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!