Decked out in more than 300,000 lights, the days filled with holiday markets and fairs, the nights with dinners and parties, Cuenca is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
On Sunday, the annual Santa Claus run along the Rio Tomebamba featured hundreds of jolly joggers, many of them accompanied by their dogs, also dressed out as old Saint Nick.
The most dramatic signs of the season are the famous neighborhood Christmas parades. Although they fill streets throughout town, they are most frequent in the historic district.
The small parades, featuring floats and elaborately costumed children, many of them riding horses festooned with fruit, candy, and colorful liquor bottles, will be part of the massive Christmas Eve Pase del Niño parade in less than two weeks.
“Every neighborhood in Cuenca and as well as those from nearby towns will have its own parade that will join the Pase del Niño on December 24,” said José Washington Noroña, a historian of the event. “Each group will carry its own statue of the Christ child. This is something that communities plan for the entire year. Although most entries are from Cuenca and the surrounding area, some come from as far away as Loja in the south, as well as Otavalo and Ibarra in the north,” he said.
This year’s parades face new city rules intended to reduce traffic disruptions, particularly in the historic district. Each parade is required to notify police and sanitation department officials two days prior to its march.
The seven-hour-plus Christmas Eve Pase del Niño runs along Calle Simon Bolivar in the historic district and lasts for six to seven hours. As many as 10,000 will participate in the parade with 100,000 more looking on.
The neighborhood parades continue into the second week of January.