Flowers, both wild and domestic, are important in the lives of Saraguros. They appreciate their esthetic qualities and they may use the flowers, or the plants from which they come for medicinal purposes. Most Saraguro households maintain small gardens which include domestic flowering plants. Wild plants are also maintained in gardens, or, as in the case of epiphytic orchids, may be transplanted into trees in the vicinity of the house. Many of the flowers that Saraguros tend near their houses, or that they gather, are made into ramos (also known as ofrendas florales)--floral wreaths.
Floral wreaths are made primarily as decorations or offerings for the altar area of churches and chapels. The most elaborate wreaths are made weekly at the iglesia matriz (main church) in the town of Saraguro for installation there. The sponsors (such as the priostas and priostes) of the main Saraguro religious fiestas, and their designated assistants (mayordomas and mayordomos, muñidoras and muñidores) are responsible for the collection and transport of flowers and other decorative materials to the church, and the construction and placement of the wreaths within the church. The female participants are the ones who do the actual making of the wreaths.
Especially around Holy Cross day (Santa Cruz--May 3) various crosses in the countryside are decorated with flowers and floral wreaths. Near Saraguro, the outstanding example of this practice occurs on Mt. Puglla, where hundreds of Saraguros climb the mountain to decorate the cross--which was first placed there in the middle 1700s. (Reflecting, perhaps, the new era into which the Saraguros have entered, by the 1980s the cross on Puglla was overshadowed by an ugly array of electronic signal transmission antennas and associated concrete shelters.)
Flowers are important in Saraguro weddings. After the wedding mass, the wedding party goes to the house of the groom's parents for a party. Mounds of flower petals are laid out in the shapes of a crosses on the tables in the main room of the house. At the appropriate time, all present will grab handfulls of petals and merrily fling them at each other. Also, in the main room of the house when a wedding party (or infant funeral "wake") is taking place, a cruzero--a horizontal cross with a candle on each arm--is hung from the ceiling of the main room. The cruzero is decorated with flowers.
Flowers and other plant materials are also used during the Christmas season to decorate Christ-child images or Bethlehem scenes (Belenes). And altar shelves in the main rooms of houses may also include some sort of floral display.
Finally, we note that during carnaval (the period of several weeks preceeding Ash Wednesday) it was a Saraguro tradition for people to throw flower petals at each other (as at Saraguro weddings). This tradition has largely been replaced by the (sometimes) savage water fights common to the pre-Lenten period all over Ecuador.
<! FIRST ROW OF PICTURES>
<! SECOND ROW OF PICTURES>
<! THIRD ROW OF PICTURES>
<! FOURTH ROW OF PICTURES>
<! FIFTH ROW OF PICTURES>