Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Carnaval is celebrated from Friday until Tuesday before Ash 

Wednesday.  No buses,  few taxi's, most stores and banks closed.

Big celebration here in Cuenca!





Quito Carnival
Quito Carnival
In Ecuador the most representative carnivals take place in Guaranda and in Ambato, the Flowers and Fruits carnival. It should be emphasized that throughout the inter-Andean area the cañari carnival is celebrated, there’s always a mythical character called the “Tayta Carnaval“, which is the master of the festival. Carnivals that gained a boost are the ones of Azuay, Gualaceo and Paute cantons which are organized around the riverbanks of Santa Barbara and Paute, also they draw the attention of a large number of domestic and foreign tourists.
In Ecuador due to its high indigenous population in the sierra, carnivals are celebrated with water, carnival foam, talcum powder or cornstarch to paint their faces or any type of paint plant type. Moreover is characterized by cheerfulness, music, dancing and parades with masks. The euphoria for wetting family and friends comes over all people during Carnival, to the point that it becomes a light latent danger. Hence, efforts to transform this party have been constant and systematic.
It is said that the roots of Ecuadorian Carnival are linked to the end of the solar year, an indigenous feast, or Paucar Huatay, one of the four largest of the year. In other words, Carnival is the culmination of the agricultural cycle and the opening of another. In the Andean region, for example, is a community festival that strengthens the sense of organization. The Carnival of the mestizos, in contrast with indigenous rituals, ends with the beginning of Lent.
While in the city there is a devotion to the Child Jesus and masses multiply on the eve of Carnival,, besides singing the songs and play with dust and water is conserved.
Despite everything, Carnival has the power to bring people together. It does this through three common elements: food, water and couplets.


Water usage appears from Mexico to Chile. Furthermore, in the Andean cultures water is life, the blood of the earth. Then, play carnival, without exaggeration, has a sense of approaching the opposite sex, especially in adolescence. And that is projected to affirm the temperament, the image of man-woman-family.
For one example: in Cacha (Chimborazo) youths gather and ask permission to the elders of the community to come out and play carnival. Start a procession in search of unmarried; in chaquiñanes the drum, the rondin or the garrocha are played … Then comes the drink.


During the festival food is a must and generosity is everywhere. No surprisingly it is a ceremony to restore community ties.
In some villages in the mountains is customary to make the Jucho (a special drink “colada” made of cornstarch or cornmeal, capulí, pepper and cinnamon) and sweet figs with black grated panela.
Main dishes are usually, fritada with corn and ripe bananas, guinea pigs or rabbits with potatoes and peanut sauce or pepa de sambo, the stew with the sacrifice of pigs.
While in the villages of the Costa the dishes are made with fish (encocado, for example).


The speech of the songs can feel a sense of belonging to their place of origin, through an emotional relationship that largely has been affirmed from Carnival.
Then, while singing the coplas the carnavaleros develop a distinct and particular way of telling the story of the community. This establishes a double opposition between orality and writing as well as between the official and the carnival (popular).


But the most famous, prestigious and famous Carnaval is the Carnival of Guaranda which takes place in the capital of the Bolivar Province, located 4 hours from Quito, rich in traditions reflects the syncretism between the religious and the indigenous.In the so-called “Desfile de la Alegría”, where thousands of peasants occupy the central streets of Guaranda, the groups evoke the “Taita Carnaval” (Father Carnival in Quechua language), which is the main character of the festival and who personifies the junction between the Spanish and indigenous culture while on the edge of the streets thousands of tourists applaud the parades, whom often offer visitors the traditional “pájaro azul” a hard liquor emerged from the distillation of a boiled cane,hen, orange leaves and various herbs, some of them secret among farmers who produce it.
The carnavaleros in Guaranda also play the traditional water game where each other is wet, again and again, and then heated with dancing and liquor. However, water play has been tried to reduce by the authorities to not waste so much water, and instead carnival foams are encouraged to be used.Some Ecuadorian historians claim that the traditional use of water comes from colonial times when the Spaniards encouraged indigenous slaves to purify their bodies, although with the passing of time it was turned into a game involving everyone.Another important carnival in Ecuador is held in the city of Ambato, called the land of the three Juanes: Juan Montalvo, Juan León Mera and Juan Benigno Vela. It is a celebration that unlike the rest of Ecuador where the festivities of the Carnivals have a uniqueness and peculiarity, because the traditional game with water and carnival foam has been changed for alternatives with much colour and joy, as parades with floats, artistic performances, fireworks, fairs offering traditional dishes, craft shows, serenades, crowning of queens, bullfights, theatre shows, etc. Year after year, the intensity of the party is increasing, several elements have been incorporated and an outpouring of joy and healthy entertainment is easily permeated over ambateños and tourists.
The acculturation of the carnival is a success that has allowed the party to acquire greater significance as well as the Festival of Folklore and Bullfighting make the Feast of ambateños an important reference in the tourist visit to South America. The festival is a manifestation of culture and fun that year after year brings thousands of tourists to Ecuador.
Ambato offers visitors beautiful places with beautiful landscapes, places of tradition, culture and several programs organized by the districts and institutions of the city.
Although similar festivities take place in every corner of the country. In the Chota Valley in the province of Imbabura, in the northern Andes, home to one of the largest black communities in the country, the carnival is celebrated with “Bomba,” a rhythm and dance that collects inhabitants African traditions.
There are also carnival celebrations in other Andean cities like Quito, Machachi, Riobamba, Loja and Azuay Province; as well as in the Amazon Provinces of Puyo and Macas.
In almost all towns and cities of Ecuador the water game is practiced but with less intensity than in previous years because what is intended is enculturate this game and provide alternative entertainment, although many Ecuadorians take advantage of the bank holidays to go to the heavenly beaches in the Ecuadorian coast where besides of the celebration of water, foam and balloons; cultural celebrations are held in the area like the case of Esmeraldas where international festivals from African American cultures are performed in places like “La calle 8″ and the Balneario Las Palmas. In Guayaquil, the largest and most populous city in Ecuador, known as the “Pearl of the Pacific” is performed since 2008, the Carnival of Guayaquil, thanks to the initiative of the Most Illustrious Municipality has promoted a culture festival. Various activities involving children, youth and adults, have accomplished this event to constitute a tourist and cultural event of major nationwide. Art shows, parades with floats, comparsas and other activities, have made the image of a carnival game with water, ink, flour and oil to end vanishing with the pouring of water…

Sunday, February 22, 2015

                                                       Bob's debut directing in Cuenca

Friday, February 20, 2015

Our first Christmas in Ecuador

To tourists and foreign residents, Cuenca's Christmas Eve “Pase del Niño” parade, or Passing of the Child, is a colorful, often bizarre, mixture of the sacred and the profane. To locals, it is a time-honored Christian festival of thanksgiving and homage that combines Catholic and indigenous traditions. Everyone agrees that it’s a lot of fun.

The eight-hour-plus procession features floats and decorated cars, many festooned with flowers, fruits and vegetables, empty beer cans and liquor bottles, roasted pigs and chickens. There are also bands, dancers and street performers, stilt-walkers and various Biblical characters. In recent years, the Three Wise Men have made an appearance on Harley Davidsons and Mary and Joseph have cart-wheeled the length of Calle Simon Bolivar. Everywhere there are children dressed in elaborate homemade costumes.

Introduced to Latin America by the Spanish almost 500 years ago, the Pase del Niño is a Christmas celebration in which likenesses of the infant Jesus are carried through towns and villages. In Ecuador, the tradition remains strongest in the Andean region. Organizers of the Cuenca parade claim that it is the largest Pase del Niño in all of Latin America; as many as 50,000 will participate in the procession, with about 200,000 more watching from sidewalks, balconies and rooftops.

The parade is actually a collection of hundreds of smaller parades, according to José Washington Noroña, one of the event's organizers. “Every neighborhood and town will have its own parade with its own entries. Each will carry its own statue of the Christ child. This is something that communities plan for the entire year.” Although most entries are from Cuenca and the surrounding area, some come from as far away as Loja in the south, as well as Otavalo and Ibarra in the north, says Noroña.

Although the Christmas Eve parade may be the main event, the Pase del Niño celebration is a three-month-long activity, beginning the first Sunday after Advent and continuing to Carnival in early March. The tradition also includes Novenas, nine consecutive nights of song, food and prayer, celebrated in homes and churches. On Christmas Eve, the “Misa del Gallo,” or Rooster Mass, is celebrated in the Cathedral and local churches. Besides Pase del Niño celebrations, Christmas in Cuenca also features nightly firework shows, concerts and craft sales.

Organizers say that the parade represents a strong connection to the United States. “Ecuadorians who live in the U.S. are major contributors to the parades,” says Noroña. “Those who have done well there send money as thanks for their safe passage and their success.”

The U.S influence is evident in many of the parade entries. Children wear cowboy outfits and such personalities as Bart Simpson and Richard Nixon, dressed up as Santa Claus, have made parade appearances. No matter the origin of the characters, Noroña says that the organizers try to keep the focus religious. “We don't dictate what participants can do, but we try to keep the focus on the birth of Christ. Last year, I saw a man dressed as Sponge Bob and thought he was a little out of place.”

The centerpiece of Cuenca's parade is an 1823 sculpture of the infant Jesus that was commissioned by Cuencan Josefa Heredia from an unknown artist. When the sculpture came into the possession of Cuenca Monsignor Miguel Cordero Crespo more than a century later, the Monsignor took it to the Holy Land and Rome in 1961, where it was blessed by Pope John XXIII. After the journey and the anointment, the statute became known as Niño Viajero, or Traveling Child, and has been the parade´s main attraction ever since.

The parade begins at about 10 a.m. on Christmas Eve and continues well into the afternoon. It begins at Iglesia Corazón de Jesus on Calle Gran Colombia and proceeds east down Simon Bolivar, ending a few blocks beyond Parque Calderon.

Along the parade route and in nearby parks and plazas, hundreds of vendors sell traditional foods, cotton candy, ice cream and candy. There are also several distribution points for chicha, a traditional holiday beverage; it´s free, but beware that the alcohol content is high.

The Christmas Even parade is organized and run by the Comisión Pastoral Niño Viajero, led by Cuenca Monsignor Gerardo Cabrera. In addition to individual contributions, the event is supported by major donors, or priostes. According to Noroña, the largest donor is Cuenca's Catholic University and its rector, Padre Cesar Cordero, nephew of Monsignor Miguel Cordero Crespo.

Please forgive my limited adjectives when it comes to describing everything we've seen and done this holiday season.  I am still in awe.............
The parades, foods and general celebrations are so much fun.
Following are pictures from the children's parade on Christmas Eve:
There were so many people that Bob had to hold the camera up so he could get pictures. 

 Families, including grandparents and babies joined in the parade.

I think Bob took 175 pictures - 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cuenca November 3rd 2014

Aerial shot of Cuenca. 194 years ago today, the city declared 

its independence from the Spanish Crown. Cuenca would 

achieve full independence in 1822. The city's full name is

 Santa Ana de los Cuatro Ríos de Cuenca. It was a Spanish

 tradition to dedicate a new city in the name of a saint, in this 

case, to Santa Ana. 

Last night parade and fireworks

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Artesian show in Cuenca

During the 3 day holiday in Cuenca (as I talked about in the previous blog), artisans come from all over Ecuador, Peru and Columbia to show their wares.  Miles of tents clan be seen up and down both sides of the Rio Tomebamba.

Tents, tents and tents

 This man, dressed all in black, is from Saragura, where we visited on the way to Vilcabamba.

 Hand made musical instruments

 Translated it reads: Symbolism of the story of the dead altar.
Below is an altar  dedicated tot he dead.

Flower pedals over the ground - people stopped to pray.

Just a beautiful (80 degrees) day in Cuenca.  Another reason we love it here.

We did not attend the parade today but a friend took these pictures which I thought was so cute.

Halloween in Ecuador - Gringo style.

We were invited to a party by a friend.   My friend's husband, their daughter and son-in-law and 11 children were all going.  Then they invited a couple more friends -  which prompted them to hire a bus to take us all there.  The home where the party was is about 10 minutes from the center of town but with the holiday traffic it took us 1/2 hr. November 1st to the 3rd is a major holiday in Cuenca.  The celebration of their Independence from Spain - coincides with the Day of the Dead on Nov. 2nd.  That's the day the Ecuadorians go to the cemetery to wash and clean the headstones and have family gatherings,  They picnic and sing and celebrate the dead.  Never to be forgotten!

Now on to the party.  The home is owned by an ex-pat family with 2 teenage girls.  The grounds of the home accommodated about 150 people who attended the party.
Most everyone was in costume.  The children were charming and costumed in very creative and some very original costumes.

Here's a selections of photos showing the grounds of the home, the never-ending food and drink and the great costumes.

Everything but the food was outside.

Bus trip to party.

Decorated court yard around house.

Lots of food - more tables in another room.

Party scenes

My knitting buddy and her husband

Even the babies were in costume 

Marilyn and Roger (the friends that invited us to the party) 

Bob's favorite food - deviled eggs

Even ECUADOR GEORGE was there!

My favorite costume - Candy Kiss - so cute.
The guy on the right with the hat came as a GRINGO!