The celebration of the 193rd anniversary of Cuenca’s independence from Spain begins today with crafts and food fairs and a performance of the Cuenca Symphony Orchestra. The celebration continues through Sunday.
Although the parades, dances, fireworks displays, food fairs, sporting events and nightly concerts make the most noise, the centerpiece of the celebration has always been the hundreds of artists and craftspersons from Cuenca and around South American, who display and peddle their work in the art fairs.
The biggest and most impressive crafts fair is at CIDAP (Inter-American Folk Arts and Crafts Association) on Tres de Noviembre at the Escalinatas, which will fill the CIDAP courtyard and cover the banks of the Tomebamba River from the base of Calle Hermano Miguel to the bridge at Calle Benigno Malo. The event includes artists from a dozen Latin American countries, in addition to Ecuador. The CIDAP fair got a jump on other festivities, opening this morning.
Other crafts fairs are at Plazoleta del Farol on Doce de Abril just west of University of Cuenca; the Broken Bridge on Tres de Noviembre; Santo Domingo Plaza; Esquina de las Artes; Parque de la Madre; Rotary Market; Centro Chaguarchimbana on Calle de las Herrerias; and the Otorongo Plaza.
In all, there will be more than 300 events during the festival and in the days that follow.
To keep up with events, pick up a copy of the holiday agenda at local restaurants and hotels. It’s also available at the iTur office on Parque Calderon.
Light rail display at Otorongo draws a crowd
Almost a thousand curious Cuenanos visited the rail cars and model station for the city’s new light rail system, officially called Tranvia de los Cuatro Rios. A times, there were lines to get into the rail cars and station.
There were videos and graphics in the cars and station, showing routes, how to buy tickets and special features of the new train. Visits were limited to 30 people for a maximum of five minutes.
Patricio Cordero, director of the project, said that the tranvia display will continue for six months and be open Monday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. during the Cuenca holidays.
The train design includes ramps for universal access and space for by bicycles, baby strollers and wheelchairs.
McDonald’s to pay fine, plant trees
The city of Cuenca and the owners of the new McDonald’s on Av. Florencia Astudillo have agreed on a settlement for illegal tree-cutting on Sunday night.
Despite a denial of the owners’ request to cut the trees next to the Av Astudillo sidewalk, workers removed the trees after dark on Sunday, apparently in an attempt to escape the notice of authorities. City officials were tipped off, however, and arrived on the scene just in time to see the second tree fall.
McDonald’s owners will replace the two trees that were removed and pay a fine of 400% of the government established base salary, or about $1,300. In addition, the owners will pay for the purchase and planting of 1,000 young trees of about 2 meters in height, on Paseo Tres de Noviembre, Doce de Abril and Diez de Agosto.
When construction was stopped, McDonald’s was within two weeks of its grand opening.
The McDonald’s franchise is owned by the Peña family through their company, Arcgold of Ecuador.
This weekend is not just for the living
Although Cuenca’s independence holidays will be in full swing on Saturday, Nov. 2, attracting tens of thousands of tourists and townspeople to hundreds of events, it is also a time to recognize the dead.
Thousands of Cuencanos will visit the city’s cemeteries November 2, the Day of the Dead, to sit and picnic at the graves of their friends and relatives. There will be religious masses, hot air ballons, serenades and even dances. Several cemeteries will sponsor candle light vigils.
Although the tradition is best known in Mexico, it is practiced throughout Latin America and is especially popular in Ecuador.
Stephen Segovia, manager of Cuenca’s municipal cemeteries said he expects between 15,000 and 20,000 visitors to cemeteries this year.
Day of the Dead festivities get started Friday afternoon at Parque Calderon, culminating with a mass at 7 p.m. celebrated by Archbishop Luis Cabrera. On Saturday a “Memory Memorial” mural, featuring messages and pictures for the dead, will be unveiled.
Photo captions: Street dancers during last year’s festivities; Tranvia on display at Otorongo Plaza; The grand opening of Cuenca’s new McDonald’s delayed by a week; Photo credit: El Tiempo, tranvia and McDonald’s.