On Sunday, when Marcelita was crowned Cuy Queen of Quingeo, she was decked out in a florid Chola Cuencana dress with a colorful Panama hat to match. If that didn’t knock your socks off, you should have seen how she dressed for dinner later in the day.
Marcelita’s crowing was one of several highlights at last weekend’s Cuy Festival in Quingeo, 20 miles east of Cuenca. The annual event celebrates the area’s ancestral tradition of producing cuy (guinea pig in English). Residents claim that, per capita, more people in Quingeo are involved in the cuy trade than anywhere else in the Andes.
“The creativity involved in the beauty pageant tells you how much pride, love and planning goes into the cuy business,” said Julia Criollo, one of the organizers of the festival. “The pageant is for fun but this is serious business that has been carried on for centuries in our community.”
In addition to the beauty contest that also crowned a cuy king, the festival featured cuy and human races, games, a parade and an evening feast.
Criollo said that in addition to Quingeo itself, population about 5,000, 24 surrounding communities are also involved in cuy production. “The cuy is our traditional food and we want to celebrate its important role in our lives and in our economy,” she said. She added that most of the cuy produced in the area are sold in Ecuador, although about 5% are shipped to Ecuadorians living in New York and New Jersey, in the U.S.