Officially, Carnaval is not until Tuesday but millions of Ecuadorians have been partying hardy since last Thursday.
The celebration began Thursday night in Cuenca, when an estimated 7,000 crowded into Parque Calderon for the annual Noche de los Compadres and Comadres when friends and strangers battled each other with spray foam and water. This year’s celebration was also attended by a gang of cell phone thieves who managed to lift as many 100 phones from the pockets of partiers (click for details).
On Friday, the Amistad Club and the Union of Journalists of Azuay sponsored their annual carnaval parade on Calle Simon Bolivar. As on Thursday, parade participants were treated to blasts of spray as they passed along the street.
Many Ecuadorians head to Ambato, Quito and Guaranda for Carnaval, known for putting on the country’s best shows. Ambato and Quito are famous for their large parades, Guaranda for its ribald parties and the potent home brew, Pájaro Azul.
For Cuencanos and tens of thousands of other residents of the sierra, Carnaval is time to head to the beach. An estimated 50,000 Azuayans are at the coast for the long holiday weekend. Among the top destinations are Salinas, which expects 150,000 visitors and Manta, which will host an estimated 250,000.