Dia de los Difuntos

For many of us, the departing of a loved one is a sad time in which we mourn them in silence, while dressed in somber colours. In Latin America however, the traditions of mourning the death are a little different. Who hasn’t heard of the bright and colourful celebrations of Día de los Muertos in Mexico, with their skeleton painted faces. Here in Ecuador these celebrations are called Día de los Difuntos (Day of the Deceased) and even though they hold similar origins to the celebrations in Mexico, the traditions are much different.  

The indigenous people in Ecuador have been honoring their deceased since ancient times. When the Spanish arrived and introduced All Saints Day, which is celebrated on the 1st of November, the locals made this holiday their own. The day of the deceased as it is celebrated nowadays is therefore a combination of the religious catholic celebrations and indigenous traditions.

Día de los Difuntos, which takes place on the 2nd of November is a special day for the indigenous people, which they celebrate with great devotion and dedication. On this day the loved ones who have passed away are honored with various rites, rituals and prayers. On this day people gather at the local cemeteries where they place flowers and food on the graves and in certain area’s they even have picnic’s at the cemeteries.

Inextricably connected to this day are the typical dishes colada morada and the guaguas de pan, prepared especially for this occasion. As guaguas is the Quichua word for baby, these breads are often shaped like swaddled babies, decorated with colourful icing. Families come together to prepare these breads before the festivities. Those who do not have the means or the time to bake these breads themselves can buy them from the street vendors or bakeries, the latter of which, already starts selling them about a month before. These breads are eaten in combination with colada morada, which is a hot drink made of red fruits and thickened with grains.

Experiencing such a cultural tradition is a great way to truly get to know a country, its people and the customs. But if you want to visit a cemetery, be aware that you don’t disturb the people in their celebrations. Also, when you want to take pictures, it is better to ask first if this is okay, as this might not always be appreciated. If you are interested in experiencing this traditional holiday, we have the perfect Day of the Deceased program for you!

Written by: Monica