Cucuruchos in Quito: The Long Walk to Redemption
The purple robes, the iconic cones, the bloody feet and the blistering heat – these are all features of the famous cucuruchos in Ecuador, seen solely during the Jesus of Great Power procession. For those from North America, their attire might seem controversial given the history of a certain other group of followers that wore a similar costume. But here in Ecuador, their dressing as such represents a symbol of the religion they seek to honour and the traditions they’ve observed for several generations now.
How did cucurchos in Ecuador start?
During colonial ages in Quito, devout Christian sinners would linger outside the churches of old town, donning a large purple cone (known as cucurucho) and would endure the elements as well as the criticisms of passer-by’s who would either ignore them or outright publicly criticize them.
Nowadays, the cucuruchos walk the streets of Old Town, but only on Good Friday. Passer-by’s (more like spectators now) do not harass or offend them. It’s often more a feeling of awe and respect that emanates from anyone that finds themselves in the presence of the cucuruchos. The procession is grounded in reflection, regret and penitence and was officially incorporated into the events held during Holy Week in Quito back in 1961.
Who wears the cucurucho?
In many cases, cucuruchos are ordinary men (and usually they are exclusively men. Women tend to dress up as “veronica,” representing the woman who wiped the face of Jesus with a cloth while he was carrying his cross) that seek to make amends and commence a life that is free of sin. It’s a scene that never fails to surprise and capture the attention of spectators, as it’s an incredible event to watch.
Some see it as a meaningful, perhaps even more cathartic form of confession. Participants of the procession often recommend it to friends and family members as an act that helps reaffirm their faith. Many see it as an honour to be able to partake in such an event, as the capacity to feel regret is one of the biggest values in the Christian religion, allowing followers to recognize their mistakes and ask for forgiveness.
Presumably, the origin of the procession has its roots in the fact that Jesus had temptations before dying. The connection here is that all the men behind the masks were also tempted throughout life, in some way, but it is regret and the forgiveness of God that ultimately trumps all evil.
What goes on?
Hundreds if not thousands of cucuruchos walk the streets on Good Friday.
The cone symbolizes humility while the colour purple represents penitence. The cucuruchos walk the streets completely barefoot, carrying mammoth crosses (often crafted by themselves) on their back or dragging them – and these are often chained or tied to the carriers themselves.
The whole walk is meant to be long and painful. Flagellation is a common occurrence, often done with the branches of hortiga (stinging nettle), with fake blood added for dramatic effect, either on their bodies or across their temple as they wear their faux (or sometimes even real) crown of thorns.
The procession will begin at noon on 14 April and there’s no better place to see this event than from the views of Old Town offered at Casa Gangotena.
With parents that worked for the U.S. Foreign Service up until he graduated from high school, Chris was raised to have the heart of a nomad throughout his life. He has resided in Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador throughout his years, and just recently spent the past four up in Canada finishing his Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy & English at the University of British Columbia.