Street vendors stop tram, threaten more protests if they are not allowed to sell at giant Christmas tree

Dec 3, 2022 | 7 comments

After shutting down tram service for an hour on Friday, a group of street vendors is threatening to disrupt Sunday’s lighting ceremony of Cuenca’s giant Christmas tree in Parque Miraflores. Leaders of the Federation of Retail Traders of Azuay is demanding permits to sell their products to the public who visit the tree.

Street vendors march down the tram tracks on Gran Colombia, disrupting tram service for an hour Friday.

Last week, the mayor’s office decided the area around the Christmas tree should be free of commercial activity. “This will be place where families can enjoy the holiday season in peace, without commercial distraction,” a spokeswoman said. “There are many places in the city dedicated to commercial activity where vendors are free to sell their merchandise.”

Mayor Pedro Palacios is scheduled to lead the lighting ceremony Sunday at 6:30 p.m. The ceremony will include a message from Cuenca Monsignor Marcos Pérez.

A city worker attaches lights to the Christmas tree in Parque Miraflores on Thursday.

At 41-meters, Cuenca’s Christmas tree is the tallest in Ecuador. It was extended by four meters this year to top competition from other cities competing for the height distinction. The tree has 22,000 lights.

Mayra Diaz, a representative for the retail trade federation, claims it is a violation the vendors’ rights if they are not allowed to work in Parque Miraflores. “We deserve the right to earn a living and to work where the people will be during the Christmas season,” she said. “We believe the decision to deny us permits was made for political reasons because the mayor is running for reelection.”

Tram service was disrupted for almost as hour late Friday morning as vendors marched down the tracks on Calle Gran Colombia from the Av. Las Americas redondel while another group staged a sit-down on the tracks at Luis Cordero in the historic district.

Police warned protesters that they would be arrested if they continued to interfere with the public transportation system.

The protest ended shortly after noon Friday.