We were on our way to the mother of all drunk street parties! Apparently, it did not start out that way, back in the day. La mama Negra (black mama) Takes place in the town of Latacunga in Ecuador at the end of September and again during the week of 11 November, and embraces the widely divergent traditions and cultures of the local inhabitants’ origins – Spanish, Aymaran, Incan, Mayan and African. Latacunga was colonized for its rich mineral resources by the Spanish and the native inhabitants were “encouraged” to convert to Catholicism. This mass conversion was not entirely pure and indigenous elements were blended into the Catholic religion. The Spanish conquerors brought along with them slaves from Bolivia, Guatemala and Africa, and these slaves added their own traditions and beliefs. The origins of the festival are a little obscure, but the general consensus is that the festival was established when the Cotopaxi volcano erupted in 1742 and it seemed that Latacunga would be destroyed. The locals of the region petitioned the Virgin of Mercy, the patron of Cotopaxi, to spare Latacunga. When the town escaped the wrath of the volcano, an annual celebration was set in place in her honor. At around the time of this volcanic eruption, African slaves were brought into the area to work in the mines. These black slaves made a huge impression on the local inhabitants, who incorporated their arrival into the festival of La Mama Negra – the Black Mother. "The Festival of La Mama Negra includes characters such as the Moorish King, the Angel of the Stars and Los Huacos who represents the area’s pre-Colombian heritage. More recent additions to the festivities are the Camisonas – colourful transvestites. Dancers, musicians and marching bands all join in the parade, which culminates in the arrival, on horseback, of La Mama Negra - a representation of the Virgin combined with African deities. La Mama Negra, in an elaborate costume and bearing dolls to represent her children, happily sprays milk and water on the spectators, supposedly for their well-being.." Everything starts out very orderly and behaved early morning. There are fences to keep the spectators out of the street and the rowdy mass of festival participants in the street. We were offered ringside seats by a local pizza restaurant for the day...provided we buy their beer and pizza. Which we did in copious amounts. There must be something like 3000 -5000 participants doing their dance and song along the roads of Latacunga and the hotter it gets the more they drink. People are in high spirit and by 11am the party mood was in full swing. Participants have their own homemade moonshine on offer. It is vile tasting shit and a mix of 95octane fuel, homebrew 95% sorghum alcohol and some toilet cleaner, whatever brand is cheapest. But it gets you drunk and more importantly, it strips people of their inhibitions. It can also be used as paint stripper that's for fucking sure. Candy and wine containers are also tossed into the crowds, keeping the party atmosphere going into the night. Obviously, we don't wanna look like gringo pussies so we drank every cupeth that cometh our wayeth, fucketh! At first, I was all decent and cool and behaved like a good tourist and took photos from the behind the barriers. That also only lasted until the second cupeth and I got into the street to party with and take photos close up We got blessed a few times which involved being hit mercilessly with branches and then spat on with booze to chase the evil out. Apparently, my evil spirit was many and my beating happened quite regularly. By 13pm we did not have to buy any drinks anymore, we had enough in us and were offered more than we could consume. The natives were restless..