According to official statistics, over 90% of the population belongs to the Roman Catholic faith and the church remains a formidable force in society. In recent decades a variety of Evangelical Protestant groups from the USA, Seventh-Day Adventists, Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses have increased their influence. Freedom of worship is guaranteed by the Ecuadorean constitution.

Just as many of the great colonial churches of Ecuador are built over Inca and pre-Inca temples, the nation's impressive edifice of Roman Catholic faith rests firmly on pre-Christian foundations. The syncretism (mixing) of Catholic and earlier beliefs can be seen in many traditions and practices.
is a traditional soup eaten during Holy Week, made with salt fish and many different grains. The Catholic component is the lack of meat, which was not consumed during Lent, while the many grains came from native traditions to celebrate the beginning of the harvest at this time of year. The original native
might have been made with

Further examples of syncretism are found among the traditions for
Día de los Difuntos
(Day of the Dead, 2 November).
Colada morada
, a sweet drink made from various fruits and purple corn is prepared, as are
guaguas de pan
(bread dolls). In a few places, native families may build a special altar in their homes or take their departed relatives' favourite food and drink to the cemetery.

In this way, the beliefs of Ecuadoreans have evolved over the centuries but they have not diminished in intensity. A fiesta remains a very important occasion for young and old alike, a time to be very happy or very solemn. One look at the faces in a Holy Week procession or at the number of participants in a
Pase del Niño
Christmas parade will leave no doubt in the minds of most visitors.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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