As the Catholic Holy Week approaches, we are reminded of how much of an influence the Catholic Church has had on many of the unique Ecuadorian traditions. The “Procesion Jesus del Gran Poder” is a tradition that has been celebrated for centuries. Some of the protagonist of this Catholic ritual are called Cucuruchos, which refers to the men dressed in purple robes, masked, and wearing a large purple cone on their head. This seems very odd, but let’s explain the significance of this odd attire.
The purple robes symbolize penitence, while the cone symbolized humility. This tradition dates back to the Medieval Era. Centuries ago, in order to receive pardon for sins, sinners stood outside of the churches for days upon days. As these people stood outside the churches, they wore this purple cone on their head, in harsh weather, while being mocked and ridiculed by their neighbors. After withstanding these harsh conditions, the sinners would finally be granted pardon, in order to receive Easter, with a sin-free/clean heart.
Since the latter half of last century, this tradition is not literally practiced, rather it is remembered by an annual procession held every year during Holy Week. Thousands of Cucuruchos walk around Quito’s old towns, representing not only their repentance, but that of their friends, family, and neighbors. In recent times, the Cucuruchos have intensified their attire by adding: heavy chains tied to their bare feet, heavy crosses, and cactus tied to their backs.
Even if you are not religious, you are sure to enjoy this delightful commemoration of a centurial tradition.