For some reason, fireleaping is something that people do all over the world. As I taped a cut slice of aloe leaf over a drunken friend’s leg that had burnt sneaker embedded in it, I thought abut the reasons why. Mainly fireleapers are men, so that would argue for a demonstration of physical courage and agility designed to increase manly standing within the tribe. Then I wondered why women didn’t leap over fires more often. Is it because physical courage and agility are more valued in hunters, who were mainly male in ancient cultures, whereas women were gatherers, which requires a different sort of discernment and caution? The leapers I have seen were mainly teenage boys, older guys trying to prove they hadn’t aged, and drunks, all trying to prove their strength and agility to watching women. Although to be fair, I did see two girls leap over a fire the other night, laughing, and I do believe they may have been trying to impress the watching young men.
How the town of Vilcabamba has so many fiestas I do not know. This small Ecuadorian town shoots off more fireworks than a good sized city in China. And since the number of saints who demand fireworks seems to exceed the number of days in the year, there are explosions all the time. I was thinking, since the transformer across from one of the places we like to eat breakfast keeps up a merry sizzle during the rains, that it was transformers going off, but no, it’s enthusiasm. And that’s just fireworks. All of a sudden things are closed, men are setting up a huge portable stage in from of the church, unloading giant stacks of amplifiers, young men are checking sound at absolute full volume, musicians are unfolding from vans. And then all night the square is packed with whole families dancing and passing around bottles, children whizzing around, and old ladies selling hot fruit punch. “Con trago?” they whisper- and then they add a healthy shot of punta, the local cane liquor.
The best fiestas include wearable fireworks.