As it has been for years, Cuenca’s independence holiday is the biggest celebration of the year. This year, however, the event carries extra significance as the city tries to put the protests of October, some of them violent, behind.
Festivities get underway today honoring the city’s 199th anniversary of independence from Spain. Tourism officials expect crowds of more than 140,000 to attend events during the four-day weekend.
The biggest 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. This year’s featured exhibit is from Mexico, set up in the courtyard.
According to CIDAP officials, several bulk buyers of crafts from Europe and North America will attend this year’s craft fairs for the first time. “These are people representing large organizations and companies and they are coming because they know that this is one of the largest crafts show in the world,” says Maria Fernandez, CIDAP board member. “Of course there will also be thousands of people buying for their personal collections.”
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; The PRAC Artisans Plaza; Santo Domingo Plaza; Esquina de las Artes; Parque de la Madre; Otorongo Plaza; Rotary Market; Centro Chaguarchimbana on Calle de las Herrerias; and the Otorongo Plaza.
After earlier concerns that holiday attendance would suffer as a result of the protests, local tourism officials believe that the numbers may be the best ever. “People are ready for a break and ready to have fun,” says Juan Miller, tourism office spokesman. “The hotels are now expecting almost full occupancy, a big change from expectations of a couple weeks ago.”
For a full agenda of holiday events, see the festival agenda.