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In Ecuador, the day where families remember their loves ones that are death is called “Día de los Difuntos” (Day of the Deceased) and it is commemorated every November 2. Although The Day of the Deceased traditions vary inside the country, their origins can be traced back from the Inca (the largest empire in Pre-Columbian era that occupied large portions of Western South America) which was influenced considerably by the Catholic faith.
The Inca believed that life continued after death and the place where the spirit of the dead would dwell depended of the level of obedience to the “ama suwa, ama llulla, ama quella” (Inca moral code of not stealing, lying and being lazy).
Because the Inca were convinced that death was only a passage, ceremonial burials played an important role to prepare the deceased with food and other essential items. Some areas in Ecuador, especially the places with a big population of indigenous communities, still follow the Inca ancestral tradition of bringing food to their loved ones and many other things while they gathered around the tombs and fill them with fresh flowers.
After the Spanish conquest and the introduction of Catholicism, this special commemoration can also include mass attendance, candlelight vigil and other Catholic related traditions.
Coincidentally, there are two other national holidays in Ecuador the day before and the day after the Day of the Deceased, making the three day holiday an opportunity for families to travel, gather, have fun, rest and enjoy the food that is only served for the Day of Deceased: colada morada (a thick drink made from purple corn, spices and fruits) and guaguas de pan (breads shaped into babies like figure).
Day of the Deceased in Ecuador is a mix of multicultural traditions, but more than anything, it’s a personal invitation to wonder about the meaning of death and to remember those that departed and haven’t been forgotten.