Cuenca’s big Christmas Eve Pase del Niño parade lived up to expectations Tuesday with an estimated 130,000 participants and onlookers gathering for the nine-hour march down Calle Simon Bolivar.
As usual, children were the highlight of the day. Katy Miller, one of the event organizers, estimated that as many as 10,000 kids, ranging from new-borns to high-schoolers, participated. “The parade is about the Christ child and about the hope our children bring to the world so we were very happy to see so many of them on the street,” she said.
Miller also said her weather prayers were answered by the mostly cloudy skies on Tuesday. “At mass Monday night, the priest asked for overcast skies but no rain so our wishes were granted,” she said. “The sun is so intense here and is bad for the children. It also means that the parents have to manage parasols to protect the little ones.”
All 10,000 liters of chicha, the traditional parade drink, were consumed by bystanders and parade participants, the family that concocted it reported. As far as anyone could tell, police were not administering breathalyzer tests.
The hand-over of escort responsibilities for the Niño Viajero occurred Monday night in an elaborate ceremony at the cathedral when the army, which had been responsible for the Niño since the 2018 parade, handed him over to the national police. At the end of the mass there was the traditional procession around Parque Calderon led by a mounted police band. When the band wasn’t playing, the crowd of about a thousand was regaled with Bing Crosby Christmas carols from the park sound system.
The parade’s center of attraction, El Niño Viajero, is a 20-centimeter-long carved and polychromed statue commissioned in 1823 by a Cuenca aristocrat and later donated to the Catholic church. He received the “viajero” designation following a trip to Israel and to Rome to be blessed by the Pope in 1961.