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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cuenca Independence Day

The Spanish settlement, Cuenca (full name Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca), was founded on April 12, 1557 by the explorer Gil Ramírez Dávalos.   Andrés Hurtado de Mendoza, then Viceroy of Peru, had commissioned the founding and ordered the city named after his home town of Cuenca, Spain.  Cuenca achieved its independence from Spain on November 3, 1820.

Thus ends our history lesson for the day.

Every year, the last day of October (known in the USA as Halloween) All Souls Day...or....Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated.   This rolls right into what probably is the largest event of the year for Cuenca...Independence Day on November 3rd.   It ends up being a city-wide, week-long celebration that brings hordes of tourists from other parts of Ecuador into town to party-party-party.

In the few weeks leading up to the holidays I observed a lot of crews around the city picking up garbage, cleaning and turning on fountains, refreshing flowerbeds, and painting out graffiti.

Not being fluent in Spanish, I had a hard time determining WHAT was happening, WHERE, and WHEN.   But, it was pretty easy to stumble upon (and get stuck in) things just by venturing out.

There were concerts of every variety...even an accordion concert in one of the larger theaters!  I went with a friend of mine visiting from Quito to a couple of outdoor concerts.  One was in the parking lot at the Mall Del Rio near my house and scheduled to start at 6:30pm.   We left late and walked over there fearing it might be over.  Well, it didn't START until 8pm!!!  After we did al that waiting we were hammered with hard-rock, grungish music.  UGH!!!  The only thing Latin about it was the fact the words (I presume there were words) were screamed in Spanish.

We decided to bail and head for the main park in the central, Parque Calderon, where many festivities are held.   Here, there were a couple thousand people wandering about, enjoying treats and some fireworks.  But, again, we were slammed with gawd-awful crappy grunge music, screaming, and wailing.    Amazingly, there were people of all ages from the elderly all the way down to babies amongst the crowd.   Side note:  it's fascinating to see how many young couples have their kids and babies out late at night here.   Anyway, we partook (is that a word?) of a tradional hot beverage boiling in a sidewalk vendors' cauldron.  I don't know what it is made of except that there is alcohol (of the bottom-est shelf variety) and assorted spices.   It definitely had a bite to it and even an alcoholic would find themselves sipping it slowly due to its power.

Over the days, we visited several craft markets lining the streets where you could buy handmade sweaters, scarves, belts, purses, goodies, paintings, knick-knacks, etc etc mostly from the indigenous folks who made them. 

There were two carnivals in town (that I found) with typical rides, but not so typical food...that is, not to us Northerners.   I wandered through one of the carnivals and enjoyed a couple of treats such as grilled meat on a stick dribbled with mayonaise.  Don't know what the meat was, don't care.  It was good.  One ride in particular had the attention of a large crowd, including me.  It was a round gizmo with a bench seat going around the entire perimeter.  There were no seat belts or other protective devices.   You sat down, you hung on to whatever you could grab.  The 'thing' started spinning, then tilted up while spinning, and the passengers were hanging on (more like dangling on) for dear life.   Then the 'thing' would start bouncing and going back and forth at the same time, sorta like a washing machine agitator.  This was even funnier because while the passengers were flailing about, those who were, shall we say, endowed in the upper region of their chest (women and heavier men) were clearly showing a bounce-fest through their clothes. 

The other carnival was adjacent to the auto pista (freeway).  Ok, sounds normal.  But, the location was smack dab at a roundabout which caused a lot of traffic congestion and appeared to be located in a former gravel pit.  Cars were parked on the edges of the auto pista and people walked (scrambled) up the embankment to the carnival via rudimentary dirt trails.   I didn't go.

Calle Larga is the party street in downtown Cuenca.  It is lined with numerous restaurants and small clubs.  A group of us dropped in on one which was charging a $10 cover to get in.   UGH!!!   They had a cool live band playing old disco which was fun.  We had a drink and when the bill came, the $10 cover was added on for each person.

Throughout the city, over the course of the week, neighborhoods would have their own party.  They were called Noches de Cuencanos (night of Cuencanos).   They were much like a block party where large sections of their neighborhood would be closed off and vendor stands selling crap (oops, I meant crafts),  goodies, grilled meats, maybe even a roasted pig, bands would entertain, and general frolicking and visiting, then ending usually with fireworks.   There were about 3-5 neighborhoods designated in different areas of the city each night throughout the week.

Now the city is back to normal.  All the ghouls are back in their graves, and most of the tourists back in their hometowns.

And I....went for relaxing therapy at nearby Banos!!!


Here's a few photos I took.

Ghastly concert at Mall Del Rio

This lovely sidewalk vendor lady was making the concoction that warmed the cockles of your heart but burned a hole in your shoes.

Just hanging out.   This entertainer appears to have no mechanism to support himself, but underneath his clothes is an unseen steel structure connected to the pole he's hanging onto.

3 blocks of paintings to choose from.

Don't know what it is.   But, it's two crispy discs smeared with your choice of goop inbetween then sqwooshed together.  I chose a peanut-buttery substance.

Army band made the rounds of various locations and performed.  A couple of kidlets enjoyed dancing to their music.

Comidas Rapidas (fast food) at the carnival.

My favorite, and they were everywhere!   Strawberries or grapes dipped in milk chocolate, on a stick.

Indigenous women selling their handmade textiles.
One of 3 pools.

Gorgeous Trumpet flower tree/plant.  The blooms hang straight down and they're at least 12" long by 6" wide.

Restaurant and Lobby.

Me...cookingin a box.


  1. Thanks for this post...I've been to Cuenca for business but have never experienced Independence Day. Would love to see it. Were there any Panama hat weavers selling hat bodies or finished hats?
    Jessica Downing
    Panador Hats

  2. Hi. Would you tell me what breed of dog is Kleina? Thanks!

  3. Not sure of the spelling, but Weimaraner



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About Me

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Palma, Mallorca, Spain
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Spain, in the city of Palma on the island of Mallorca in the middle of the Mediterranean sea!! I moved from the USA to Cuenca, Ecuador, South America and lived there for 7 years before moving here to Spain in early 2018. To read about my adventures in Ecuador, check out my other blog "Ahhh Cuenca!!". I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live in Europe....across the pond.

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