Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Independence Day!!!!

New Cathedral Late in the Day

Street Theatre

Cuenca was quieter than I expected for its Independence Day. The dignitaries had already been to mass when we arrived at the main square (Parque Calderon) and we watched them file out and participate in a military ceremony. The military parade came later, which we found out when watching scores of people walk across the bridges to the other side of the river. I had to ask what was going on ( it was difficult to know what the schedule of events was until I looked in a local paper much later), but we we more interested in the colourful indigenous parade which began almost punctually at 1130 near the Saint Blas church, which was a bit of a hike from our hotel.

Military Ceremony Parque Calderon


We watched the beginning of the parade and when the last group had left, redoubled back to the Parque Calderon to watch the second half over again. I loved watching the dancing. Each of the parts of the city and the nearby pueblos were represented, and it was clear that there are slight differences in traditional dress from one group to another. I wanted to see the Canar, but they are simply too far away to participate. It was interesting to see the different hats, some made of felt with either a very small brim or a wide swept up brim, many Panama hats, all the women wearing bright coloured skirts and embroidered shirts and beautiful shawls, the men wearing different ponchos for each 'pueblo'. Each group of similarly dressed dancers would perform every block or so. It was hot and the sun was intense. I never tire of watching, but Maya and Eric were less than thrilled about watching the parade twice!

Parade Begins at St. Blas Church

Chola Cuencana From Last Year


More Dancing

A Different Pueblo

And Another

We ate at 'Cafe Eucalyptus', an American owned establishment where Eric likes the Cuban Sandwich and Maya the Caesar salad. Eric and I tried a yummy key lime pie. Maya and Eric returned to the hotel to rest while I visited the Museum of Medicine which was closed, but housed several installations of the Bienal of Cuenca. I discovered that since all the usual touristy museums were closed, I decided to join the 'afternoon of art' and traveled by bus to see all the entries to the competition. That included a visit to the airport, the Banco Central, the Museum of Modern Art and a sport complex. At first I could not really relate to the installations, the videoart and the paintings, but I returned to several I had seen before and tried to read the information provided, and in several venues a guide interpreted the works so that I was not simply puzzled and put off by them. I liked especially a Chinese video presentation of a Tibetan family trying to learn Chinese by radio. The vistas were incredible. There was an Ecuadorian artist who filled a room full of all the items used in her lifetime, from shoes to typewriters to kitchenware to school supplies and backpacks, and more. The first time I visited I simply felt overwhelmed, but I forced myself to look more closely this time and appreciated it a little more. Many of the art pieces were deliberately socially conscious. A Cuban artist painted the seven wonders of the modern world, which were all military arms and nuclear submarines and the like. Poverty and loss and inequality were recurrent themes. Most of the artists were from South and Central America and the Caribbean, but there were a handful of European and American contributors. I shared the bus with an exclusively Ecuadorian/Cuencan crowd. One woman who sat next to me immediately figured out that I was an 'extranjero' and told me she taught English at the university in town.

Bienal at the Airport

More Bienal

I had to escape from the bus to meet Maya and Eric at the central plaza where Correa was talking about his revolution in Ecuador. He talked on and on and on and finally left the Government house to great applause and adoring fans. He stood on a balcony to listen to some music and then watch the 'castillo' which was set off . We stayed close to the fireworks after having watched the workers assemble it while Correa was giving his speech. It was the biggest we had seen and was spectacular. The Ecuadorians love fireworks. Correa stayed for the fireshow and then disappeared. Music and dancing followed (of course`), but by then Maya was fading and we ate our only least wonderful meal in Cuenca at 'El Rey del Sabor'. I chose it so we could watch out form the window down to the plaza and hear the music, but the food was inedible.

Chola Cuencana Contestants

Colourful Dancers
Ducks Join the Parade

Cuenca feels so much safer than Quito. Not sure why. People are all over the streets and there is a good police presence as well as cameras recording at each corner of the colonial part of the city. I never felt scared walking day and night and I carried my iphone and cellphone and camera and purse and was not threatened. It was a relief to feel that way.

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