April 1 isn't April Fools Day in Cuenca. Rather, it's the launch day of several weeks of parades, art shows, concerts, fiestas, and the kind of partying that goes on in a city that's celebrating its founding a mere 454 years ago (in 1557, partly on an existing Inca settlement).
This particular parade began at Plaza San Blas on the eastern edge of El Centro and rocked and rolled right through downtown, ending up, appropriately, at Plaza San Sebastian, on the western edge of the historic district.
It was almost entirely estudiantes from the city's schools and academies and colegios, marching, playing instruments, dancing, and having a total blast.
The stiltwalkers are perennial favorites.
So is dancing with and courting bright-eyed, wide-grinned, toquilla-hatted, big-headed señoritas.
There's a bicycle with 10-foot front forks in every crowd.
Of course, what would a parade be without beauty queens decorated with DVDs imparting inspirational messages (loosely translated: "To save the planet, turn out lights you don't use") …
Or a drum corps pounding out driving rhythms …
Or spectators in white-face becoming part of the show?
Las señoritas, still wide-eyed and smiling, take a siesta after the fiesta …
… and the street sweeper gives thanks that she doesn't have to clean up after horses and bears and elephants.