Maundy Thursday, often called Holy Thursday, is a busy day in Quito. It is a half holiday and most Quiteños spend the afternoon visiting the many churches that dot the historic center. It is a tradition to visit at least seven churches. It isn’t a hard task as each church is beautiful in its own way and on a pleasant sunny afternoon, the pilgrimage provides the opportunity to meet old friends and to make new ones. Outside many of the churches, large stone crosses are decorated with locally grown roses adding festive color to the stark white and gray of the majority of the holy spaces found all around Quito.
The highlight of this very special day is an evening parade called the La Procesión de la Luz, or the Procession of Lights. It begins at 6:30 in the evening at the Basilica de Voto Nacional and proceeds down Garcia Moreno. We picked it up on the corner just as the procession was turning into the famous neighborhood of La Ronda. Children dressed as colorful flowers, men and women in brilliant purple robes and tall cone-shaped caps, monks in brown frocks, and so many more people, strolled down the cobblestone streets, almost everyone holding a candle with flickering flame. Many of the partipants are members of a well-known dance troupe, Grupo Folklorico Jacchigua. The most striking members were three women dressed as different versions of the Virgin Mary. The Virgin of the Panecillo, complete with crown of silver and a set of wings, stood front and center.
We followed the brightly-colored, candlelit pageant to their final destination, the Plaza Santa Domingo, where the participants circled around a casket with a representation of the body of Christ for a few final words before disappearing into the dark night.