary, or Jesus himself, were carried as well. 
After awhile of standing in the crowds, we decided to climb the Basilica to view the procession from above. 

The sea of purple penitents along the parade route of Quito.
At the end of the parade, thousands more poured into the streets to walk the route of Jesus.  Rain began, umbrellas came up, and the sea of moving colors captivated me from above.
It took almost 6 hours for these thousands of people to walk almost 5 km under the weight of their burdens.  I almost felt guilty sipping tea from the cafe above. Almost.

Upon returning home from Quito that evening, I rounded the corner of the main square in my town of Tumbaco, only to find the packed church getting ready for their evening mass.  I wish I would have taken a photograph of the altar, it was completely enshrined in the most beautiful wall of greenery and palm fronds.  A wooden Jesus statue was tied to the cross among the fronds.  Curiosity got the best of me, and I found a family friend to sit with, who could interpret the service.  Before long, as the story of the crucifixion was being narrated, men dressed in robes climbed up the scaffolding and very methodically, and symbolically, removed the statue from the cross.  When it was lowered, they placed it into a lit casket and started a procession out into the streets.  A huge puppet-like statue of the Virgin Mary was carried into the procession, as well as other characters in the historical story. 
All of a sudden, I was apart of a beautiful candle-lit procession through the streets of Tumbaco. 
The body of Jesus being carried through the streets with another thousand people joining the procession through the night.
After winding through the streets for probably 45 minutes, we returned to the church to find ALL the greenery gone, and the stark whiteness of light in its place.  By Saturday, the altar had been altered again into a display of beautiful white roses, with more processions in the streets throughout the weekend.

I feel so lucky to have witnessed all the beauty surrounding this important religious holiday.