Although Cuenca’s official high temperature on Saturday was 78, it felt much hotter to the thousands who turned out for opening day of the city’s independence holidays. The blazing equatorial sun brought out the Panama hats, umbrellas and water bottles.
According to tourism officials, the four-day event will attract 100,000 tourists as well as about 200,000 Cuenca residents. The local hotel association said that almost all rooms were booked as of Friday night.
Although the parades, dances, fireworks displays, food fairs, sporting events and nightly concerts make the most noise, the centerpiece of the celebration has always been the hundreds of artists and craftspersons from Cuenca and around South American, who display and peddle their work in the art fairs.
The biggest and most impressive crafts fair is at CIDAP (Inter-American Folk Arts and Crafts Association) on Tres de Noviembre at the Escalinatas, which fills the CIDAP courtyard and covers the banks of the Tomebamba River from the base of Calle Hermano Miguel to the bridge at Calle Benigno Malo. The event includes artists from a dozen Latin American countries, in addition to Ecuador.
Other crafts fairs were set up on several El Centro streets that had been closed to traffic; at Plazoleta del Farol on Doce de Abril just west of University of Cuenca; the Broken Bridge on Tres de Noviembre;
Santo Domingo Plaza; Esquina de las Artes; Parque de la Madre; Rotary Market; Centro Chaguarchimbana on Calle de las Herrerias; and the Otorongo Plaza.
The day’s festivities began at 10 with a parade of city high school students on Simon Bolivar. More than 1,000 students from 16 high schools participated.
In the afternoon, parasols briefly became paraguas as a thunderstorm hit a glancing blow to the festivities. The storm, fortunately, passed to the north and caused little disruption besides lowering the temperature.
After dark, a half dozen outdoor concerts also drew large crowds, especially to a block party on Av Remigio Crespo and Parque Calderon.
The festivities continue through Tuesday.