Parades, crafts shows, races, fireworks and a thanksgiving mass at the new cathedral highlighted the 453rd anniversary of Cuenca’s Spanish founding on Monday.
Several thousand attended a mid-morning parade in the historic district. Marching bands and dance troupes from city schools were the main attraction, along with performers from a variety of civic organizations and indigenous groups.
Later, Cuenca Mayor Paul Granda delivered a “state of the city” speech, in which he noted the progress in protecting the city’s cultural heritage and on-going public works projects and promised to continue efforts to improve public transportation.
On Saturday, Cuencano Bryon Piedra upset Kenyan and Ethiopian runners in a 15k race that highlighted Cuenca’s International Athletic Festival. Piedra was modest in victory and credited Cuenca’s high altitude with giving him “home field advantage.” In the women’s 15k, Kenyan Amare Alene took top honors as expected.
Beginning the middle of last week, at least half a dozen craft and art shows were set up around the city and several of them continue today. The work of artisans from Peru and Colombia, as well as Ecuador, appeared to sell at a brisk pace.
On Sunday at Plaza El Farol, Australian tourist Ben Anderson showed off sweaters and handbags he had just purchased from vendors from Cuzco, Peru. “Before I left, my friends in Sydney were disappointed that I wasn’t going to Peru and couldn’t bring back stuff from Cuzco. This is great. I can make them happy without going to Peru.”
SAINT DON BOSCO'S RELICS VISIT CUENCA; SELESIAN FOUNDER WAS EDUCATION PIONEER IN LATIN AMERICA
The relics of Saint Giovanni Melchiorre (Don) Bosco attracted crowds estimated at 20,000 Friday, as they were carried through the streets of Cuenca. The 19th century Italian priest created the Catholic order of the Selesians, known for its work with poor Latin Americans, particularly the indigenous, and for establishing schools.
The visit of the urn containing Bosco’s bones and the wax replica of his body is the first to Ecuador. The urn traveled from Bosco’s home church in Turin, Italy, and will pass through six cities during its visit to Ecuador.
Students of Cuenca schools run by the Selesian order, including those from the Universidad Politecnica Salesiana, headed the procession that ended at the cathedral, where hundreds were gathered for a welcoming service. In his remarks, Cuenca mayor Paul Granda said that it was an honor for the city of Cuenca to welcome Bosco’s relics. “His wise and gentle hand has left a permanent mark not just on Cuenca and Ecuador but on all of Latin America.”
PRESIDENT CORREA RECEIVES UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AWARD
The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, has received the 2009 Outstanding Academic Achievement Award, given annually by the University of Illinois to an alumnus for his or her outstanding international career.
Correa received his masters degree in economics in 1999 and his Ph.D. in 2001, both from Illinois.
According to university officials, the award recognizes an international graduate who has helped his or her own country or the world through contributions to humanity, science, art or social welfare.
In his remarks, Correa paid tribute to the Illinois faculty who educated him and said he wanted to follow the high standards they had set. “My time at the university was one of the highlights of my life and has helped shape the philosophy of how I lead my life.” He added: “Now that I am fortunate enough to lead my home country of Ecuador, I try every day to apply the ideals that I learned here.”
Photo caption: The relics of Selesian founder, Saint Don Bosco, are carried through Cuenca's Parque de la Madre on Friday