By Teresa Drake
When you are strangers in a strange land, how do you break the ice to show that you are just like the people in your new home country? How do you convince them that you are approachable and live, love and laugh just as they do? You enter into one of the biggest parades of the year, the Day of the Innocents Parade.
Thanks to Expats with Kazoos, a group of enthusiastic expats who received a permit to march in the Day of Innocents Parade. This was a major mile stone in that up until Expats with Kazoos approached the Municipality, no non-Ecuadorians had been given a permit to join the parade. The governing powers were also intrigued by the kazoo, as they are not that well known in Cuenca.
After months of practice, plus a flash mob held on November 1, 2018, we were ready, albeit apprehensive, to do the parade. On January 6, 2019, Expats with Kazoos met in San Blas Plaza to prepare for our entry into the parade and to meet up with Fishbon, who would be joining our group and had two floats. While waiting to meet up with the other entries, the gaily dressed, costumed, expats were flooded with requests to have pictures taken with them. Congratulations were given on getting into the spirit of the parade. Emotions and energy were riding high and even a brief rainstorm could not dampen the spirits of Expats with Kazoos.
Then came the time to go meet up with Fishbon and take our place in line, we were number 17 out of 27 entries. The crowds were unbelievable and trying to make your way through them to get to where we needed to be was a lot like salmon swimming upstream. Once in place, we unfurled our banner, which identified our group, and began the slow magical walk up the citizen packed streets. At times, the spectators caused the passage to be so narrow, one could not help but wonder if we would make it through.
The colors of the various entries, their performances, and the details of the floats took ones breath away. There seemed to be a big Star Wars and Road Warrior theme complete with battles taking place on stilts. The size of the crowd created a festive atmosphere that screamed party time.
When Expats with Kazoos broke out with Cholla Cuenca, the crowd went wild with applause, whistles and expressions of pleased surprise. That song was a huge hit and one that, by the end of the parade, I knew I would be hearing in my sleep. At one point, a large portion of the spectators broke out in song to sing along with our kazoo rendition. We would shout out “viva Cuenca,” and got the people to join in and try to top the loudness of the other side of the street.
Towards the end of the parade, when we shouted out Viva Cuenca, the crowd shouted back “Viva Gringos!” That brought tears to my eyes and warmed the heart of those of us who had walked the talk. The parade made Cuencans and Gringos all part of one big happy community who came together for one magical evening of fun and togetherness.
Many thanks to Expats with Kazoos, to Fishbon for its floats and high energy and to all the parade participants who went that extra mile to make the experience one to remember. We are especially thankful for the chance to show the community that we can laugh at ourselves and to Cuenca for not only allowing us to participate in their parade, but for making us truly feel part of the community and making us feel like we were “home.”