Join in the Vibrant Guaranda Carnival

The week-long Guaranda Carnival, held in February each year, is considered by many to be one of the best celebrations in Ecuador. Guaranda is a market town located in a deep valley in the high Andes of the province of Bolívar . The people from the Bolívar province, known as “bolivarenses”, look forward to the annual carnival with eager anticipation and stream into the town from all over the province to join in the festivities.

The grand celebratory opening of the carnival features the dramatic entrance of Taita Carnaval (Father Carnival) into town. Taita Carnaval is one of the local wealthy landowners and the generous sponsor of the party, earning him the gratitude and respect of party-goers. Taita Canaval, accompanied by Mama Carnaval, presides over the parades and festivities of the carnival. This celebration opening starts the festivities, which include dressing up and wearing masks, music and dancing in the streets, traveling musicians, as well as readings of poetry.

Of course, any carnival must be accompanied by good food and drink. In the months before the event the locals fatten up chickens, rabbits and pigs to be slaughtered for the preparation of the very best local dishes which will be enjoyed during the Guaranda Carnival. The traditional foods include fritada (fried pork), bolos (mashed plaintains) and empanadas (cheese and meat filled pastries).The food is accompanied by generous amounts of a local alcoholic beverage that Guaranda has become famous for – Pájaro Azul (Blue Bird).

One of the original traditions of the Guaranda Carnival was to throw water and flour balloons over fellow revelers. This was seen by some to be a dangerous practice and it was eventually banned. This has not dampened the spirit of the celebration though, and party-goers seem to have endless energy as they dance and sing the day, and the night, away. Although water balloons are no longer thrown, it is not uncommon for revelers to throw water over their fellow party-goers anyway.

Ecuador is a popular tourist destination and has many places of interest, customs and traditions that are appealing to visitors. The Guaranda Carnival gives visitors a glimpse into a most enjoyable aspect of life in Ecuador.