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The “Mama Negra” (Black Mother in spanish) is a traditional festivity that takes place in the city of Latacunga, in the Cotopaxi province. Thousands of domestic and foreign travelers gather on the squares and parks to enjoy the folklore and traditions that parades through the streets of the city. Dressed characters, music and cultural expressions are the main elements for this celebration which will be held on November 23.
The Black Mama festivity is a relevant cultural phenomenon, representing a symbiosis of indigenous, Spanish and African cultures in Latacunga. It takes place twice a year. The first date is in September, and it is a great parade organized by local merchants. The second one comes in November and it is arranged by the Mayor’s office this second celebrations matches the Latacunga’s independence celebrations.
The central figure of La Mama Negra festivity is always interpreted by a man who dyes his face in black and paints his lips with an intense crimson red. It has a curly hair decorated with color ribbons and artificial pearls, of his ears has golden earrings and a beautiful fine choker necklace.
The Mama Negra characterizes the African slaves released free in Ecuador by mercenaries in 1218. The doll he carries on his hand is a black baby Jesus because the celebration leads to the Virgin of Mercy who becomes the nurse of the child.
Known as the Feast of the Most Holy Tragedy or Captaincy, the celebration honors the Virgin of Mercy, who protects and cares for the residents of Latacunga. The festival unites indigenous, Spanish and African traditions thus, it was declared an Intangible Cultural Heritage on October 31, 2005.
Shampoos, the drinks
There is no party without a representative meal or drink, and in the Mama Negra the “shampoos” are the ones to try, a drink prepared with ground corn, hominy and sugar cane. On the parade that runs through the city, the “shampooers” are the ones who distribute the beverage to spectators. The drink refreshes and energizes the dancers.
Curiquingues, characters that dance; the Angel of the Star, a child or adult who wears an angel costume and sits on a horse; the Moorish King symbolizes the nobility and solemnity, so it wears a long cape; the Flagman, a character that waves a multicolored Moorish flag that represents the interculturality of the aboriginal people; the Captain leads the parade waving a sword; he wears a military suit full of decorations.
Parties and folk celebrations throughout the country have an ingredient that makes them unique and special, the local village bands that gives the compass to the dancers steps. They are skilled musicians with percussion and wind instruments. The rhymes, verses and songs urge everyone to live a feast of joy that exposes the indigenous, mestizo, Afro-descendants and Spaniard expressions.