Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Salinas was recently in fiestas. 5 days straight of marching, dancing and drinking. A cattle show and bullfights and cockfights too. On the main square huge piles of freshly cut green pine were stacked daily, and each night gallons of kerosene or other combustible was poured on, a few hundred matches applied, and after a smoky beginning in about 45 minutes there was a roaring bonfire. Bottle rockets and fireworks went zinging about in each and every direction, and some of the best entertainment was had watching people spin and jump and dance to escape a wayward projectile. In a normal universe at least half a dozen people every night would lose an eye, or suffer burns of some degree or another – but a small town party in Ecuador is anything but a normal universe.

There have been at least 4 major fiestas here in Salinas since January; Fiesta de los Tres Reyes in January, Carnaval in February, fiesta de San Juan Bosco in March or April, and the fiestas of local autonomy and national independence are the ones we are all still recovering from. Come to think of it, it would pretty accurate to say that Salinas is always “recently in fiestas”.

By the fourth night of this latest bout I had had enough. I live just off the main square, and each night had bandas playing until 5 or 6 en la mañana, entertaining the few borrachos who were left standing and annoying the hell out of the rest of us who were trying to sleep. Ecuadorean party bands deserve a salute, not necessarily for their competence as musicians but rather for their endurance. These guys will march into town the first day of the fiesta, (already playing) and continue virtually nonstop until the crack of dawn. Then they will march out of town (still playing), their sad shuffling syncopated music trailing off behind them . . . and then 2 hours later they are back! And as good as new! It`s really something. Something awful.

So I did the only reasonable thing and got the hell out of town . . . up to the sleepy and peaceful little pueblo of Simiatug. The silence and tranquility was pure pleasure – I went to bed about 8 PM (nothing much in the way of nightlife up there) and slept straight through until dawn. I stayed for the day, worked in a friend`s garden and took a beautiful hike. I returned to Salinas that night, the last night of the fiestas, to find that the stuttering rhythms of the banda had been replaced by an incredible high energy salsa band. The green pine fire lent a smoky and sultry haze to the plaza, people were dancing (really dancing, not just shuffling) the moon and stars were shining brightly, and the music ended at about 11.30. Perfect . . .

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