By Sylvan Hardy
If Friday’s Pase del Niño didn’t measure up to previous parades in size, it made up for it in piety and fun.
Instead of a seven- or eight-hour procession, it lasted a little over an hour. Instead of 100 floats, there were 23. Instead of 24,000 participants, there were maybe 1,500. Instead of 60,000 onlookers, there were an estimated 15,000.
For the faithful, however, the reduced numbers didn’t matter. In fact, the smaller size let them get closer to the likeness of Jesus, the Niño Viajero, and some of the devout walked beside the open car carrying the sacred statue for the length of the parade.
For those who came for the fun and spectacle, little was missing. There were the children dressed to the nines in hand-made costumes, Joseph and Mary and mounted wise men, marching bands, beauty queens and dancing devils.
Several expats participated and several others were pulled off the sidewalk to dance with the diablos and campesinos.
Based on pandemic precautions, the parade took an alternative route, heading east down Calle Mariscal Sucre, turning at Plaza San Blas and then proceeding west on Simon Bolivar. A late decision allowed the dancing troupes, a few horses and about 50 participants on foot. Under the original parade plan, only vehicles were allowed by the national Emergency Operations Committee.
The parade began with the traditional mass at the cathedral, where the Niño was placed in the lead vehicle, accompanied by a National Police attaché, and driven to the parade staging area near Otorongo Plaza. He was followed by a tourist bus loaded with church and community dignitaries and an open truck of journalists, mostly photographers.
One parade organizing committee member said she was “overjoyed” with the parade and the turnout. “We didn’t know what to expect because of the pandemic and because there was no parade last year,” said Rosa Ortiz. “We are overjoyed with today’s event. The weather was wonderful and people had fun. Most important, we were able to honor and praise our baby Jesus once again.”
The Niño Viajero, the parade’s namesake, is a 1823 sculpture of the infant Jesus commissioned by Cuencano Josefa Heredia from an unknown local artist. When the sculpture came into the possession of Cuenca Monsignor Miguel Cordero Crespo more than a century later, he 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.
Photos by Graciela Quinde