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A View From the Roof: Strange Cotacachi Festival Related to World Events

By Gary Phillips

A year ago, I wrote the article below about the changes happening in our world and related it to the Baila de San Juan, the annual fiesta in Cotacachi that always occurs on the summer solstice, and is happening now.  

It’s interesting to read this article as it allows us to have some historical perspective on what has been happening in our country in the past year.  It also connects well with my recent article about paradigm shifts

There were many comments on this post when it first published, some agreed, some disagreed with my views.    You may find it interesting to read them in light of recent events in the U.S. and around the world

Sunday, July 1, 2012, ended Cotacachi’s annual Indigenous festival of Inti Raymi, also know as the Baile (dance) de San Juan, San Pedro, San Pablo, and Santa Lucia.

Three people died during this 8-day celebration and at least 23 were wounded, some seriously.  It’s hard for us expats to understand this celebration of the Sun (it starts the day the sun begins its journey back to South American from its position in the extreme northern hemisphere).   It’s a time of celebrating Pachamama, Mother Earth, of giving thanks for bountiful harvests and of cajoling the Mother for a bountiful harvest in the coming year.

Solstice Brings in the Dance of San Juan in Cotacachi

Solstice Brings in the Dance of San Juan in Cotacachi

It’s also a time for the indigenous communities from the highlands to come down to the town square and do battle with the communities from the lowlands–both symbolically and physically.  There is one thing for certain about this ceremony–firewater (aguardiente), a potent brew made from sugar cane, will be drunk, and blood will be spilled.

In the six years that we have lived in Cotacachi, not a year has gone by that someone hasn’t died.  This year, as best I can gather, three people “bit the dust,” or another way of saying it, were reunited with their Mother, the earth.

“How barbaric!” we’ve heard some expats exclaim.  “ Why do they let them do it?” But the bigger questions to me are, how do you stop an elemental force of nature and what is the deeper significance?

The first weekend for the dance of San Juan, the revelers pour into Cotacachi from the 43 surrounding villages.   And yes, they drink.

The dancing lasts for three days and is more like a rhythmic stomping with the entire group moving in circles.   Then for the next three or four days, they stay in their villages and drink some more.

Thursday evening they emerge from their villages, somewhat rested and fully primed.   Hundreds of indigenous return to the square ready for battle.


Many in the crowd, including young children, are armed with knotted clubs or whips with a 4- or 5-foot metal cable attached to the end.  This year, there were some pistols in the crowd.

For the children, I can imagine it’s the same thrill that I used to feel when I was a youngster waiting to be old enough to get my first rifle and go deer hunting with the men in northern Minnesota.   It’s something the young men dream about all year. 

Our indigenous  six-year-old godson, Yauri, was costumed to the max and came running when he saw us.  First he asked us for a blessing, then returned to the throng.  His 16-year-old brother Wilmer was watching out for his welfare.

By Friday, the revelers had worked themselves into a fever pitch. Friday is the day that Linda and I were in the park, and got caught up in a police tear gas response attempting to break up or at least prevent the crowd from fully igniting.

Unfortunately, the police had under-estimated the crowd actions since the weekend before had been quite docile with little fighting.  Friday not many police were on hand.

Our godson Yauri

Our godson Yauri

After Friday’s mayhem, Saturday saw the arrival of a total of 350 policemen and women from all over the country. Even with that large force, another dancer was killed in the fighting.

This is the first year, to our knowledge, that some of the dancers were armed with firearms.   And the dance crowd, who in previous years have been mostly indigenous farmers and their children coming in to carry out the ritual, had many more young teenagers who were showing more evidence of gang affiliation.

They proudly and defiantly displayed tattoos, headbands, and other gang memorabilia.   My mind flashed back to one of my favorite movies as a youth, West Side Story. The very same bravado and machismo was evident.

At first thought, we are horrified at the violence.  But on the other hand, is it really so unusual or unexpected?

We live in a dramatically changing world, with energies that frequently swirl out of control, almost beyond belief.  Even Mother Nature is getting into the same acts of chaotic destruction as occurred during the Inti Raymi celebrations.  The U.S. was swept with torrential downpours. Duluth, MN, and other Midwestern states were inundated with flood waters.

Huge windstorms (derechos) of a type rarely seen on the east coast destroyed homes and uprooted trees, while massive forest fires raged out of control on the eastern slopes of the Rockies.  Storms and soaring temperatures broke records and left millions without electricity for days as the electrical grid ground to a halt.

At the same time, we discovered that at least 16 banks in England have been manipulating one of the major bank interest rates (LIBOR) for years, in what appears to be an obvious  pre-meditated  crime perpetrated by a criminal syndicate that we call the world banking system.   One of the major losers was pension fund investments that did not get the interest return they should have.

Julian Assange of Wiki-leaks fame has been in the news again during this time, requesting asylum in Ecuador. He fears that he will be transferred to the U.S. and charged with espionage.  His crime, according to the government, was releasing documents that we, the public, were not supposed to see.

More accurately, the U.S. doesn’t want the rest of the world knowing what we’ve allowed to happen in the name of freedom and democracy.  People in high places are outraged that he released a top-secret video showing some of America’s best and brightest whooping and hollering as they gunned down journalists and children in Iraq from an Apache helicopter.

One of Assange’s major fears must be of extradition to a country, the U.S., whose trademark, unbelievably enough, is torture of its political prisoners. I remember the horror I felt as a youngster hearing of the gulags of Siberian Russia and the brainwashing and torture of prisoners in Korea and Viet Nam.

Now, to my further horror, my own country has joined that heinous list of torturers in the name of securing the homeland.  Is there any doubt that we have experienced a coup d’ etat, and that our government has been taken over by psychopaths?

Chris Hedges, for my money one of the best journalists operating in the world today, said in a nearly 3-hour interview recently, “Brace yourself, the American Empire is over and the descent is going to be horrifying.” I highly recommend this video if you want to find out what is really going on in the world.

Hedges speaks not only from his years of experience as a correspondent in war zones, but also from the wider perspective of someone who has spent years outside the United States.  Thus he is far more able than most to see the bigger picture.

The new distraction of the week is the national battle royal going on over the recent Supreme Court decision on “Obamacare.”   “Whoopee,” exclaim the liberals.  John Roberts has finally shifted over to the liberal position.

At the same time, the conservatives are mad as hell and certain it is the end of freedom.  Obama’s newspeak saying that the bill would reduce health care costs has instead morphed into a penalty/tax on those who don’t or cannot afford to purchase it.

But do you really think that this distraction is going to change the fact that at $8000 annually the U.S. currently has the highest per capita expenditure for health care in the world,  yet ranks #37th in the world in terms of quality of health care?  Do you really think that this isn’t a gold mine for the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical companies who control Congress and the administration?

So what do we make of all this destructive energy in the world?  And how do we return to the central theme of this story of the Cotacachi Dance of San Juan? Well, given a world context, the havoc wreaked during the 8-day Dance of San Juan is insignificant in the scope of things–merely a symbol of the greater picture.

Death and destruction is everywhere. It is the end of theKali Yuga, that 430,000-year period during which death and destruction rein supreme, according to Hindu cosmology.  Some of the characteristics of the Kali Yuga are as follows:

Liquor flows heavily

Liquor flows heavily

·  Rulers will become unreasonable; they will levy taxes unfairly.
·  Rulers will no longer see it as their duty to promote spirituality or to protect their subjects; they will become a danger to the world.
·  People will start migrating, seeking countries where wheat and barley form the staple food source.
·  Avarice and wrath will be common. Humans will openly display animosity towards each other. Ignorance of dharma (spiritual practices) will occur.
·  People will have thoughts of murder with no justification and will see nothing wrong in that.
·  Lust will be viewed as socially acceptable and sexual intercourse will be seen as the central requirement of life.
·  Sin will increase exponentially, as virtue fades.
·  People will take vows and quickly break them.
·  People will become addicted to intoxicating drinks and drugs.

Today, the U.S. is killing people all over the world with predator drones.  Kids barely out of high school sit in office buildings around the U.S. controlling predator drones that by some accounts have killed at least 3,000 civilians in Pakistan alone, nearly the same number of people who were killed in the collapse of the twin towers. 

These arm-chair warriors start their practice at very early ages.  They hone their skills by playing some of the most violent video games imaginable, becoming immune to the sight of blood and broken bodies.

War has now been reduced to a skill on a video screen.  And civilian deaths are casually written off as collateral damage.

Recently, while in the waiting room of an Ecuadorian naturalist doctor, I watched as his 6-year-old son  played the most violent slash and rip video game, complete with blood and gore spilling upon the screen in brilliant red. He gained points by slashing the throat of a shapely young woman with impunity.

He killed her without a blink of an eye, swiftly and professionally–just like a trained killer. It was horribly realistic.

A video shown recently on the NBC Rachel Maddow Show demonstrates some of the effects of our young “office chair drone pilots.”  Why is this happening?

Is it really a war on terror?  Or is it simply business as usual?  Each drone costs $20 to $50 million of our tax dollars.  That money goes to defense contractors, who in turn make “donations” to the politicians who gladly vote ever-increasing military expenditures.

This circle jerk continues, even as our country’s  infrastructure crumbles.  Schools, police stations, and fire departments are shutting down.  Pension funds for public and private retirees are being decimated.

Good paying jobs in the U.S. have been shipped to the sweat shops of Mexico, China, and Viet Nam, among others, all under the banner free trade.   College has become virtually unaffordable for the middle class.

At the same time this is happening,  our elected officials are using propaganda financed by mega-wealthy individuals (Koch Brothers, for example) to convince us that the reason we are in such deep financial excrement is due to over-payment of public employees and welfare.

The “end time” in the Mayan calendar looms –Dec. 21, 2012.  Huge differences of opinion exist as to what this means.

Joseph Robert Jochmans comments,  “Both the Hopis and Mayans recognize that we are approaching the end of a World Age… In both cases, however, the Hopi and Mayan elders do not prophesy that everything will come to an end. Rather, this is a time of transition from one World Age into another. The message they give concerns our making a choice of how we enter the future ahead. Our moving through with either resistance or acceptance will determine whether the transition will happen with cataclysmic changes or gradual peace and tranquility. The same theme can be found reflected in the prophecies of many other Native American visionaries from Black Elk to Sun Bear.”

So there you have it.  I have lived for 65 years.  Nothing in my life compares with what I see happening in our world today. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that human beings as a species cannot continue down the path we are on and survive, at least survive in any kind of living situation that would be palatable.

So I am left with a choice:  to believe that the human species has outlived its usefulness on the planet, (if we ever had any real usefulness);  or to believe that a huge change in this mega-cosmic adventure is imminent, as the old order falls away and a new one is born, hopefully one based around  more cooperation, tranquility and joy.

Cotacachi Dancers--Dance of San Juan

Cotacachi Dancers–Dance of San Juan

Personally, I choose the latter.   That very choice obligates me to search within to see what I am doing that supports the existing order so that I can stop doing it as best as I am able.  Then I am further obligated to examine my life and search for ways and methods to assist in the birth of a new and brighter age.  This becomes a deeply personal choice, and the answer will be different for each of us.

As we play out the Kali Yuga and the age of destruction overlaps with the birth of a new age, I think we are challenged to live in both worlds.  We can best serve humanity by understanding that death and destruction are a necessary part of life that must come about and pass away in order for something new to take place.  We can accept that on one level, while focusing more on consciously creating a loving and positive future.

This is by no means an easy task.  I find that meditation, contemplation, living in the moment, and most of all, surrendering to what is, are all vital tools to making this transition as gentle as possible for me.  Good luck with your own journey.

This article is long enough, perhaps way too long for many of you.  But this theme will continue in future posts of a View from the Roof and in other writings on our website, www.Pro-Ecuador.com.  It is time to wake up from our slumber. 

If you have made it this far in this article, and have read at least some of the links above, perhaps you will be one of those who makes it through the transition without too much upheaval.

And that’s today’s, View from the Roof.



  1. Sorry, but I don’t agree with your demeaning reference to the US torturing “political prisoners”. Many of these “political prisoners” are dangerous and could initiate terrorist attacks, as some who were released actually did do. I find your comment naive and disingenuous. Lets not allow ourselves to think for one minute that if your children or grandchildren will in fatal danger and their safety depended on finding out information from “political prisoners”, you would not even torture them yourself to save their lives. I find it disturbing that would have a double standard. Or maybe you have some standards that allow for torture? Maybe if the political prisoners had knowledge an atomic dirty bomb being trafficked into the US you would find it in your wisdom to clarify it for us that is was OK. As an vet I can tell you that if the big bad, immoral Americans wanted to, they could have made sure these “political prisoners” would have never made it back to the Guantanamo. There was a reason for it- for the safety of the American public. Or maybe we could have obtained that precious information by consulting the shamans?

    • Hi Demi,

      You are certainly welcome to disagree with me. I expect a number of people will. However, from my perspective, we are a nation and a world organized under a system of laws. The United States has signed several major international agreements and protocols that prohibit the use of torture under any circumstances. These include the Geneva conventions, which were signed by 194 countries after world war II; the Hague conventions; the United Nations Conventions against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment signed in 1987; The Universal Declaration on Human Rights, among others.

      The UN Conventions against Torture states uncategorically: Article 2: There are “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever” where a state can use torture and not break its treaty obligations”.[37]

      The Nuremberg Principles, which were used to codify the International Law Commission of the United Nations states Under Principle VI, section B, war crimes:

      Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation of slave labor or for any other purpose of the civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the Seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.

      Demi, just because you don’t like the laws doesn’t mean you don’t have to abide by them.
      Under virtually any one of the many treaties the U.S. has signed in the last 100 years, the actions of our government today constitute war crimes. Had these actions occurred in the aftermath of WWII, the perpetrators, whether heads of state or not, would have been brought to justice and hanged.

      The unbelievable thing about this whole exercise is that most experts say that torture does not work. The information gained is most often made up to fit the scenario developed by the interrogators, and does not have a basis in fact. What that leaves you with is a group of psychopaths who just simply enjoy their “work.”

      I hope and believe that at some point in time, the world will come to its senses, and these criminals will be held accountable in a court of law. People are certainly trying. Click here to read one example.

    • Here’s a postnote I just found:

      Despite U.S. court’s dismissal of these cases, that the United States tortured and abused many men in pursuit of its so-called “war on terror” is not in dispute. As Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who led the U.S. Army’s official investigation into the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal and testified before Congress on his findings in May 2004, has stated publicly: “[t]here is no longer any doubt as to whether the [Bush] Administration committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.” Click here to read the full story.

      The title of the above quoted article is: Afghan and Iraqi Victims of Torture by U.S. Military Seek Justice from International Human Rights Tribunal

  2. Thank you, Gary. Very well articulated. The only thing I can add of value, is for us to keep it positive and continue to do good service to others and smile alot.

  3. Linda Miller says:

    Thank you for your writ. It’s is spot-on in every respect and coincides with the viewpoint of many more people than you can imagine, but unfortunately, probably not enough at this point to be able to make the shift as smoothly as we would like. Keep spreading the word!!

    One more month and we will be living in the Yucatan, my husband, father and I. Slowly but surely burning the bridges with the US in search of a more peaceful life and a new beginning. We are so very much looking forward to the move.
    Even though we settled on making the Yucatan our home rather than Cotacachi, I continue to enjoy receiving and reading your blog. Thank you for all your efforts!

  4. Gary,
    This piece is spot-on, thanks! Now I wonder as I wander about the theoretical God-particle discovery in this significant year, as well as the emergence of Maitreya and his assistants, as well as the undeniable influence of extraterrestials in our past, present and future. Spirit infuses all, of course, but as we watch the expansion of the world wide web consequential to the US` war of aggression in Southeast Asia and we take into account the changing nature of warfare and control developing around us with the robotics (drones, etc.) in its infancy spurred by capitalist/fascistic take-over using 9/11 as a symbol, I wonder whether technology isn’t going to make mankind generally irrelevant.

    In this new age that is coming, that could well happen. There will be human survivors, of course, but when robotic intelligence passes human intelligence and it connects instantly via WWW, those of us who remain are more likely to become peasants serving technology than Jedi warriors. What say you?

  5. Gary, you have written what many of us are thinking but have no vehicle to write about. We agree with you and although we don’t fully understand the local celebration that can, and does lead to death, we are really sick and horrified at what is happening in our own corner of the world – the USA.

    We see the slide downward and as a thinkng individual, I am trying to get ready for what is coming. This includes our planting our international flags, including moving to Cotacachi. If we can solve some medical problems, or make them work for our benefit, we will be there in May or June at the latest. It will be good to see you and Linda again. Keep up the good writing!

  6. Virginia DeBoer says:

    Keep writing these articles. I enjoy them imensely.

  7. Gary,
    A most interesting take on life in ‘the last days.’
    Makes you begin to believe that the writers of the Bible
    really did know what they were talking (and writing) about,
    doesn’t it.

    “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” II Timothy 3:1-7

  8. Fred Lane says:

    Excellent story and analysis because I too have noticed much of the same living here in the US. As I approach retirement, I seek refuge anyplace but here in the US because I see the constantly decline in the quality of life here on many fronts and logic and care for one’s fellow man or woman or child isn’t anywhere in sight. Please continue with your insightful truthful reporting because although dire in nature, I applaud your vision and ever mindful observations.

    Fred Lane
    Mesa, AZ (USA)

  9. Dear Gary,

    Thanks for your thoughtful and insightful writing on this topic. My wife and I are moving to Cotacachi this coming March-April and I was frankly shocked and disturbed to read the headline. Yet, you are right — Cotacachi can’t be immune from the transition that is happening in the world and the death throes of a way of living that no longer serves us.

  10. Very well said!!