Vendors were selling food, cans of foam, and hats (including umbrella hats)
Carnaval has traditionally been celebrated in various towns outside of Cuenca, so we decided to check out the Sunday parade in Gualaceo, about 45 minutes away. The parade was much larger than Cuenca's, with some elaborate floats, performances by dance groups. There were also food tents, a ferris wheel and merry-go-round along the Rio Gualaceo to celebrate after the parade. The vendors not only sold foam, squirt guns, umbrellas and hats; they also sold plastic buckets, and we saw kids soaked in their t-shirts with water.
There were several elaborate floats in the parade.
And plenty of marching bands...
...along with many dance groups and schools.
Kids were having a good time, whether eating ice cream or squirting foam
Several beauty queens rode floats, while other masked characters were on horseback
The crowds enjoyed the parade, while some doused passers-by with water from roof tops (upper row)
After the parade, we went to the Gualaceo market, and had cuy (guinea pig) and hornado (pork) for lunch
During our first Cuenca Carnaval in 2012, the city was practically deserted. In those days, Carnaval in Cuenca consisted solely of roving kids with squirt guns and occasional buckets of water from balconies overhead in El Centro. More events have been added each year, and this year there were parades and events going on every day. This was the second year of the Carnaval Orquídea parade starting from Parque San Blas, running to San Sebastián along Simón Bolivar, organized by the Prefectura de Azuay to promote tourism.
Squirt guns have been largely replaced with cans of espuma (foam) in recent years. Last year's Carnaval Orquídea parade had a smattering of foam at the end, but this year the cans were out in full force from the very start.
There were a few floats in the parade, including a double decker tourist bus.
And lots of music
Wherever there is a fiesta, kids are always in attendance
Though many parade marchers tended to be older
Thanks to the "blue army" (lower right) that follows every celebration, Cuenca is the cleanest city we have seen.
In recent years, Cuenca has celebrated Godparent's Day with a foam party in Parque Calderon, in the center of town. Cans of foam ("espuma") come out at 5:00, and the entire park becomes a slip-and-slide zone within minutes. In past years, we walked over to the parque later in the evening, when teenagers were in abundance. We decided to go earlier this year, partially for better photography light. We discovered that the younger kids dominate the scene when the foam party first starts.
The adults involved in this earlier time were mostly parents or grandparents of the kids. A few of them had foam cans of their own, but more were covered with foam as they watched the fun. And yep, that is me in the lower right. Taking any photographs in the war zone was a constant shoot-wipe-shoot cycle to keep the lens clean enough to use!
Godparents had their own small parade. Whether they had their own cans of foam or not, they were quickly covered. Firemen were on hand (upper left), and the military provided music (upper right). Evelyn (lower right) managed to stay on the periphery and survived the evening with only minimal foam. Last year, Evelyn was carrying one of the humongous cans of espuma, and wondering why she was targeted by all of the kids and adults.
We have been amazed how the Carnaval celebration has evolved over the past few years in Cuenca -- 3 years ago, the entire city was a ghost town as all the inhabitants left for the coast, and now there's a huge party, parades and even some restaurants stay open for this holiday. The evening ended around 11:00 PM with the best choreographed fireworks we have seen in Ecuador.
I rarely show photo or video work from others in my blog, but am making an exception today. I came across this fascinating 3 minute video today about the area. It is actually a commercial commissioned by Turkish Airlines. I definitely think it is worth seeing...
Every January 6, Cuenca celebrates the Day of the Innocents with a parade that combines satire, political and social commentary. It is variously called the Fools Parade, Inocentes Parade, or Masquerades Parade. This was originally a religious event commemorating King Herod's death sentence for all new-born boys after the birth of Christ, though Cuenca's version has evolved into a fun-filled costume party combining April Fool's Day, Carnaval, and Halloween, with some politics thrown into the mix.
Our first time seeing this parade was in 2013, when we found it definitely unique among the festivities we had seen previously. 2014 followed with a large number of men dressed in drag. 2015 saw a definite subdued political satire, as President Correa had just put through a law making it illegal to make fun of political leaders, and most groups were clearly worried about crossing that line.
The local newspaper reported that there were three times as many entrants in the contest as in past years. However we only captured the first hour of the festivities starting at 6:00 PM, as the party continued well into the night with many arriving after 8:30 PM. This year, the University of Cuenca won the Mascaradas 2017 contest prize of $4,000. The $3,000 second prize was awarded to the University of Azuay for their skit that included zombies dancing to Michael Jackson's song, Thriller, making fun of the obsessive use of electronic devices and social networks.
Every year there are groups that come through where we can recognize the parody... and then there are numerous ones where we just shrug our shoulders and wonder what the heck they are referring to. One repeating theme this year was Ruliman. Who is Ruliman, you ask? hmmm... I am still asking that too... ☺ I have since read several articles that talk about the Ecuadorian government creating a solidarity hero called Solimán. Ruliman is a character from a local voice impersonator named Santiago Illescas. The crowd cheered every time a float or group came by with the Ruliman theme, but I still don't understand why...
There were numerous groups led by floats or banners. Sometimes we knew what they meant. For example, the upper left is complaining about the Tranvia light rail project in Cuenca that is running more than a year late and well over budget, partly due to political maneuvering and mismanagement. Lower right says "Water is love and parties. Gold is death and the demon." This one is objecting to massive gold mines that have recently been opened in the Amazon. Upper right is telling people to "never forget" Cuenca traditions. Another skit with caskets reminded everyone of the many famous people who passed away the past year.
Many groups traveled in costumes, all matching a single theme.
Superheroes were in plentiful supply.
Masks and elaborate face paint was common, and many were quite well done.
As with all large parades like this, the police and Red Cross were on hand as needed. I have never seen any disturbances at any of these events.
The audience is often as interesting as the parade itself, and tonight was no exception.
Just a last few more images that I particularly liked tonight, as the Inocents enjoyed their party.
As usual, politicians were mocked throughout the large neighborhood dioramas. Clinton, Obama and Trump were all represented from the States, plus an assortment of Ecuadorian political figures.
This was our fifth New Year's Eve in Ecuador. Except for 2015 in Salinas, we have spent each of them in Cuenca. Our first was at the end of 2012, and was easily the largest and most elaborate we have seen here. Each year since then has been smaller, and this year was much more subdued than any prior celebration. There were fewer elaborate dioramas, fewer manigotes (effigies), fewer fireworks, fewer cars decorated with their manigotes and fewer people walking around el Centro. There were supposedly 19 entries for the annual neighborhood Amistad Club contest, however with no map nor addresses published, people walked to their favorite spots looking lost and saying "nada".
Given the vitriol that Trump spewed towards Latin Americans, it was not surprising that he was a major target of ridiculing.
There were a smattering of other manigotes around town, some humorous, but most poking fun at various politicos.
There were a few cars driving around with their manigotes tied to the roof or bumper, but far fewer than past years.
As always, food was plentiful. There was even tripe (3rd row right) this year, and a manigote of a woman cooking cuy (2nd row left).
There was the usual collection of characters and toll collectors having fun.
Kids were enjoying themselves, whether climbing trees (middle left) or reading a tablet (upper right), or playing with sparklers.
Many families started burning their own manigotes before midnight this year.
Though the large neighborhood bonfires started at midnight, which has been the tradition. However, it did not feel like a war zone of numerous fires this year, as it has in the past.
The smaller crowds enjoyed the ritual of burning bad thoughts from the past year, and starting the new year fresh.
As we arrived home, our neighbors were preparing to launch their globo (paper sky lantern written with all the hopes they wished for in the new year, such as "salud, dinero, amistad, familia...) Though now formally discontinued in town, after 2 churches caught fire in 2013, this family has continued to launch one each New Year's Eve.
Peter Dudar, a gringo expat actively involved with various Ecuadorean charitable causes, led the parade as one of the Three Kings
The Christmas Eve el Pase del Niño (the passing of the child) parade is claimed by its organizers to be the largest in all of Latin America. This year, at least 100,000 people lined the streets to watch the celebration with a perfect mix of sun and clouds, compared to the heat in past years. This is our fifth year watching the celebration (prior years can be seen here -- 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 part 1, and 2015 part 2). The parades all follow the same schedule(with varying routes), with the transfer of the child from Iglesia El Carmen de la Asunción (the flower market) around 9:00 AM to Iglesia San Sebastien around 10:00 AM, when the parade officially starts. Then, around 4:00 PM following the dancers, horseback riders, marching bands, floats with boom boxes, the doll child is then escorted by soldiers and the bishop along Calle Simón Bolivar to Iglesia San Blas. This year, there were some expat entries, as all Ecuadoreans are represented in this celebration. The religious celebration is a 3-month long event, with numerous events at local schools, churches, and neighborhoods.
As always, we took a zillion photographs this year, so here is a flavor of how the day progressed:
The "traveling child" (upper left / bottom right) is the centerpiece of the parade, and numerous Baby Jesus dolls are carried throughout the parade.
Many more women than men participate in the annual parade.
Many women marched along the parade route while carrying their babies.
The parade shows off the beautiful children of Ecuador.
Boys were often dressed as kings, shepherds or vaqueros, and painted mustaches were common.
Traditional masks appear regularly throughout the parade.
This year it seems that more kids were dressed as Santa Claus.
Chickens, cuy and pigs are often displayed. This year there was a goose in the mix too (top center).
The people watching the parade are often as interesting as the parade itself.
Police and military take part in the parade, and also help maintain order.
The local Catholic Bishop always rides with the Niño Viajero at the end of the parade. (There were two bishops on the float this year, the old and the new.)
The rain held off this year until shortly after the parade ended, then the sky opened up and helped us break the recent drought.
This week leading up to Christmas has been filled with holiday music in Cuenca. First we went to 2016 Christmas Candlelight Concert put on by the Cuenca International Chorale. In our opinion, this year was their best performance ever, and we especially enjoyed hearing Mara Gano. Kudos to the director, Andrea Lyman, accompanied by Sheila Johns and the entire chorale group. A couple days later, we got into the holiday spirit again with a special performance from Karen Kennedy and her daughter, Daniela, at the Jazz Society of Ecuador, a club just a few doors down from our condo.
Other music performances that we could have attended included a children's choir, two performances of the Cuenca symphony, Novenas, additional performances at the Jazz Society, the military band playing at Parque Calderon, a concert with the choral group from the conservatory performing with the Cuenca orchestra at the University of Cuenca, plus many more performances at several bars around town. All this within a single five day period! As always, there is no shortage of activities for us to choose from.
This was a Christmas song compilation by Karen Kennedy on Thursday evening, at the Jazz Society of Ecuador.
Silent Night was the closing song from the Christmas Candlelight Concert on Monday evening. And, here are some of the attendees with their candles, while waiting to exit the church.
Hard boiled eggs have been one of those things that seem so easy to make, yet are so hard to get "looking good." The yolk is often smushed to one side, and the outside white frequently looks like it was the survivor of a chain saw massacre. Yet there is hope!
- Eggs -- as many as you want, but don't crowd -- room temperature
- Ice for water bath after steaming
- Rotate eggs 180 deg for half hour prior to cooking, to center the yolk
- Boil water in a vegetable steamer. I have one I used for crab that I bought at Costco that works perfectly.
- Insert eggs into steamer basket.
- Steam for 12 min at sea level, or 14 min here in the Cuenca Andes of Ecuador
- Drop into an ice bath for 15 min. Do not leave too much longer, or the eggs will get hard.
- Crush the shells all the way around, and peel under running water.
- The results will be perfect eggs that look like they came from a cookbook (instead of the Chain Saw Massacre horror flick mine used to resemble!)
The "prep time" listed is actually the ice bath time. The only prep needed is to boil the water in the steamer.
Note that I actually found this recipe online. I have been using it for the last year or so, and it comes out as near to perfect as you can get. The original can be found here.
Last night was the Festival of Lights (Festival de Luces) at Santo Domingo Plaza in Cuenca. This is an annual event, honoring Our Lady of the Rosary. However, in past years, we always heard about it after the event. This was the first year we learned about the event in time to attend.
The schedule showed that the candles would start to be placed at 6PM. Since we know that almost all Ecuadorian events start late, I wandered over a few minutes past 6 -- only to discover that the setting up was already well under way, with students already 3 blocks from the church lining them up along the roadways. To my further surprise, every part of the schedule was almost exactly on time.
A mass was given at 7:00 PM, and doors opened about 6:30. I was able to enter and see the interior of the Santo Domingo church (above right column). I tried to also find stairs to the upper floors for an aerial view of the lights, but was stopped by a nun who told me "Está prohibido."
People started lighting the candles at 6:30 sharp. As the sun set and it became darker, many people with smiles on their faces had their photos taken among the candles.