The biggest problem tourists and Cuenanos face during Cuenca’s four-day independence celebration is deciding which crafts and food fairs to visit and what concerts, performances and parades to attend.
There are 25 officially recognized crafts and food fairs set up around the city and dozens of informal fairs. Besides that, there about 100 performance events, highlighted by Saturday’s Ricky Martin concert at Alejandro Serrano Aguilar stadium. And, if you don’t mind a little curb-greasing, there are six or seven parades, including Saturday morning’s big military parade on Av. Huayna Capac.
Cuenca holidays kicked off Wednesday with two parades on Calle Simon Bolivar, the election of the queen of Cuenca, and fireworks shows in five locations. From Thursday through Sunday, the focus is on the crafts fairs which fesitval officials call the largest crafts sale event in South America.
The biggest and most impressive fair is at CIDAP (Inter-American Folk Arts and Crafts Association) on Tres de Noviembre at the Escalinatas, which fill the CIDAP courtyard and covers the banks of the Tomebamba River from the base of Calle Hermano Miguel to the bridge at Calle Benigno Malo. The craftspeople chosen for the fair are vetted by the CIDAP board of directors, with only half of the applicants invited to participate. This year, they come from nine Latin American countries as well as Thailand and Poland.
CIDAP vendors also represent crafts from all parts of Ecuador, including several indigenous Amazon communities.
Other major crafts and food fairs are at Otorongo Plaza; Calle Santa Ana; San Luis Seminary courtyard (next to the cathedral); Casa Chaguarchimbana on Calle de las Herrerias; the Rotary Market and Civic Plaza on Calle Sangirima; Parque de Miraflores; Plaza de la Merced; Casa de las Posadas; and many more.
The best way to keep up with the action is to pick up the holiday agenda at local iTur offices or in hotels and restaurants. It is also available online at the city government website.
In all, holiday event organizers say that 3,000 crafts vendors will peddle their wares during the 4-day holiday.
Tourism officials estimate that the festival will attract 100,000 tourists and 200,000 Cuencanos.