A national police captain who has been on duty at dozens of Pase del Niños says he has never seen as many expats and tourists watching and participating in the Christmas Eve parade. “There are many North Americans marching this year, something I have never seen before,” he said Carlos Ruiz. “There were thousands more watching.”
Ruiz added that most of the foreigners were easy to spot. “Almost all of them have cameras,” he said.
Thursday’s parade offered plenty of time for spectators, lasting almost two-hours longer than scheduled. Organizers said they believe it was the largest in the 100-plus years of the event.
Alice Martin, camera in hand, said she was attending her fourth Pase del Niño. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” she said, “I have three photo albums filled with pictures and I’m working on my fourth,” she said, tapping her Nikon.
The parade was the first for Matthew Ellis, who recently moved to Cuenca from Toronto. “This is one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I read that it’s the sacred and the profane and that pretty much says it all. In fact, it reminds me of Mardi Gras.” Ellis was also taking pictures, mostly of the costumed children but said he was keeping an eye on the women too. “There are some pretty mamas out there,” he said.
Ellis’s companion, Becky Rogers, admitted that three cups of chicha, the potent home brew handed out free along the parade route, were one too many.
An informal poll of expats gave the “strangest float” award to the “Circumcision of Jesus.” Rogers commented: “At least let the guy enjoy the manger for a couple days before you start cutting.”
The weather cooperated with a mix of clouds and sun, a welcome relief from the last two parades, which offered nothing but blazing sun. “The worst thing is when there’s too much sun,” Ruiz said. “It is very hard on everyone, especially the children.”
Thursday morning began when the guest of honor, El Niño Viajero, was given a helicopter ride over Cuenca.