Cuenca: The Traveling Child

This was our 6th year following the annual Christmas parade in Cuenca, and we wanted to show the annual parade from a different perspective. This year, Burt captured the parade from his drone at 150 feet above the gazebo at Parque Calderón, as seen above. Many visitors lined up along calle Simón Bolívar both inside and outside the barricades, leaving a passage of only 10′ for the participants to march.

Most people aren’t aware that Christmas Eve is a long day for Cuencanans. Evelyn decided to concentrate on capturing the pre-parade events at the beginning of the day. Many people start as early as 7:30 AM to attend mass.  The day ends with families getting together for their Christmas Eve dinners. The largest gathering is at the Catedral Nueva at Parque Calderón, where there was a military band and soldiers lined up on the steps leading to the church. The military are in charge of guarding the traveling child statue and a large front section of the church is reserved for the officers. At around 8:00 AM, the child statue is brought in and mass begins, led by the archbishop of Cuenca, Monseñor Marcos Pérez (upper right).

When mass ends, the traveling child is escorted from Catedral Nueva along calle Simón Bolívar to a resting place next to Iglesia San Sebastien. An angel leads the way from the church (upper left)  Along the way, the traveling child is handed off to various celebrities, including Cuenca’s mayor, Marcelo Cabrera (3rd row right),  prestigious family heads (3rd row left), the military lead, and finally the archbishop (lower left) who places the child on an altar surrounded by honored military in historic grenadier uniforms from Tarqui (lower right). At the end of the parade around 4 pm, the child is taken back along the parade route to her resting place, the Monastery del Carmen de la Asunción (next to the Flower Market), to culminate the event.

The opening procession route starts from Catedral Nueva along Calle Simón Bolívar around 9:45 AM, before the start of the official parade. This procession, to place the traveling child statue in its place of honor at the start of the official parade, is accompanied by angels, an honor guard on horseback (upper left), and the army marching bands.

Once the traveling child is set in place, the official parade begins after 10:15 AM going past Parque Calderón to Huayna Capac. It was estimated that more than 120,000 people attended this event this year. (Note that the population of Cuenca is approximately 600,000, so this means a turnout of more than 20%!)

The Pase del Nińo Viajero parade is actually a sequence of parades, where many neighborhood have their own groups that include bands, dancers and sometimes even floats.  Every such group always carries its own version of the Baby Jesus statue though, from its neighborhood church.  Many homes in Ecuador have a Baby Jesus statue too, and many of those are brought out for this parade (lower left).

This is a day dedicated to the children, so they are main stars of the parade. Before the parade begins, many parents can be seen getting their kids ready on their horses, checking the make up, jewelry, dresses. There is a long line, as many families wait their turn to enter the parade route.

Many people in the audience also take the opportunity to dress up.  Some will dress in their traditional,  native village costumes (upper row), while many others dress in religious costumes relating in one way or another to the birth of Jesus.

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