By Sylvan Hardy
It was Cuenca’s quietest New Year’s Eve in memory.
Although the skies briefly ignited with fireworks at midnight, mostly launched from private courtyards and driveways, and a few renegade dummies burned on sidewalks, city streets were mostly deserted Thursday night as 2020 ticked over to 2021.
Those looking to have dinner out were mostly disappointed as the majority of restaurants were closed and the few that weren’t put out “cerrado” signs hours ahead of the 10 p.m. curfew.
“The coronavirus has changed everything,” a man carrying an infant told a patrolling police officer in Parque Calderon. “Why couldn’t they let us have a little fun? Why did they have to ruin everything?” he asked.
The officer, shaking his head, explained that he had no control over it. “It’s the rules. It’s the state of exception. It’s the pandemic.”
A few minutes later, a woman approached the same officer to complain about a party that had spilled onto Calle Rafael María Arizaga a few blocks to the north. “It’s a crowd of kids and they’re drinking and shooting fireworks,” she said. “Why aren’t you enforcing the law.”
The officer, shaking his head again, said he would call in the report, adding that, “The police can’t be everywhere at once.”
Earlier, members of a political party smashed models of the spiked Covid-19 molecule at San Francisco Plaza and a man with a bullhorn predicted a new, happier 2021 without the virus if only his man wins in the February national election.
An onlooker rolled his eyes and said to the woman next to him, “They’re dreaming if they think this is over. We’ve got a long way to go. Maybe 2022.”
Despite the state of emergency and the the public displeasure of being locked down, the historic district was filled with small parking lot parties Thursday afternoon as friends and colleagues shared drinks and burned dummies. After dark, outlying neighborhoods were alive with music, laughter and smoke from private parties. Police appeared to have little interest in enforcing the 10-person limit.
Even in a pandemic year, Cuenca’s taste for New Year’s satire couldn’t be subdued. The face of woman dummy peered out of the partially open trunk of a taxi on Gran Colombia Thursday morning, a reference to the early December case of a Quito cabbie pulled over by police who had his wife in the front seat and his girlfriend in the trunk.