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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. helen hodgins says:

    interesting articles – glad i dropped in on your site… not an expat of course – but expat of another group! good on you, Gary.

  2. I wanted good info on Ecuador not a tirade on world and us politics. Please remove me and I will find another source on Ecuador.

    • Hi Lynne,

      Thanks for reading my View from the Roof Article. Sorry you found it upsetting. Of course there were 9 other articles in the newsletter, all about Ecuador, 364 posts in the blog, and more than 250 pages on our website, all reflecting our six years of experience living here, selling properties and assisting more than 130 families to make the move down. And yes, every single word of it is completely free, provided with love and concern for our fellow human beings. The blog and website represent literally thousands of hours of work by Linda and me.

      The fact is, a good number of the people who are moving here are people who see what is happening in the U.S. and don’t like it.

      I don’t think it is that you didn’t like my “tirade,” rather I suspect that you don’t want to face the possibility that what I said may be true, that our country, the country I love, is no longer the shining beacon on a hill. If it is any consolation to you, we had a higher number of unsubscribes this month than normal. It was not unexpected. What I presented was not a pretty picture and lots of people don’t want to look at it. But to be true to myself, I have to present what I see from the Rooftop. Those with eyes to see and ears to hear, are appreciative.

      Good luck with your search. There is a link at the bottom of the newsletter where you can unsubscribe.

  3. pete shear says:

    Well it is certainly not the first year that the narco-pandilleros have shot of firearms at rival factions during the San Juanes…that`s been happening for years now.

    In any case, if the end of the world is nigh and only the “enlightened” will survive why are so many of the “enlightened” spending some much time investing in real estate in Cotacacahi?

  4. Doug Mansfield says:


    Thank you for your well written article. Also, thank you for your reasoned, measured approach to Demi and Ron, above. It is so difficult to respond to that type of unreasoned and lop-sided approach without sinking to their level. I admire your ability to keep your responses on a higher plane.



  5. I am deeply disappointed in how the USA seeks and actually imposes is designs upon the world stage. I am encouraged much by what President Correra has done even though he obviously is not perfect and who does take actions dictated by political motive as do all or most world leaders, which can only be realistic given a comprehensive view of the world.

    In particular I am most thrilled by Correra’s most recent action to withdraw Ecuador’s participation in the Pentagon-sponsored School of the Americas which has a long record of training Latins to deal within their own countries with results of human rights violations and terrible military brutality. The School is supported by us US taxpaying sheep of course of which I am deeply ashamed and has been eumphemistically been renamed.

    I consider it a US Instutution to train terrorists. Ecuador follows Uruguay, Venezuella, Argentina and Bolivia is this action and I predict other Latin nations will follow as they attempt to throw off the extended arm of the US and its very long record of meddling in Latin countries.

    Lastly I regret that I and Suzanne had not stopped to meet you when in Cotacachi February 2011. We had a nice stay at La Cuadra and appreciated the owner-manager Jairo very much. Hopefully we can return some day.

    Jim Kowalsky Fairbanks AK

  6. What an incredible idiot you are – in so many ways that it would take me several days to write all the reasons why.

    • Go ahead Ron, give it your best shot. In fact a little educated dialog from the opposition instead of name calling would certainly be of service to everyone.

  7. Gary,
    I completely agree with everything you said. It is too bad that so many in the U.S. blindly believe what they are told by the capitalistic fascists. I look forward one day to living outside of the U.S.

  8. Lora Lozano says:

    I feel very disheartened by the state of the world and I am hoping to be able to ride out the transition, whatever it may include, in the most peaceful way possible. I hope that enough people wake up in time. I really just wanted to say thank you for writing this article.

  9. Hola, Amigo:

    Couldn’t have said it better, myself. Of course, the big difference between you and me is that I have lost all hope for the human race and the planet, and after living in South America for close to four years, I have figured out there is nowhere left to run and hide from these evil planet-eating monsters (Rafael Correa being one of them), so I may as well go down with the ship with all my fellow drowning rats in my own country, who at least speak English when they are talking all their BS. Keep spreading the Truth as you see it; if nothing else, you’ll go down swinging, which is more than I can say for most of the cockroaches sticking their legs up in the air. Say hi to Linda. Hasta luego, amigo.

    — Hambone

    • Well said, Hambone. There’s something poetic about the image of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic ship of state while the sweet, soulful sounds of a blues harmonica brings a quiet respite to a racing mind.


  10. Gary,
    I watched the videos on the incident in Iraq and am now watching the interview with Chris Hedges. Your column is not “too long”, rather an accurate depiction of the status of the country and its inspiring to those of us still searching direction.

    I have three sons and we have had similar discussions in recent times, trying to chart the future and how we can survive. As a parent I am very worried, that they will have substantial battles to face, as time goes by and if they have children, how our grandchildren will exist. Please keep writing and don’t leave the roof!

    • Thanks Mike, for your comments. We are also very concerned about our children our two very young grandchildren, and another one on the way. I have already left the roof physically, but the internal view hasn’t changed much over the years. I am inspired by the geese. The geese know when it is time to fly and it is time to sit. They usually find their food laid out before them. They take care of each other, and when the one in the lead gets tired, another one comes to take its place.

      And it’s all instinct. My feeling is that if we tune into the energies through meditation and contemplation, and do the best we can to disengage our analytic, egoistic, fear-based mind, and pray a a lot, we will be led to do what we need to do when we need to do it. Of course, every now and then, the geese happen to fly over a hunter’s blind and that’s the end of the story.

      All we can do is do our best to maintain our perspective, keep a smile on our faces, and keep on keeping on. Even to the very best of souls, shit happens. It’s the nature of the game. My biggest problem comes when I make the determination that I know what is/was supposed to happen.