The saints’ day out

At the saints’ parade in Riobamba, men in purple robes and Ku Klux Klan masks shouldered glass cases holding statues of the Virgin through the streets. The cases kept snagging on bunting, and the bearers had to squat to release them. Like the Inca, they provoked a desire to tell them about the Wheel.

Each Brotherhood of the Virgin, proclaimed by a different banner, was led by a burly man with a mustache and aviator shades, a nice South American touch. I found these Brotherhoods unsavory. While the men marched in KKK masks to show their devotion to Mary, their wives straggled behind or did not march at all.

Small Roman centurions toddled behind one Jesus. He could have taken them for sure were it not for his cross. Other centurions wore yellow hard hats.

There were several marching bands, none as good as Guaranda’s, and platoons of schoolkids in lovely uniforms. Variously they wore sailor suits, red checked skirts and matching bowling shoes, and jaunty striped tunics. Clearly, uniforms are bought every two years here, as they were when I was growing up. The girls were either swamped in skirts nearly to their ankles, or tugging at hems that were indecently short.

Several very bloody statues of Jesus passed in glass coffins. The night I moved to Brooklyn, on Good Friday, the old Italians had paraded similarly septic visions outside my gate. Then, as now, it reminded me how austere is Ireland’s brand of Catholicism, compared to the gory, baroque excesses of the Latins.

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