Big crowds celebrate Carnaval in Cuenca and Quito but tourist numbers are down on the coast
Attendance of Carnaval holiday events show a stark contrast in cities in Ecuador’s sierra and on the coast. “This was expected given the national emergency and longer curfews in Guayaquil, Manta and other locations near the ocean,” said Tourism Ministry spokeswoman Tania Miller. “The fear of violence has kept some people home.”
In Cuenca, an estimated 15,000 attended Saturday morning’s Carnaval parade, more than double the number police expected. “We were surprised by the crowd but fortunately there were no problems,” said Police Captain Jorge Luque. “We are providing extra personnel throughout the holidays and don’t anticipate any trouble.”
Thousands of residents and tourists are expected to attend Cuenca Carnaval events through Tuesday.
National Police also report large crowds in Quito, at the annual Carnaval parade, concerts, and various food and crafts fairs. As in Cuenca, police say the holiday has been peaceful.
Local officials describe a different scene in Guayaquil, Manta and Esmeraldas. “The turnout has been disappointing,” says Carlos Gómez of the Manabí tourist association. “We understand the reason for the depressed numbers but we were hoping for more, even with the curfew,” he said Sunday. “We believe attendance will pick up Monday and Tuesday.”
On the El Murciélago beach in Manta, most Carnaval vendors decided against setting up the traditional “tent city” offering food and crafts. “There is still a great amount of fear and not many tourists are coming,” says restaurant owner Graciela Ortiz. “The situation has improved because of the army being on the streets but people are still afraid to go out. We decided to skip the holiday this year.”