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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. There’s a strip that pops up in the middle of the screen, showing how many times the article has been shared on FB, Twitter, etc. Very annoying, directly in front of the text; no way to close it. Makes it hard to read the article. Can you remove it on your end, or move it to the side of the screen?

    • Hi Beverly,
      Sorry to hear you’re having problems viewing the blog. I will see what we can do, though the story and sharing bar are appearing fine in my Google chrome, Mozilla and Internet explorer browsers. What browser and version are you using? Also try refreshing the page, or clearing your cache. We can’t remove it or move it unfortunately. If none of my suggestions work, please send me an email to su-yin@pro-ecuador.com with a screenshot of the webpage. Thank you!

  2. Hi Gary: Great article. I totally enjoy Inti Raymi. Pure, Indigenous energy! And you know
    that in fact, these men on any other week, are the most calm, polite you could ever meet.
    I think this week could go either way, as the leaders have worked all year to make this a peaceful week. There is the fact the indigenous brothers in the Amazon are facing destruction of their land and lives through mining and I am sure that energy will factor in this year as they try to show the strength of the community.

  3. David Herbert says:

    I find the parallels between the Stalin era Soviet Union and today’s United States,which I refer to as The Fourth Reich to be chilling and horrifying. I am very happy I left.

  4. Gary, excellent article!! Extremely well said, factual, and damn insightful! Thank you for what you do! As a Combat Veteran, who has given his heart for his country, we need more true Americans writing, reading and expressing themselves this way. Only patient, honest intellectual discussion, from all sides, will allow us to survive as a world of peoples!

    I know, as I have witnessed the death and destruction first hand. MG Taguba and I discussed this at length in Germany before my retirement. He was asked to retire sometime later. Excellent Soldier and a very honest man! Our Nation lost a great leader. Anyway keep doing what your doing and never give up the View from the Roof!

    • Thanks for your comments, Greg. Very much appreciated. I remember when Taguba presented his findings about Abu Grahib, and later when he called out the Bush Administration: ” “There is no longer any doubt that the current administration committed war crimes. The only question is whether those who ordered torture will be held to account.”

      This was about the time when I fully realized that our country had gone beyond the point of no return. I hope and pray that some day soon, those still in the active military at the highest levels realize that their oath to defend and protect the constitutions takes precedence over the orders of the civilian gangsters who have taken over our country. After all, “I was only following orders,” didn’t work for those nazi criminals who were hanged after Nuremberg. It shouldn’t work for for our military either. Taguba is one of my heros because he dared to stand up to evil.

  5. Dave Carson says:

    Thank you for your insights on the current direction of My country.(USA) let me be clear I love my country. However for the first time in my life I am afraid of my government. I have been looking at South America for years. I WILL be coming as soon as I can save enough money. I love my country but I absolutley refuse to be on of the sheep. Keep up the good work.

  6. I totally agree with everything you said and find it very difficult to understand why the “super patriots” fail to see how the US torture policy is morally despicable. Of course most of them don’t know the history of the United Sates and how many times they have gone against democratic principles and have been the horrible aggressors throughout the world. However, aside from that, I really like the fact that you are such an optimist concerning the future of our world. We will never make a change without clear positive attitudes.

  7. Life is tough for people who was born with the silver spoon in Cuenca, got an education in USA and now live in Enland(as oppose to England) with the English man husband.

  8. — while I was in college in the USA, and now I live in England and now I am a young penniless immigrant in England—

    Ecuadorian who could afford college in the USA,
    living in England, married to the English man. Young and penniless.

    There is something really wrong here, starting with England.

  9. Hello Gary,
    Thank you for you post, and blog, and all the information. I am ecuadorian, but I felt inlove with an English man, while I was in college in the USA, and now I live in Enland. Go figure! I took my husband back to Ecuador for 9 months, last year. We had some money saved, and I thought we could do it. But we couldn’t. My husband must work and make money for his family. I am the wife… I must follow.

    Ecuador didn’t have the opportuinities we needed. I love him. I can’t do anything. I read your posts about Ecuador, and I feel a bit envious. England is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but as you say the world is changing, and I am a bit scared. My husband was worried about the crime rate in Ecuador, but I am more scared of the criminal bankers here.

    I am scared that we worked all our lives and we see nothing at the end. In Ecuador, I know that I will always have the land, the hills, the fish, the fruits and the air. I know that the sun is up at 6am and down at 6pm every day. Perhaps, I will be wrong, and in 20 years I will be saying. Oh, thank goodness I listen to my husband. But what if I dont? I wasn’t able to buy a property in my home country… the prices have gone soooo high for us, and the city is plagged with expats property buyers.

    Cuenca, the city that my ancestors helped to build, is too expensive for me now… I feel like crying. In the town, a street was named with my last name, in honor to one of my ancestors. And now, I can’t afford a home there. I don’t blame anyone… I guess, it is just life and the changes of this world. Why Gary? Why is this happening? I am a young penniles immigrant in England, and I can’t afford a home in either country, but you are a retiree expat who can live any place you would like. There is something really wrong here. I am sorry if I sound accusing… it is not my intention. My father died this year at 69, and I would be asking him this questions, but I am sure he wouldn’t have any answers… who have them?

    • Hi Marcela,

      Thank you very much for your heart felt comments. I certainly understand your feelings. The world is a very difficult place these days. It is a very simple fact that the international bankers, along with Wall Street and the City of London have turned the majority of people in the world into economic slaves. They are raping and plundering the national and natural resources of countries the world over.

      This movement is something that has been going on for many years, but only now, due to the internet, people are finally waking up to the fact. Mass demonstrations across Europe and America are an indication that change is in the air. However, in times like these, there is only one place to turn–you must turn within. We must recognize that our peace and happiness comes from the inside. The powers that be cannot jail a person who refuses to allow his mind to be captured.

      Many retiree expats who live in Ecuador now are people who cannot afford to live in North America. Every day, I get emails from North Americans complaining about how expensive it is to live in the U.S. I’m sure it is the same is in England. I just drove around Cotacachi this morning looking at all of the new construction. Houses and new businesses are going up everywhere. And most of the construction is by Ecuadorians, not expats. Ecuador is becoming a rich country now, because the president is making sure that the money from oil is getting to the people through jobs instead of going into the pockets of corrupt politicians and business owners.

      I believe that if you and your husband make a strong decision to return to Ecuador, you can find something to do that will help you realize your dreams. Good luck, Marcela.

  10. Great article Gary. Its too bad you lost some subscribers but maybe its time to separate the wheat from the chaff and the sheep from the lions. I commend you for being true to yourself and saying the things that are hard to stomach. Its a rarity to not just listen to lip service these days. Great to witness your resolve with the flare ups of ignorance i see with a few of your readers. All that time as a monk has served well my friend.