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Accompanying local traditions in Ecuador

Published 5.1.2024

A country with a rich cultural heritage, Ecuador clads itself in bright colors and all manner of flavors to delight the senses during the celebration of All Souls' Day. Find out more about the history, meaning and origin of the mouthwatering traditions that were honored this year by our employees at the Shushufindi field.


The celebration of All Souls' Day on November 2, in Ecuador, is a time-honored tradition that dates back to pre-Columbian times when cultures such as the Incas paid tribute to their dead with rituals and offerings. When the Spanish arrived in their lands, bringing with them the influence of the Catholic Church, these traditions merely merged and evolved.

Today, Ecuadorian families honor those of their loved ones who have passed, in a very special manner, sharing typical drinks such as colada morada and eating guaguas de pan. The first is a thick sweet drink which is dark purple in color, obtained by mixing black flour (made from purple corn) with local fruits such as blackberry, different kinds of blueberries, mountain papaya, strawberries and pineapple, among others. It’s spiced up with the addition of elements brought by the Spanish, such as cinnamon and cloves. Drinking the colada morada is intended to symbolize the communion between the world of the living and the dead, as its deep purple hue is associated with mourning and mystery.

The guaguas de pan are little flour dough rolls molded into the shapes of babies and human figures and painted in bright colors. Their origin predates the arrival of the Spanish, and can probably be found in the customs of indigenous peoples that fashioned dough figurines in honor of their ancestors. Over time, after the arrival of the Spanish, these figures acquired a religious meaning and became essential to the celebration of All Souls' Day. As the years went by, they became more colorful and creative.


Meaning and celebration

In ancient times, colada morada and guaguas de pan were placed on the tombs of dead relatives, as it was believed that sharing food and drink with the deceased gave them some comfort on their journey to the afterlife and strengthened the ties between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Today, these rituals extend beyond All.Souls’ Day at the beginning of November, as they begin to make their appearance in October and can be seen right up until the end of November. Always shared with friends and family, their preparation varies according to the region and each family’s preferences, but they always includes local ingredients and spices which give it a characteristic flavor.

A contest to maintain, integrate and live traditions

As a way of helping employees at the Shushufindi Field to integrate better, Construcciones y Prestaciones Petroleras S.A. (CPP), an Ecuadorian subsidiary of Techint Engineering and Construction, held a contest to see who could prepare the best colada morada and guaguas de pan. Some 30 employees rose to the occasion from different areas.

“Competing in this contest meant that employees not only tested their culinary skills, but also enjoyed a moment of fun and recreation, reducing some of the psychosocial risk factors related to stress and anxiety,” points out Fernando Fajardo, a Social Worker Specialist at CPP.

“At the end of the day, everyone was a winner for their effort, creativity and initiative in preparing the colada and guagua de pan,” offers Adrian Carrera, a Construction Coordinator who sat on the jury to assess the quality of the entries. He adds that, “This initiative was developed by the Social Work area, and it demonstrates that tradition and camaraderie can come together in the workplace to create stronger bonds.”

The contest itself was extremely well received among the participants, and Vicente Loaiza, Piping area point guard, describes it with gusto. “A group of six colleagues and myself signed up for the contest with great enthusiasm. We diligently began our preparations the night before. Between all the different tasks, we soaked the purple flour as required, and I added all the culinary secrets I inherited from my mother. To finish preparing the colada, we met at our supervisor's house, where we made over 80 liters of this drink that we subsequently shared among our colleagues and the CPP jury.” Loaiza concludes that, “As a first experience, this was incredibly rewarding and it’s motivated us to look for more integration activities that will strengthen us as a team.”

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