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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Corpus Christi - 2016

This is a lonnng one folks!  Lots of photos and videos to watch....and you don't have to drop a bunch of quarters in the machine!!  I just hope they all work!  It's all from ONE night out on the town.

What is Corpus Christi?  I didn't know.   All I knew from the past 5 years is that boatloads of candy are sold by vendors lining the streets around Parque Calderon...the main park in front of the Cathedral.  Though impressive that it is, visually, it's waaaay too redundant (99.5% of the same things sold at each booth) and 95% of the candy is 'ehhhh'.   Some of it is darn near 100% sugar.  Looks pretty, taste is disappointing.  Though, there are a FEW exceptions.

To view one of the videos I've inserted (listen'up MOM!!) click on the arrow/triangle in the middle of the screen.  The video will then run, but in a small screen.  To enlargen the screen, click in the LOWER RIGHT corner where you see a box-like image.  When the video is over, press the ESC (Escape) key (upper left corner of your keyboard) to return to this blog.

Back to the definition.   I consulted the interwebs and copied/pasted snippets of information forthwith.
The Feast of Corpus Christi (Latin for Body of Christ), is a liturgical solemnity celebrating the tradition and belief in the body and blood of Jesus Christ and his Real Presence in the Eucharist. It emphasizes the joy of the institution of the Eucharist, which had previously been observed only on Maundy Thursday in the somber atmosphere of the nearness of Good Friday.
By tradition, Catholics take part in a procession through the streets of a neighborhood near their parish following mass and pray and sing. The Eucharist, known as the Blessed Sacrament, is placed in a monstrance and is held aloft by a member of the clergy during the procession. After the procession, parishioners return to the church where benediction usually takes place.
There, now we be edjeecated.
My experience with Cuenca festivities is they don't always do the same thing over and over every year.  The event may be the same but the content and locations vary.  I decided to go to the 2nd evening of the week-long event.  Since I only live 2 blocks away from the Cathedral and park, I didn't have to navigate traffic and find parking as in the past.  I just saundered out.  OMG!!   There must've been 10,000 people in Parque Calderon....a park the size of one square block!
Some of the nice lighting effects in Parque Calderon

Young adults were entertaining people with their breakdancing techniques in the Gazebo.

I love how this tree is highlighted in Parque Calderon.
It (whatever IT was) was supposed to start at 8pm.  So, I left my apt at 7:30pm.  When I got there, four teams were assembling four pyrotechnic towers from big piles of....ummmm....sticks.   Each crew represented a sponsoring entity (ie; Catholic University, Ministry of Tourism, etc).  It's somewhat of a competition to see who can build the most elaborate and dazzling fireworks display.

Visualize an old fashioned oil rig, made out of bamboo, but outfitted with spinning wheels and fireworks that shoot out in all directions and you pretty much have it.
Aside from the imagination, engineering, and ultimate design, it's mind-boggling these teams can re-assemble the structure onsite and actually make it come to fruition successfully...all within the course of less than 2 hours!!!   I mean, when they start, it's just a big heap of bamboo sticks and pre-made pinwheels and thingamagigs.  I didn't see any numbering, nor was anyone refering to a map or assembly instructions of Steps 1, 2, 3, etc.   I'm not sure what would be more difficult...assembling a closet from IKEA, or assembling one of these!

Ummm....who's got part #79???

Now, this one goes on top of that other one.....right?
Each person seemed to be responsible for their own part.  No one was yelling at another person telling them that's not right, or put it there/not there, or it's upside down.  Someone would grab a rod of bamboo and jam it in there, then get some twine out and secure it.  Then another person would use some duct tape to secure some other thing.  No one inspected the result for any oversight or get final sign-off for safety.   It was all 'fly by the seat of the pants'.

Once they got one module done, they would lift it up while someone else slipped a new base under it, strap the two together, thereby making the tower higher and higher.  Then, they would start adding feature attachments to that newly added module.  Each section seemed to be about 5ft in height.  One of the towers reached nearly 30 feet tall.

During all this, I wandered around people-watching.  Tons of families with little ones (staying up past 10pm!) eating ice cream, buying candy, or munching down on food sold by sidewalk vendors such as (white) corn on the cob, chicken skewers, cotton candy, and plantain chips.
New this year, you could enter the inner courtyard of the adjoining Monastery of the Cathedral.  In the newly restored courtyard (that I featured in a past blog showcasing the Symphony performance during it's grand re-opening after a devastating fire) were artesan vendors featuring locally made products such as chocolates, coffee beans, preserves, jewelry, cheese, breads, etc.  Tented seating areas were set up so you could sit down, enjoy an espresso, and absorb the historical atmosphere under a starlit night.

Here's some other photos taken while wandering about (or as Canadians say 'aboot').

Huge ficus tree in Parque Calderon.

Entrance to Cathedral

Exiting the Cathedral

It's 150 walking steps from the front to the back of the Cathedral...and that's not counting the golden pulpit area you see, which is cordoned off.
I wandered back outside where I heard music being struck up.  Hundreds of people were exiting the Cathedral holding lighted candles, in a slow procession.  The 'music' sounded like a funeral dirge....slow and mournful.   Then, withiin the procession, appeared a canopy being carried by several men and beneath it was the Priest, holding the monstrance, accompanied with other 'officials' of the diocese.  This procession slowly left the church and went around the block and returned to the Cathedral where they re-entered to continue and finish with the benediction.

Two of the towers were located on one side of the park and the other two on the other side.  So, when the first tower was ignited (about 9pm) the crowd surged towards that side of the park.  I thought there would be a stampede!  YUCK!  But, I stayed put and watched from the other side since I had a good position in front of my favorite tower and what seemed to be the tallest.

After those two were done, it was time for the ones in front of me to blow.  Well, we waited, and waited.....and......waited........annnnnnnnnnd waited.   I was dying standing up as my knees were killing me and I was beginning to hunch over.  But, I wasn't about to leave after all that time.
During all this time, a small band was playing a song I hear allllllll the time around Cuenca.  And they played it over.....and over.............annnnnd overrrrrr.....ennnnnndlessly repeating.  I was getting dizzy from being blasted with the 'music' (in tickie marks for a REASON).

To this 'music' a group of costumed 'creatures' appeared and danced in the street, running back and forth and in circles....over...and over. and overrrrrrr.  I don't know how they didn't drop from exhaustion or dizziness.  The band finally stopped after this went on for waaaay toooooo long.  Everyone applauded (I think more because they were glad they finally stopped!!).   Calm.

After all this waiting and listening to the never-ending repetition of that 'music' (I have no clue what its pertinence is) there were intermittent (read 'long gaps') of aerial fireworks (the kind we're used to back home).  The launching boom was so powerful you could feel the soundwaves hit your body, which then would make people look upward.  PFFFFTTTT!!!   7 out of 10 were 'ehhhhh', why did I bother to look.  While, the other 3 would be 'ooooh, ahhhhh'.  My favorite one reminds me of Tina Turners hair.
Now they're gonna light the tower in front of me, right?   Waiting.  Waiting.  Watched little shits....ummm...errrrr....little adorable 3-5 year-olds run up to the tower and spin the wheels with their wittle hands.  Tugging on them.  Where's the (effing) parents?   I was getting pissed.  No one was monitoring the tower, not even anyone from the sponsoring team.  Where the hell were they?   Those little brats had better not break anything!!!
The band struck up again.  OI VEY!!  At least, this time, a different tune.
FINALLY, about 10pm, the team showed up along with a dozen or so 'creatures' from the prior group dancing in the streets.  A bull, a reindeer, a ????  I dunno.
The crowd instinctively moved back.  No barriers, ropes, police tape, nada.  No cops or monitors keeping the crowd at bay.  I was in front, all of 30 feet away from the monster.


We were immediately pelted with sparks of fireworks and we moved further back....a whopping 2 feet.  Screams of giggles from everyone getting pelted.  A few sparks landed on my bald spot...OUCH!  Was the polyester I was wearing going to go up in flames?  No one cared.
The only 'crowd control' was the aforementioned group of 'creatures' who pranced and ran circles around the tower, while it was exploding, they too, were getting pelted in their costumes.
Different stages would put on a dazzling show then fizzle out.  Team members would then approach the tower and, using a large knife, sever something, then use a torch to light the next segment to launch the next phase of dazzlement (and pummeling).  At one point, a swirling, whirling, swooshing flying saucer was ignited and launched into the air and it went higher, and higher, hundreds of feet in the air like a spaceship leaving Mother Earth before it fizzled out.

Wanna watch it?  Here's the link (click on it and it will open a new window) of the video I uploaded to YouTube:

Corpus Christi Fireworks in Cuenca, Ecuador 2016

It was well worth the wait.  I didn't stay around for the 4th and final unit.  I dragged my ass home, stopping briefly to get a big skewer of chicken (slathered with a mayo/avocado sauce) with plate of potatoes ($2) from a sidewalk vendor to devour while walking back.

Til next time.....



  1. Thanks for your description of this colourful event. (Yup - Canadian spelling of colorful.) Our mutual friend, Roberta, referred me to this entry and I'm glad she did. I sense your pain as you listened to the repeated repeated repeated tune, played without sense of unison. I heard the same tune in Cuenca back in January at another religious parade event or two. Can you imagine a CD titled "The Best of Cuencan Processional Music"? I think I'll pass!

    Now, aboot your representation of Canadian speech - the only time I EVER hear "aboot" is when an American tries to parody his northern neighbour. (Again, Canadian spelling.) To refresh your memory of what Canadian speech sounds like, y'all bettah listen tuh the eevnun news on ABC, CBS or NBC.

  2. Fun Dano! maybe next year we can stay up late enough to see it.

  3. Looks like it's time to return to Cuenca! And don't you love living right downtown? CC is a big deal here in San Miguel too but no way are our Castillos, those fire work towers, as huge as the ones in Cuenca. I'm always amazed too that people are right up close and underneath them. The kids here stand under them with cardboard pieces over their heads...I guess so they'll go up in flames faster! Really enjoyed seeing this, so thanks for taking the time to write and photograph. helene


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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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