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Land of winds > Traditions > Legend | Issue 03. Jan.-Feb.2011
By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Taita Imbabura and Mama Cotacachi

Imbabura y Cotacachi
Imbabura (4,630 m, 5,190 ft) is a volcano located in the Imbabura province (northern Ecuador) with a view over the whole region of Ibarra and Otavalo from its fertile slopes. Cotacachi volcano (reaching an altitude over 4,900 m) rises in the distance opposite to it. Both mounts are sacred to the local native communities. Imbabura is the male protector, receives the designation of “taita” (father) and is named Manuel. For its part, Cotacachi, the female protector, is known as María Isabel and receives the designation of “mama” (mother). As expected, many legends tell the love story between Taita Manuel Imbabura and Mama María Isabel Cotacachi.
The story of Imbabura and Cotacachi mounts is well known in the community. Imbabura, high and imposing, was considered by all inhabitants of the Pachamama as a wise father, and as such he got up every morning to watch that everyone was doing their job. Taita Imbabura, as people called him, made sure that the river got the water in the right direction, neither too fast nor too slowly, and the wind did not stop for long to speak with the mountain trees, and every man and woman were doing their duties such as sowing, cattle raising and food preparation. Because of the respect for his wisdom and the fear of being punished by the volcano, everybody performed their respective roles. On several occasions, however, when people failed to do their job, Imbabura had faced them with frost or similar harsh reproofs instead of rain. Hence, the mount had a lot of work to do and not much free time. Nevertheless, one day he decided to declare his love to his beloved Cotacachi, the only and beautiful mount he has always been in love with since both of them were small hills with little experience that played together.
On that sunny day of August, while the wind raised the smell of ploughed, Imbabura went to meet his beloved with a bunch of wild flowers, and after telling her how much he loved her, Imbabura asked her to marry him. Then Cotacachi, a bit surprised but full of joy at hearing those words, made her ravines tremble with emotion and answered that would be pleased to marry him as she also fell in love. Since that day, every time the volcanoes paid a visit to each another, they placed a bit of snow on the top of their summits.
Shortly after the marriage, Yanaurcu [“black hill”] was born from the union of the two mounts. Over the years, Imbabura, older and with the weight of work on his rocky slopes, started to suffer from severe headaches which, sometimes, lasted for days and days. At those times his summit was totally covered with clouds. Despite this fact, however, a healthy air filled love and confidence from the union of taita Imbabura and mama Cotacachi flowed through the surrounding valleys.
It is said that when the wind gets up at nightfall and climbs to the communities, it is the goodnight kisses that the two lovers blow each another.
This is not the first time that mountains become a couple: Chimborazo and Tungurahua, in Ecuador, were lovers and their son is Mt. Guagua Pichincha, a volcano dominating Quito landscape. It is said that when the child (guagua) cries, his mother (Tungurahua volcano) answers him.
Coming back on the issue of Imbabura and Cotopaxi’s duties, they must keep a close watch on the surrounding lakes. On their part, native people have to make offerings to both protectors to maintain the fertility of their crops. According to some accounts, Imbabura enjoys walking and sensitive spirits are the only ones who can notice his presence when, disguised as a native man, visits the Otavalo market. The very few who have seen him without his disguise affirm that he is a dignified elder, with white hair and fair skin, who uses a tocte pole as a walking stick and to make miracles happen. In addition, rumours are spread that albino kids are Imbabura’s children, whose mothers got pregnant when he met them in a lost place during one of his long walks.


Imbabura Volcano, in Wikipedia.
Cotacachi Volcano, in Wikipedia.

The volcano in love and other stories: tales of the Kichwa people of Ecuador [es/it/de].
Legends, in [es].
Legends of the Imbabura, in RedEscolar [es].
Legends from Ibarra: Taita Imbabura [es].

Imbabura picture 01 .
Imbabura picture 02.
Imbabura picture 03.
Cotacachi picture 01.
Cotacachi picture 02.
Cotacachi picture 03.
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