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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. Rosanne and Stan Marlow says:

    We have just received out Residency and will be in Equador for good within weeks. We knew about this ritual and other important bits of info. by reading, visiting, etc. Expats and those thinking of coming to this country need to KNOW these things about the country and be understanding or agree with the traditions, culture, etc. because you have chosen to live in Ecuador they did not choose you. Thanks Gary keep up the good work!

  2. Martha Leonard says:

    Wonderfully insightful and thought provoking commentary… I look forward to meeting you, as a brand new resident of this delightful hamlet of Cotacachi. Thank you for a stimulating perspective on the Kali Yuga and Inti Raymi, both of which I am enjoying tremendously…

  3. Mr. Phillips,

    As I read through your post and read how you feel about the US and what is happening around the world, It is easily seen that you are a fervent Anti-American. Your analogy of this Ecuadorian Festival and the influence that the United States has had on the violence in this cultural festival is nothing short of moronic logic.

    I have long believed that when someone truly does not like what the United States of America stands for, as an American citizen that person has the right to simply leave. If you do not like it, then you, and others should give up your American citizenship and go away, the US will be a better place without you. Ironic how people like you who claim to love the “good ol USA” can not find anything good to write about it.

    You viewpoint of collateral damage and “citizens” killed is severely lacking in research and presentation of the facts. But again, as a liberal journalist, you are only presenting the “facts” to support your unfocused point of view facts are if you were to interview soldiers in the war zone, you would understand that these citizens are very often carrying guns themselves, and often forced to be human shields for the cowards our troops are facing. The other fact you have so clearly left out is the majority of people in these oppressive countries that want our troops there to clean out the radical’s who control them through murder, and oppression.

    I understand you have been a journalist for most of your adult life, I presume you were a journalist during the Vietnam war, and I get the feeling just by reading your current articles, you most likely were writing stories about our troops in Vietnam and how they were Collateral “murderers”?

    The fact is in the case of Iraq and or Afghanistan, these “citizens” most often armed and journalist are In a WAR ZONE. Do not blame the soldiers for doing their jobs protecting not only Americans, but also the Un-Americans, such as you, and more importantly themselves and the people they are fighting to free from tyrants, and dictators.

    I for one am very proud to call myself an American and what we stand for with all our faults. It is to bad you cannot say the same thing as your article clearly indicates. The US was founded on the premises of Freedom and with that comes the responsibility to uphold the values of our forefathers wherever oppression exists . . . that is what being an American stands for. I am sure if you were reporting during our Revolutionary war, you would have written against it and our Militia gorilla fighters.

    One last point I would like to make. I think some gaming company should come out with a game that portrays the Mayans you so dearly speak of showing how innocent citizens where savagely murdered at the temples having their hearts ripped from their chests, and shapely virgins sacrificed for the sake of those in power and as a sacrifice to their gods with all the violence, blood, and savagery seen on games today. I guess the only reason you cannot find to blame the indigenous people of South America and their barbaric past for influencing their behaviors is because you cannot blame the “good ol USA” for the Collateral Murderers of their past in South America . . .but that would not fit into your new age of love in Ecuador!

    God Bless the United States of America and everything we stand for.

    • Hi Pac,

      I find your comments interesting and indicative of an anti-democratic mindset. My understanding of democracy is that it embraces diversity of opinion, is open to conflicting points of view, and provides the opportunity for people of conflicting points of view to find common ground to move ahead.

      I find your invitation to leave the country because of my opinions to be disingenuous at best, and demagogic at worst. Of course, given the incredible polarization in the country at this time, your approach is not uncommon. It usually goes like this: “If you don’t agree with me, then you deserve to be prosecuted or ridden out of the country on a rail.”

      Contrary to your invective, I am not anti-american in any sense of the word. I love my country, I am highly patriotic and a staunch Constitutionalist Who believes that our Constitution is one of the best documents on human freedom and dignity ever written.

      And yes, I do object strongly and vociferously when I see the freedoms that our founding fathers fought and died for trashed by our government, and by a largely apathetic populace allowing it.

      So to make things very clear for you, I want to spell out those things I oppose:

      1. I oppose the NDAA act which give the president the right to indefinitely detain citizens without due process, in complete violation of the 5th amendment to the Constitution.

      2. I oppose the presidential “kill list” which designates the president as judge, jury and executioner for anyone whom he determines is an enemy of the state, citizen or non-citizen. Our constitution was explicitly written to prevent these kinds of abuses as practiced by King George.

      3. I oppose the whole sale monitoring by our government in concert with the government of England of all electronic communications virtually anywhere in the world, in violation of the 4th Amendment.

      4. I oppose the tapping of journalists telephones and the incarceration of journalists in violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution.

      5. I oppose the “secrecy” model our government is currently using that allows for the passage of laws regarding national security but prevents their testing in courts because to talk about these laws is in violation of the secret itself. Hence, for the NSA to use the argument that the recently exposed electronic surveillance of citizens was all done according to the law is bogus, because it was, prior to whistle blower Edward Snowdon’s revelations, impossible to challenge those laws in court.

      6. I opposed torturing in any form. The U.S. has signed various international accords against torture, including the Geneva Conventions. Those international treaties have been violated, our country has been demeaned in the eyes of the world, and those leaders who promulgated torture are guilt of war crimes. In addition, torture violates the 8th Amendment to the Constitution.

      7. I opposed torturing whistle blowers such as Bradley Manning, who revealed war crimes–Collateral Murder,” and was tortured for his revelations. His right to a speedy trial was violated in complete disregard for the 6th Amendment to the Constitution. In addition, his trial by military tribunal is a mockery of justice, and makes the show trials of the former Soviet Union seem tame by comparison.

      8. I opposed the Citizen’s United decision of the Supreme Court granting corporations the unlimited right to make political contributions of any size to any candidate or cause without disclosure.

      9. I opposed the “revolving door” between large corporations such as Monsanto, large pharmaceutical companies, Goldman Sachs and others–and oil companies, et. al, and the governmental agencies who are charged with regulating them. Most of the Secretary’s of Treasury in recent history came from Goldman Sachs.

      10. I oppose the justice department’s declaration that large banks “too big to fail” are virtually immune to prosecution–either civil and/or especially criminal. It is a travesty of justice that no person has been held criminally liable for the near collapse of our financial system in 2008.

      11. I oppose the persecution/prosecution of whistle blowers under the espionage act–8 prosecutions in this administration alone–more prosecutions that all previous presidents in history combined. These prosecutions are in violation of the Whistle Blowers Protection Act of 1989.

      12. I oppose the FDA’s approval of GMO seeds and crops when 60 countries in the world have either outright prohibited them or have required labeling of food that contains food manufactured from these crops. These decisions have been made due to sound scientific investigations that determined GMO crops are detrimental to human health. These decisions by the FDA are made because most of the FDA commissioners are on the payroll of Monsanto.

      13. I opposed private for profit prisons that have turned into 21st century slave labor camps, largely through the bogus war on drugs that targets and imprisons primarily poor black youth for simple possession of drugs. The U.S. incarcerates more people (1.6 million as of 2010) than all other developed countries in the world, including Russia and China. Not only is this a tragedy for the prisoners families, it is a huge drain on the U.S. economy.

      14. I opposed the militarization of America’s police forces and I oppose the TSA. I know many international travelers who will not fly into the United States because of the humiliation forced upon America’s air travelers in the so-called name of security.

      This list could go on and on, but I think you get my point. The idea that this post is being monitored and recorded by a U.S. spy agency makes my skin crawl. And it should make your skin crawl too, especially since we have learned that the NSA has been recording electronic communications of high ranking military officials, judges, diplomats, legislators, lawyers, including the current resident of the white house when he was a senate wannabe from Illinois. Blackmail potential, you think?

      Now Pac, if you believe that these positions make me anti-American, then I think you have to take a long deep look at what it means to be an American. Many of the violations listed above are violations similar to those that caused the American revolution in 1776.

      I am a Vietnam Era veteran. When I received my discharge, I demonstrated against the war. After 50,000 Americans and 2 million Vietnamese dead and billions of dollars spent, we lost. Now Viet Nam is a good trading partner. After hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq and thousands of Americans dead or wounded, in a war we were lied into, we left Iraq without visible gain, and huge losses to our national treasury and our young soldiers.

      Now in Afghanistan, we are preparing to leave, again after trillions of dollars spent, 50,000 American young people wounded and 2500 dead. The cost in medical bills alone will surpass more than half a trillion dollars in the next two decades.

      Our government is about to enter negotiations with the Taliban who will resume power once we leave. Goals accomplished: establishment of a police state America, erosion of basic civil liberties, and enrichment of the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned us about–little more.

      Am I a patriotic American? You damned right I am. I love our country, and I despise the fact that it is being trashed by the cartel now running our government. Edward Snowdon said it best: “I am neither a hero or a traitor–I am an American.”

      Why do I write the way I write? In the hopes that my words will help a few people to wake up to the fact that we are rapidly losing our birthright and our heritage. If enough of us wake up, maybe we can save the essence of what made America great. The question each of us has to ask is: Am I going to be a part of the solution, or a part of the problem? I don’t want to have to tell my young grandchildren when they grow up about what we lost.

  4. genevieve Sumner says:

    your article certainly makes me stop and think; how do we try to get our civiliation back on track to peace and caring for our neighbors. I have often said ( and I agree with you) that these vicious videos need to be outlawed!Parents are letting our children be brainwashed into being anti-empathetic toward human beings and animals/nature.Will look foreward to you next article. All this does scare me!! GG

  5. Niki Widmayer says:

    Gary, Once again I am enjoying your thoughtful expression of angst at our world. Doesn’t seem like much has changed, eh? I understand your referral to the Kali Yuga and it gives me some consolation/explanation for the turmoil we find ourselves in. The old order always dies hard.
    On a completely separate note regarding the increase in gun use during Ecuadorean celebrations, this really saddens me. Just TODAY, in my small Unitarian congregation in the US, we were informed that the daughter of a member was hit by a stray bullet, while emptying compost on her church grounds. The bullet lodged in her pelvis and due to the delicate nature of its placement, the doctors are letting it stay in her body. Whether you approve of gun use or not, people need to be reminded that what goes up, must come down somewhere. While I wholeheartedly sanction their use for self defense, what our civilized society has devolved into, is most disheartening. I join in the many comments from your past readers and say we are headed there as soon as we can manage our finances.

  6. I want to preface my remarks by saying there is a eternal hope and that hope is not found in a festival, or a philosopher’s query into the future, or the like, that hope is found in a real person, a God who loves each one of us so much, that he sent his only son ( Jesus Christ ) into the world ( John 3:16 ) to die for all of our sins, past, present, and future. By accepting that fact which was accomplished 2,000 years ago we can know beyond the shawdow of a doubt, that we can pass from death to everlasting life with him. Mind you, not by doing great deeds, but by acknowledging the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by personally accepting in your heart the fact that he did this for you, you can have eternal life! This is the gospel that someday I would like to share with the precious boys and girls in Ecuador! You see I believe the USA is on a collision course with Almighty God, part of it due to what you just spoke of, God wants a willing person to hear him, he does not force you, you have to make that determination for yourself! There is a hope for the future right in God’s word! ( Rom 10: 9,10, I C0r 15: 3,4 )