Ecuador Culture: New Year's Day Parade in Atuntaqui is a Drag!

Warning: Parents may not want their children to see some of the pictures on this webpage about the Atuntaqui New Year's Day Parade. They show make-believe body parts and partial imaginary nudity.

The New Year's Day Parade in Atuntaqui, Ecuador, is like no other. I suppose you could compare it to Mardi Gras in New Orleans since the costumes are outlandish and often very artistic.

Or maybe to the San Francisco gay pride parade, since the Atuntaqui parade features men dressed up as women.

It's kind of a free-for-all with lots of floats, marching bands, political satires and all-around good dirty fun.

Gary and I have attended the festivities and fun at the New Year's Day Parade in Atuntaqui for two years. The first time in 2006. The parade was raunchy, with men in skimpy, very revealing women's clothing. We'd think we were looking at girls and on closer inspection, would find out they were really men! Click here to see a video of the parade!

Atuntaqui is a rather ordinary Ecuador town most of the time, with nothing very outstanding to recommend it. There used to be a great helado de paila ice cream shop on the Pan American Highway, but it disappeared when the Pana was widened to 4 lanes.

I'd say that the only claim to fame Atuntaqui has (other than the New Year's Day Parade) is the fact that many of the townfolk are engaged in the manufacture of clothing. There are factories, retail stores and clothing displays all over the place. Sometimes you can hear the clack, clack, clack of the electric looms.

So it's kind of ironic that while much of the year the people of Atuntaqui are occupied with dressing people, during the New Year's Day Parade, they are busy removing as much of their clothing as they can decently get away with.

It would be funny if during the rest of the year the retail shops and tiendas displayed women's clothing for men, just to confuse the tourists visiting this part of Ecuador.

Gary and I had heard about the parade, but were still a bit shocked. For a Catholic area, there is a loosening up of the moral ethic for one day, perhaps as a way to let the inhibitions out harmlessly and playfully.

We saw painted-up men with bare butts, big boobs with nipples exposed through see-through blouses, naked bellies and fake cleavage.

And we saw some pretty improbable and shall we say, unnatural, sights as well. Penis noses were a favorite facial feature.

Some of the men are pretty good-looking.

There are floats, great costumes, kids--and grown-ups--adorned as bees, bugs and butterflies. The parade is definitely an outlet for lots of creativity and great imaginations.

Caricatures of political figures in Ecuador and other countries, especially the United States, are fashioned from paper mache and painted realistically. They are often larger than life. We saw plenty of Correas and George Bushes. Some of the politicos are given a very venal or menacing look.

This scene with a policeman with bare midriff seems to represent police corruption since, if you look closely, you'll see that the pocket of the shirt is stuffed with money.

And then there were the floats or costumes that made no sense whatsoever to me. I have no idea what the hanging man and the executioner with a big black hat represent. Nor can I even remotely fathom what the two dead chickens mean, either.

Do you? If there are any readers who have a handle on this, let me know so I don't remain clueless in Cotacachi.

Men seem to like to dress in drag and parade around city streets in more than one Ecuador city. I'd love to know the history or the tradition behind this frolicsome escapading in feminine finery.

The following year the parade was just as naughty, just as titillating and just as much fun.

Click here to see pictures from the New Year's Day Parade in Atuntaqui, 2007.


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