THE “MAMA NEGRA” FESTIVAL
Author: Cotopaxi Web Design Number of posts: 6
This colorful festival, La Mama Negra Festival, goes back in time to the colonial period. La Santísima Tragedia (The blessed tragedy) or Mama Negra festival is realized in honor of the virgen de la Merced (Saint of Mercy), also called ‘Virgen del Volcán’ (Saint of the volcano) whom is believed to protect the city from the eruptions of Cotopaxi volcano. The Mama Negra festival is realized every year, with the participation of various groups, each of which uses colorful, flamboyant costumes. These festivities begin every September 24th as the original date, from the market of La Merced and from the market of El Salto. Since 1963, the festival is realized in the month of November during the Independence Day festivities of the city, and this is organized by the municipality of Latacunga.
PERSONALITIES OF LA MAMA NEGRA
MAMA NEGRA (BLACK MOTHER): This personality is the central figure of the festival and rides gallantly and masterfully, draped with colorful typical village costumes. The costume is composed of large skirts, an embroidered blouse, ornaments, and beautiful shawls, which are changed in every corner of the route. The constant wardrobe change is realized by two people, while a third person carries a briefcase full of these garments, with a complete spectrum of colors and patterns for the garment changes.
On the horses’ saddlebags are carried two black dolls that represent the children of the Mama Negra. In Mama Negra’s arms is carried a doll, of a younger daughter, which is made to dance with roguish gestures. Once in a while the Mama Negra tightens her baster, filled with milk and water, shooting the liquid at the gawking spectators.
The Mama Negra is guided by a black trotting horse, and the horse is selected carefully. It has to dominate in front of the frightening hubbub of the crowd, the fireworks, and the thundering music bands. The Mama Negra is always a man disguised as a woman, and is designated with one year of anticipation. Sometimes, the face is painted black or will be covered by a black, adorned mask. The Mama Negra always rides on horse. In the right hand she carries a black doll (her daughter Baltasara) which is made to dance to the rhythm of the town band that accompanies the parade; and, with the left hand squirts milk with water at the spectators.
LOS HUACOS (WITCHES): At the head of the parade the ‘huacos’ or witches take ‘volunteers’ from the crowd, usually women, and they apply a cleaning. A cleaning consists of a strong spraying of liquor, a bath of cigarette smoke, and the invocation of the mountain witch doctors Imbabura, Chimborazo, and Carihuairazo, and done. The cleaning of course is not free.
El ANGEL DE LA ESTRELLA (ANGEL OF THE STAR): He represents the archangel Gabriel: mounted on a horse and dressed with a white tunic adorned with gold or silver lace. On his back are carried a pair of wings made of white cardboard. He also wears a crown, which holds a large star, and in his hand he carries a scepter with a star on the tip. This personality is in charge of reciting the praises to the Virgen Saint, where there are greater concentrations of people.
El REY MORO (THE MOORISH KING): Always very neatly dressed to represent a Moorish King, he is in charge of leading the procession.
El ABANDERADO (FLAG CARRIER): A military figure, in charge of entertaining the public, waving a great checkered flag.
El CAPITAN (THE CAPTAIN): This is the major domo, that enlivens the party, elegantly uniformed and with a sword at hand.
El ASHANGUERO (ROAST PIG CARRIER): This role is represented by the strongest characters, since they carry a great basket filled with bread, fruit, chickens, guinea pigs, and liquors, necessary to give away to the guests of the parade.
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