Saint’s Day Montañita

Montañita’s Saint’s Day festivities lasted for 3 days. That’s three days and nights of music and partying in the streets. But the party had a different atmosphere then the usual Montanita locura.

Montanita’s usual scene is a mash-up of young good-looking people from all over the world coming together to surf and party. Like any party town, it can have a bit of a “spring break” vibe at times. At different times of the year the flavor of the village changes depending on whose “spring break” it happens to be at the time. We had the month of Argentinians, the month of Colombians, the weekends before Carnival there are usually tons of Guayaquileños coming in for the weekend at the beach with their families. There are a couple of months when the schools in the Sierras (the mountain highlands, Cuenca, Quito, etc), who are on a different calendar, all have their school break. Right now we are moving into gringo season, with the summer vacations in North America and Europe. All year round there is a good mix of everyone, but different groups lead the pack from month to month. It’s a fun game to play if you are hanging out on Cocktail Alley people watching. “She wearing heels, gotta be Cuencana.” “That one has boob job you could crack nuts with, must be Guayaquil.” “Group of girls with the exact same hairstyle, makeup and styling, all moving in a pack, probably a bus drop off from Argentina.” “OK, now is that a North American gringo or European gringo?” “Look at the shorts, definitely European.” You get the idea.

But the Saint’s Day party was different. It felt decidedly local, which was honestly a bit refreshing. Not that there weren’t a bunch of us extranjeros enjoying the fun, but the festivities weren’t aimed towards us, they were meant for the locals. That means there was no cheesy house music, no gimmicky uniforms on attractive half-dressed cocktail waiters/waitress, no overpriced pizzas, crepes, or sushi. Just amazing Ecuadorian street food, maduros, chancho, seco de pollo, canguil, alitas, an older Ecuadorian band playing march sounding music, and gente from Montanita, Manglaralto, Olón, and all other nearby villages.

At about 11pm on the last day, the fireworks began. And not the kind you’re thinking of. Guys went running through the packed streets carrying a big cow and a woman puppet, rigged with fireworks. They purposefully charged into the densest parts of the crowd, sending people screaming and running to avoid the sparks. At one point a little rocket whizzed off the cow, back towards where I was standing and hit the building behind me. We thought it was over until someone realized that the sparks had lit the thatch roof and the hair of a little girl on fire. During a quiet moment I was standing talking to a friend when suddenly I felt the crowd pushing past me in the other direction. The girl I was talking with stopped in mid sentence and started running away from me. Confused, I turned to see what was going on and realized I was standing 3 feet away from a metal bucket full of rockets that some mischievous party planner had just thrown down in the middle of the crown and lit up. I was deafened and blinded by the first explosion before having time to run away with the group. Sneak attacks like that continued all through the night. Someone would sneak into the middle of a crowded area with fireworks, lite them up, throw them on the ground and mayhem would follow. The party planners put up a 40 foot tower of iron, rigged to spin sparks and little rockets, not just up, but into the crowd. Through all this chaos, everyone, including the little girl with the flaming hair, was laughing and cheering. Only in a country where people aren’t obsessed with suing each other could such an exciting, incredibly dangerous, but totally awesome show be possible.

Here’s a video of a couple of the highlights. Around 0.43 you can see a whoosh of sparks passing by the upper left corner of the camera. The little girl sitting on her father’s shoulders behind me is the unlucky one who was set on fire by the sparks. If you watch carefully, you can see chucks of debris showering down on us from the fireworks that are being set off low and directly overhead. Eventually I hide behind a big umbrella to avoid the getting set on fire, which blocks the camera view a bit, but considering that I still have all my hair, I think it was worth the missed filming opportunity.

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