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San Juanito

Considered the national rhythm of Ecuador, the San Juanito's pre-Columbian origins boast joyful rhythms and melancholic melodies. According to musicologists it is a unique combination which denotes the feeling of the Ecuadorian indigenous native.

Today the San Juanito is played with a variety of indigenous instruments such as the rondador ( a small panpipe), the pinguillo (a type of flute), the bandolin (a type of chordophone), and the dulzaina (a intstrument similar to an oboe). These are joined by foreign instruments such as the guitar, quena (a reed flute), drums, zampoñas (a type of panpipe), etc. as well as electronic instruments, which give it a modern style.

Various hypotheses exist regardging the origins of the San Juanito. According the the musicologist Segundo Luis Moreno, the San Juanito has a pre-Columbian origin in the province of Imbabura. Others agree that the San Juanito emerged in what today is San Juan de Iluman, which belongs to the Canton Otavalo region, and derives its name from the fact that it is danced at festivals in honor of Saint John the Baptist. Lively and joyful San Juanitos are called Saltashpa.

For the indigenous native of Ecuador, dancing the San Juanito expresses a communal message of unity, feeling, identity, and relationship with Mother Earth (Pacha mama).

For the mestizo, dancing San Juanito conveys a message of joyful enthusiasm and national identity.

Today the San Juanito is a part of the repertoire of various traditional festivals and social gatherings across the country. During lively festivals, dancers showcase their best moves and dance forming circles and small trains of people.

Among the best indigenous groups of Otavalo who investigate, perform, and share the San Juanito at a national and international level are Chari Jayac and Ñanda Mañachi. The latter has been recognized by the National Congress of Ecuador for its brilliant musical career. Both groups have brought high praise to Ecuador and have made the San Juanito famous. (www.balletandinoecuador.org)