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One calefon’s view of the Innocents parade

By Jeremiah Reardon

The covered grill across the street from Fishbon Del Sur’s parade float sizzled with steak strips on a stick. Attendees and costumed participants had several options to purchase snacks on Calle La Republica under a dazzling sunset. An evening with no rain would make us all very happy.

Cuenca’s annual Day of the Innocents parade, in honor of the children slain by King Herod, occurs on the Feast of the Epiphany. For the second year in a row Fishbon’s expat entry featured song and dance. Our theme highlighted the city’s propane gas shortage caused by October’s national strike against President Moreno which disrupted highway traffic for ten days.

Our lovely Cuencana contingent included ultra-marathoner Alexandra Maldonado, Natalie Abad and her sister Vero, who played Cecilia in Fishbon’s August satire, “Buena Suerte.” On the sidewalk I took pictures of their synchronized gyrations to Latino music blasted from the float in front of ours.

Next, I helped our electrician Jim McBride attach extension cords and lights to the float as we awaited the return of the star of “Gringuitos Locos de Teatro Fishbon,” Cindy Benson. With about an hour to go, she discovered that her recorded-music flash drive did not fit the speaker output-plug. Jim and I silently cheered her roundtrip by taxi to retrieve her computer and rejoin the parade.

Cindy’s shower stall on the float took up the rear portion of the rented tow truck. On a painted plywood sheet her pink and blue polka dot shower included a curtain, an oversized mirror and scrub brush. Jim and I positioned mini-spotlights attached to the plywood floor. The sign affixed to the truck’s bumper read “Bindy Benson and The Bubblettes.” Jim dangled a string of blinking white lights from it.

Our troupe included, in addition to the four Bubblettes, myself as one of two calefons (hot water tank), our Angel of Gas, several cape wearing Supergaseros, the chorus line of gas tanks, a white toque-hatted chef wheeling his cardboard stove, our Crazy Cholita who handed out candy, and “Muchas Gracias Gaseros” sign bearers holding a three-meter pole.

In addition to this cast, our gang included a pair of truck drivers, their traffic-safety crew, the creator and director, Clay Bodine, Founder of Fishbon who queued the music while greeting the crowds. Laura, his wife, and Fishbon co-founder, had coordinated the zaniness over the past two months and played one of the gas tanks.

By 7:20 p.m., Cindy and Clay had programmed the music, the actors had taken places around Cindy’s shower and we marched out to Huayna Capac, the north-south avenue named for the fifteenth century Inca ruler who was born here in Cuenca, which was then known as Tomebamba. The show had begun!

We turned the corner under klieg lights and street lamps. Crowds surged against iron fences erected by the police. Linda Walker, the Crazy Cholita, handed out and tossed candy deposited on the truck. I held my breath as Clay pushed the buttons of Cindy’s iPhone to queue fourteen minutes of dance tunes hurriedly loaded from her computer.

“Macarena” jumped from the speaker unit supported by duct tape to the shower and float sign framework. Applause and lascivious cheers greeted Cindy as she stepped out of the shower in a bath towel over her flesh-colored tights with strategically-placed embroidered flowers. She whipped her hands and shook her body in time with the yellow -costumed gas tanks and gaseros in formation behind the float.

Cindy/Bindy’s antics communicated delight and enthusiasm to admiring fans until … she had no hot water. “Ayuadame!” Bindy’s sign pleaded. “Help me!” Flipped over it read: “Necesitamos Super Gaseros!”

Then the Cuenca gas tank song “Por Esos Te Quiero Cuenca” started up after a pre-recorded whistle. Craig Adams, the other calefon, and I strolled from opposite sides of the float to the rear. A Supergasero would hook up our hardhat-hose to the top of our partner’s gas tank.

The chorus line cheered; Bindy had her hot water turned back on! As Clay queued the music, thirty gringos and three Cuencanas danced to the Mexican Hat Dance, The Bunny Hop, and more as Cindy/Bindy worked the crowds with her spirited dance and striptease.

Downhill we paraded. We felt warmly welcomed and appreciated by people of all ages: children, teenagers, their parents, and grandparents. On occasion I spotted expat friends and gringo celebrants. Behind us zipped caped-hero John Porterfield standing on an electric trike. Upon his helmet a sign read “SIN GAS” to promote his pro-environment viewpoint.

By 9 p.m. we passed our third judges/media stand who hailed us in English and Spanish. Our trek ended at a park area along the Rio Tomebamba. How satisfying it felt to shed our parade gear and dump it onto the flatbed tow truck. A sense of accomplishment gladdened the tired but exhilarated troupe. It would be an email from Laura the following day that crowned the whole affair: We were third place winners and the recipients of a $500 prize!

8 thoughts on “One calefon’s view of the Innocents parade

  1. Well, look at that. And I thought that Alexandra Maldonado (aka Wonder Woman) only had time for writing aggressively nasty comments on Gringo Post.

    1. I am so glad you wrote that. After you identified Maldonado for me the other day, I was trying to think of a way of expressing my disdain for her such that it would clear the censors here. I can’t imagine them now not publishing my comment after publishing yours.

      She is a mean, spiteful and hateful person that isn’t happy unless she is trying to tell others how to run their lives.

    1. Yeah, Susan, it was a Gas! And the prize, the icing on the Cake! Thank you.

      And last night we celebrated at Fishbon with potluck dinner, photos and videos. The sense of accomplishment is palpable. As amateur thespians, it feels good to be recognized.

      I also discovered that I misquoted Bindy’s sign, s/b “Necesitamos Super Gaseros!” My apologies.

  2. Wow…. what a wonderful narrative of an amazingly creative, energetic contribution to the magic and whimsy of colorful Cuenca! May all Fishboners be praised! Thank you for all you do!

    And whoever you are that use this space to make nasty comments about an individual (who I do not know) who actually participated in this event … what a small and hateful way to behave. As my sweet momma used to say “Say something nice or else….. just put a sock on it!” Viva Gringitos Locos! Vivia Cuenca Magica!!

    1. Viva Cuenca! Just how Clay would greet the crowd, Jeff. Wish I had put it In the story.

      Ha! Ha! Jeff. Yes, Alexandra is mi amiga and together we work for the less fortunate in Cuenca. I do appreciate how CHL is an open forum for expats to air their differences.

      Indeed, it was a magical evening, and the energy of the crowd fed our performances. Each block we’d have a new audience. Cindy as always outdid herself to the delight of our troupe and the admiring fans.

  3. Excellent article Jeremiah:)
    And thanks for mentioning my name in the article. It is really an Honor to be part of the Expat Community for almost 7 years. Thanks to Laura & Clay for the invitation, and for including me in the Parade. I really enjoyed it…with my other Cuencana Friends, Verito & Nataly. We danced so much, laughed and had fun.
    Thanks to all the Gringuitos Locos for such a brilliant acting, specially for my good friend Cindy Benson, she stole the show…it was a blast. I’m so happy with our Prize…and also to be part of the Fishbon Family. Laura Volunteered for us, at HOGAR ESPERANZA on the last December, when we had between 3.000 people to feed, in our Annual Christmas Party for Disabled Children. Thanks for helping us Laura, I love people like YOU.
    Thanks again, amigo Jeremiah, for your kindness and Volunteering for our Animal Shelter too. As always, is a pleasure to work with you guys, and to keep our Friendship beyond expectations and experiences.
    Gracias amigos y Hasta la Proxima. Un abrazo fraterno para todos. Nos vemos:)

    1. Wow! I couldn’t have said it better, Alexandra. Muchas gracias por tu verbos de la verdad.

      Our parade wouldn’t have been the same without your enthusiasm and engaging spirit.

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