There are only two reasons to visit Latacunga, Ecuador. To view and hike the Quilotoa Loop and to see the Mama Negra Festival that takes place on the second weekend of November. We only experienced the latter. Supposedly traveling around the loop you could encounter indigenous Quichua-speaking people, local markets, incredible hikes and a crystal-blue lake. However, due to the bumpy roads it will take a few days to do the entire loop.
Since we were in the area just before this festival, which brings in thousands of people from all over Ecuador, we decided to stay a few extra days and check it out. Volcan Cotapaxi erupted in 1742,1768 and again in 1880 destroying the city of Latacunga. The city’s people rebuilt it every time and now celebrate their good fortune that it hasn’t erupted since. The Mama Negra Festival is one of the most famous and grand parties in all of Ecuador.
We arrived in town on Thursday afternoon, checking in for three nights. We quickly realized that spending that much time in this dirty and far from charming town was way too long. Places to eat we’re far and few between, but we found a couple interesting spots. Eventually we came across a flyer for the parade on Saturday that explained it was set to cross through town just a few blocks from our hotel. We we’re so bored that we had decided to check out early and head back to Quito after the events. But once we came across the parade route we discovered how big of a party this really was. The street was actually barricaded off and full of people, so we couldn’t see any of it. But we didn’t mind, the real experience was checking out the streets lined with crispy pigs, large blaring raggaetone speakers and dance parties around DJ’s or just next to cars as the music bumped out of their trunks. A humorous thing about the festival was as one booths party would be in full swing the one next to it would butt in. Speakers would be positioned so that one parties music would blare over the top of the other, making for a jumble of base. Really it was just a beer and pig fest and the majority of the people attending were teenagers to thirty year olds. We decided trying to get a bus back through this chaos and missing out on the full experience wasn’t an option. Luckily, they hadn’t given our room away to anyone yet and we checked back in for one more night. By the time we got back to the street party, groups of people were carrying their own crates of 22 oz beers and the car dance-grinding parties had increased. It was an incredible sight. We enjoyed watching the mobil beer trucks, which were just families, including kids, selling beer. They would have the bed filled with beer crates piled 8 high, despensing beer in plastic cups. As the cops made their way around the square they would be forced to move along, but they had a trick. They would drive around the block and park right behind the moving officers that had made them leave and business would continue as usual.
We decided to partake in this local delicacy that lined the streets, Chugchucaras. This delicious plate includes fried chunks of pork, crackling (fried pork skins), hominy and potatoes. How could it not be good, the pigs were lined up, heads facing out, just asking you to choose them! No wonder everyone is on the larger side in Ecuador! We thoroughly enjoyed it. As the night went on and the sloppier people got, the police moved up the streets clearing the partiers out. All it really did was move them along from plaza to plaza, but the police worked hard at this! When people stopped moving the officers would pepper spray those getting out of hand instead of arresting them. An odd concept which led to many tears. It was beyond us though, that we didn’t see a single arrest. Perhaps Ecuadorians take pity on the belligerent, screaming, back talking drunks? In any case it was a day to remember for us as one of the biggest druken street party we’ve ever seen. Come to Mama Negra expecting just that and with a love for people watching, you won’t be disappointed.