Aside from its particular geographical setting – it sits on the equator – and its breathtaking scenery, Ecuador is a land coloured in myths, legends and folklore.
The Folklore legends found in Ecuador are vast and different in both purpose and meaning.
One of the most beloved tales tells of a builder named Cantuña, who managed to trick the Devil and live to tell the story. Cantuña had exchanged his soul for the quick completion of the cathedral, specifying that each and every last stone had to be put in place in order for his soul to be passed on into Satan’s hands. If you were to visit the town of Quito today, and visit the Cathedral’s Atrium, you would see a hole in one of its walls.
Some say Cantuña had hidden the final stone from the demon and his minions, others say he tricked the Devil by inscribing words that whomever placed the stone in its rightful place pledged allegiance to God, scaring the Devil away. No matter which version, the stone’s whereabouts remain unknown, and the legend goes that Cantuña’s soul never reached the demon’s grasp.
Other legends don’t recount so much of quick wits and smart tricks, but rather were created to keep the young from harm, such as that of the Enchanted Stone. The Enchanted Stone was a powerful and mighty stone that granted wishes to those who asked, and punished children who failed to obey their parents.
Other legends strike closer to reality; more than legends they are in actuality facts veiled in mystery, like those of the Valley of Longevity, found in the southern region of Ecuador. Vilcabamba is a land said to have been the Kings of Inca’s fountain of health; the great royalty would retreat in Vilcabamba to give new strength to their bodies and spirits, and ultimately rejuvenate their souls.
The Valley of Longevity has also been an area of scientifical interest; its story was first addressed worldwide in 1973 by National Geographic, and continues to this day to attract people from across the globe. Vilcabamba was described as one of the few places in the world in which its inhabitants were gifted with phenomenal health, easily surpassing the age of 100. Whether it be from the minerals and properties of the untouched lands, from the pure and uncontaminated air that surrounds, or the incomparably untainted sources of water, the exact truth still, to this day, remains unclear. What is known however, is that there is no essence to be extracted and no truth that can travel the continents. Whatever powerful minerals lie in the Valley of Longevity, they are only for those who reside within those lands, not to be exported and not to be taken away.
Ecuador is riddled with hidden mysteries and well kept secrets, however, one of its most internationally recognised and traditional products, unfortunately bares another country’s name. The Panama hat is in fact many times mistakenly attributed to the country it takes its name from. It is important to know however, that the artisanal and handmade Panama hats are actually native to Ecuador, and remain one of their greatest exported products to date. Unlike the many mysteries and tales, this is one aspect of Ecuador that should be as clear as its pure water sources. The reason these hats bare another country’s name is because they were worn by the Ecuadorians to shield themselves from the heat and sun during the construction of the Panama Canal. Given the many traveller’s fascination with these men’s beautiful straw hats, they were given the name of “Panama”.
Even though it may have been mistakenly named, the Panama hat resembles its Ecuadorian origins in more ways than one; for, much like the many tales of folklore that inhabit the country’s lands, its story too is slightly veiled in mystery.
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