Cuenca’s foundation celebration went into high gear on Thursday as parades, crafts shows, food fairs, concerts and fireworks marked the 456th observation of the day the Spanish founded the city. The celebration continues through the weekend.
City officials estimate that as many as 100,000 will turn out for the festivities between Thursday and Sunday. They say that all hotel rooms in the city are booked.
Craft and food fairs are located in several areas of the city, particularly near the historic district. Fairs are open until Sunday at Otorongo Plaza, Parque San Blas, Santo Domingo Plaza, Cemuart at San Francisco Plaza, Esquina de las Artes, the Barraco, Parque Paraíso and Chaguarchimbana Plaza, to name a few. There will be parades on Friday and Saturday and concerts and fireworks in several locations. Vice President Lenin Moreno and several Ecuadorian cabinet members are in town for the festivities.
Historians, by the way, point out that a sizeable community existed in the area centuries before the Spanish gave it its current name, officially and long-windedly, Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca. The Cañari city of Guapondeleg was established almost 2,000 years ago and was replaced by the Incan city of Tomebamba, 60 years before the arrival of the Spanish.
Property and petty crime rates drop in Cuenca
Ecuador’s National Police report that Cuenca home and business burglaries have dropped dramatically within the past year. Figures for the first three months of 2013 show a 43% drop from the same period a year ago. For the 12-month period, the rate dropped 24%.
Police chief Germán Cevallos also says that reported incidents of street crime, such as pick-pocketing, cell phone theft and muggings have also dropped by more than 30%. He pointed out, however, that petty crime often goes unreported and that statistics are suspect.
Cervallos credits new police tactics, including the addition of more police patrols in high crime neighborhoods, as a factor in the new statisitics. “The national government has made it a priority to reduce crime in the country and we have added thousands of new law officers in recent months," Cervallos said. In Cuenca, 227 civilian traffic officers who graduated last week from a six-week training program, will assume duties previously performed by police officers, freeing up time for crime prevention.
"These measures, in addition, to the ECU911 program and neighborhood crime watches are having an impact, ” Cervallos added.
‘Noise Map’ project aims at reducing the decibel level
Cuenca’s Environmental Management Commission has developed a map to track noise levels in the city. The project is based on World Health Organization recommendations for acceptable urban noise levels, which it says should average no more than 65 decibels, with levels near hospitals, schools and churches being no higher than 50.
Catalina Alban, who oversaw development of this map, says that in the city is using it to monitor noise levels at 30 locations, taking measurements five times a day. According to Alban, decibel levels recorded so far are in the 75 to 79 range, and need to be reduced.
Vehcicle noise is the biggest problem, according to Alban, followed by car and house alarms and late night music.
Although Cuenca has an anti-noise ordinance on the books, according to Alban, it was adopted in 1993 and fines for violators are denoted in Sucres, the currency that was replaced by the U.S. dollar in 1999. She says the ordinance is still functional but it needs updating. Her office has asked the Cuenca Cantonal Council to review the original provisions.
“After they do that,” says Alban, "we need to start enforcing the law."