Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Crazy Cows or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Almost Took a Firework to the Face

Continuing with the festivities for Corpus Cristi, I went back to the center last night to meet up with some friends and see the fireworks. As usual, they burned a castillo, but there was also something different. For months I've heard about the "Vaca loca," or crazy cow firework display that only comes out on special occasions. I obviously didn't get the full effect of what my friends were trying to tell me, because once I saw the vaca loca, I saw just why it's a crazy cow.

After the first castillo was burned out music was playing and people stood around eating their street meat. Though I'm usually conservative on street meat and avoid it at all costs, I felt like digging it, and bought my meat on a stick and salchipapas. We were on the edge of the park, and suddenly a hoard of people started running towards us in fear. It was like out of those disaster movies, when the large crowd in New York suddenly realizes that an asteroid is coming, so they start fleeing in vain. I had no idea what was going on so I stood my ground. That is of course, until I saw a man wearing a larger than life, paper mache person with fireworks attached.

I still didn't quite get it until the doll started shooting fireworks into the crowd. As people ran away scared, they also laughed it off. This was, apparently, all part of the game. We ran for cover in the park, trampling over flowers and ducking behind trees and other people. But the crazy bastards underneath kept running towards the crowds and firing at them. They would spin around and let the fireworks bounce off the ground and buildings into masses of children. Occasionally someone would get hit, and once another paper mache doll caught on fire. A firework blew by my face, and as I was still in shock from how close it came, I realized that it bounced off the chest of a friend who was right next to me.

Now, I've seen some stupid ideas in Ecuador. But this had to be the stupidest idea of them all. I could literally see the brochure, "Come to Ecuador, where we shoot fireworks at the people!" Last night I just thought it was funny how they set them off in crowds. Now they were purposely trying to take people out. Next came out the giant cow which shot fireworks out of its horns. Many of the fireworks rocketed towards the cathedral, which I found incredibly ironic, since this was, after all, a holiday to celebrate Jesus.

Still by the perimeter of the park, we watched as the cows and dolls ran around inside scaring people, and it looked like watching riot footage from "Most Insane Videos" or demonstrations around the world. The smoke filled the streets and sirens went off. There was even a vaca loca song. The thing about this activity is that it was like playing Russian Roulette. You never knew when the firework would go off, so running didn't necessarily help. If you stayed in your place right next to the guy, you could be safe. But running could get you in the exact direction of the artillery. Someone commented that it reminded them of being back in Vietnam.

After about 20 minutes of dodging fireworks they finally finished and continued burning the second castillo. And not a moment too soon. We got some more candy and were thankful that we were still standing. Another one of those nights that leaves you saying, "Oh, Ecuador!"

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