Volcanoes in Ecuador
Being among the summits of the volcanoes in Ecuador is no doubt an unforgettable experience. Perhaps you don’t know that each mountain is hiding curious legends, and that those have been told by grandparents from generation to generation. We believe that the mountains are not simple land formations, but more than that.
According to the legends, mountains have genders. When a mountain is male the locally well-known “flower of summit” or chuquiragua (Chuquiraga jussieui) grows on it. If the summit has the form of a half-moon this means that it is female.
One of the most well-known legends of love is between Taita (father) Chimborazo and Mama (mother) Tungurahua. Before they got married Taita Chimborazo had to fight fierce battles to win over the love of Mama Tungurahua. The first battle was against Cotopaxi. He was always attracted by Mama Tungurahua but Taita Chimborazo did not like that and was jealous, so the two giants threw rocks and ash at each other for many years.
One day, the Altar Mountain (Kapak Urku) wanted to have romances with the beautiful Tungurahua, some believe that The Altar was higher than Chimborazo many years ago. Chimborazo realized his intentions and made furious and the Altar Mountain ended up badly damaged after a long fight.
Taita Chimborazo was the winner of all the battles and won the love of Mama Tungurahua. Someone said that when Taita Chimborazo wants to caress Mama Tungurahua, he sends rays of light on nights when the full moon shines.
Chimborazo and Tungurahua have a son named Guagua (child) Pichincha. The locals say that when the Guagua cries, Mama Tungurahua shakes it. This means that when Guagua Pichincha is active, the Mama Tungurahua is also active.
Mama Tungurahua is beautiful as well as jealous. Other legend says that one day Mama Iliniza Sur visited Taita Chimborazo. Apparently Mama Tungurahua was so jealous that she threw fire on Iliniza Sur which left it ugly forever. Others say once carnival approaches Mama Tungurahua becomes anxious because she likes carnival and celebrates it until Wednesday of ash.
Another well-known legend is that Iliniza Sur fell in love with Cotopaxi. However, this love was forbidden because Iliniza Sur was the wife of Iliniza Norte. The love between Cotopaxi and Iliniza Sur was in secret, but Rumiñahui Mountain told of the affair to Iliniza Norte. He became angry and he destroyed the Corazon mountain – son of Iliniza Norte and Iliniza Sur. Because of that, Iliniza Sur cried a lot of tears and thus formed the lagoon we know as Quilotoa.
If we travel a little further north, very close to Otavalo, we will meet the handsome Taita Manuel Imbabura. When he was younger, he had the reputation of a “huaynadero” (womanizer) because he liked to flirt beautiful young otavaleñas (women who live in Otavalo).
Once, Taita Imbabura went out to town and met Mama María Isabel Cotacachi. Manuel Imbabura was in love with her. By one day he decided to express his feelings and Maria Cotacachi felt the same about him. Later they married and got a son who they called Yanahurco. The people said that the winds in the evenings are good night kisses that these two mountains send each other. Otavaleños make offerings to these mountains in hopes for good harvests and because they still consider Taita Imbabura and Mama Cotacachi protectors of the lagoons.
The legends told by our grandparents have some truth but I’m sure that when our volcanoes in Ecuador are active and our mother earth moves, they want to tell us something.