“Now what?” Spouse whispered in my ear. We were in the hall of the Cathedral of Quito in Equador. Even with my limited knowledge of Spanish I understood the sign in front of us: tourists are not allowed in during Mass. Next to the sign a schedule told is Masses were held all day long, so coming back later wasn’t an option. Around us people were entering and leaving the Cathedral as if it was a supermercado. “This is ridiculous,” I said, pushing Spouse through the door.
I had two very good reasons to ignore any prohibition to enter the church. The first was the Cathedral’s nativity scene Ecuador-style with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and a lama. The second was a painting of the last supper with Jesus and his apostles dining on a local dish of roasted guinea pig. I couldn’t possibly miss these examples of what is called syncretism, the fusion of opposing principles.
Though a priest was giving mass the atmosphere in the Cathedral wasn’t exactly serene. Equadorians were shuffling along the pews, chatting with each other and praying aloud to the various saint statues. As we searched for the paintings, passing the mumbling crowds, I folded my hands as if in prayer. “You hypocrit!” Spouse whispered. “I’m just trying to blend in,” I whispered back.
The lama was lovely. I wish I could say the same about the roasted guinea pig. My curiousity satisfied I took a pew and tried to make out what the priest said through his microphone. “You’re pulling the leg of these people,” Spouse hissed. “Isn’t that what this is all about?” I whispered back.
At the end of Mass, the priest grabbed a plastic bag from behind the altar and darted to the church doors. He was in such a hurry that he ignored Equadorians who wanted to shake his hand. As he passed us, we saw what was written on his plastic bag: The Famous Grouse.
I bet a glass of Scotch whisky goes very well with roasted guinea pig.