AMBATO, Ecuador – About 70,000 flowers adorn huge structures in the courtyards and open spaces of museums and institutions in the Ecuadorian city of Ambato, an allegory of reconstruction after a devastating earthquake in 1949 that killed thousands.
Known as the “Fiesta de la Fruta y las Flores” (Feast of Fruit and Flowers), which kicked off on Friday and will continue until Tuesday, the event features numerous activities in the streets of this Andean city, offered to visitors as the epicenter of an art involving popular elements of the region such as flowers, fruits and bread.
“It is about recovering that identity of our city through gastronomy, cultural art and the symbols of reconstruction,” David Medina, tourism official of the municipality of Ambato, told EFE.
He was surrounded by a number of artworks, including one depicting a music band with Andean guinea pigs playing various instruments as well as other creations made from different colored roses and mandarins, at the entrance of the old Municipal Palace.
The piece, one of the most photographed by tourists, was made by prisoners from a rehabilitation center in the city, Medina said.
Eight museums in Ambato and other institutions were adorned with allegorical figures that symbolize traditions and popular jobs such as a baker, the music of the area was represented by a rondador, a traditional kind of panpipes.
Visitors can also appreciate compositions featured multicolored animals or a huge bust of a woman wearing a carnival headdress.
“Each floral structure is estimated to have 10,000 flowers and 2,000 fruits. In total, there are 70,000 flowers scattered throughout our museums and about 40,000 fruit,” Medina stressed.
Floral ensembles included exhibitions, such as one by plastic artists from all over Ecuador, a craft fair and another made of chocolate, as well as dance and music performances in different squares.
In the cathedral square, the nerve center of the festival, dance group Arte Corazon de Ambato gave a traditional performance on Saturday, dazzling the audience with of the intense colors of the dancers’ skirts, waistcoats and ponchos.
Bishop of Ambato Jorge Giovanny Pazmiño officiated in the morning at a blessing mass with characteristic elements of the feast in the cathedral, together with the bishop of neighboring Latacunga Giovanni Mauricio Paz Hurtado.
The service was held in the presence of thousands of parishioners and officials such as Tourism Minister Rosi Prado.
“The main symbol of the city and our Latin American peoples has always been the church,” the city’s bishop told EFE.
He recalled that the ancient stone cathedral was reduced to rubble by the devastating earthquake 70 years ago.
Pazmiño said the feast of Ambato originated “precisely at the foot of the cathedral” when priests and vicars created an allegory “that represented the thought of the Ambato people and the old church.”
Over the decades the messages of floral representations have evolved, and around five years ago “they have been taking on very concrete themes, which have to do with mercy, with ecology and also current ones in the church and the world.”
His homily had a strong environmental message, expressing alarm about the government’s mining policy and defending natural resources.
The central event of the festival was scheduled to be held on Sunday with a parade of 20 floral floats, under the motto of “Ambato, garden of the world.”
The bishop said the region where Ambato is located “is a very blessed land” where the fruit brought by Spanish colonizers, such as guaytambos or peaches, grow.
The festival was declared an “intangible heritage” of the Andean region in January, and since 2009 it has been on the list of state heritages.