They call it “Pase del Niño Viajero. The English translation is “the Passage of the traveling child” and of course refers to Jesus and his parents, Joseph and Mary. This is the Christmas parade in Cuenca, and it is a really big deal to the citizens. It draws visitors from all over Ecuador.
It is held on December 24th (Christmas Eve) and takes up most of the day. Everyone wants to participate, and most of them do! Can you imagine attending a parade in the US that takes all day? I never heard of one. That is one of the very cool things about Latin America. They celebrate everything!
Latin American Countries Have More Reasons For Parades
In the USA, we have one independence day. When we were living in Panama they had two, both of which were in November. One of them was Colombia’s independence from Spain. This is because Panama was part of Colombia for a long time. Later, Panama declared its independence from Colombia and has been an independent country ever since.
During the same week as the two independence days, Panama also celebrates the “Day of Death”. I never really understood that one, but still they essentially took the entire week off, and we had 3 parades. All 3 parades looked and sounded very similar. And the bands all practiced for about 6 months before that week. You could hear them in various parts of the community.
We Took a Trip But Weren’t Going To Miss the Parade
We wanted to see our granddaughter, Haley for Christmas, but the travel from Houston to Cuenca was a nightmare that took over 24 hours and at least 2 stops. So we came up with a better plan. We purchased a Southwest Airlines ticket for her from Houston to Cancun. And we took a bus from Cuenca to Guayaquil, Ecuador and then caught a flight from Guayaquil to Cancun. Hers was nonstop, but ours changed planes in Panama City. We spent 4 days with her in Cozumel and then we both made it back home by the 24th.
Our round trip bus trips were anything but routine. Guayaquil is on the Pacific Coast, so it is at sea level. Cuenca is at 8,500 feet. In between Guayaquil and Cuenca is part of the Andes Mountains. We reached 13,500 feet during the trip. And clouds were trying to make their way east over the mountains, so we had to drive through them. But that didn’t stop the bus drivers from driving 70 mph on twisty roads through the fog.
With all that, we arrived on time, got a good night’s sleep, and went downtown to see the Christmas parade in Cuenca on Christmas Eve. I have tons of photos and videos. Like I said earlier, the entire town is either in the parade or watching the parade. It was one of the highlights of our 3-month stay in Ecuador. Here are a few of my photos.
We hung around downtown for several hours watching the parade, and as we were walking back to our apartment, we saw the little girl in blue on the horse. We gave her a $1 tip for her beautiful picture, then headed back home.
What’s This, Another Parade?
The end of this story occurred about a week later. We were catching the bus from our apartment to El Centro. On the way, we passed another parade. We asked them what this parade was about. The other riders told us it was Pase del Niño. We were confused since that was the same name as the Christmas Eve parade. But they quickly explained that this was now baby Jesus, Joseph, and Mary leaving Jerusalem to go back home. This parade was totally different. These were mostly cars with lots of decorations, wild colors, and much honking.
More Background About Cuenca
Cuenca Ecuador is a wonderful place to visit, and many North Americans are living there full time. This makes it very easy to get comfortable. Our first landlord knew or was known by almost every expat in Cuenca. She showed us the ropes and introduced us to many people. We stayed with her for almost a month before finding what we thought would be our “permanent” apartment. I always have to be careful using that word, because it seemed like permanent meant 3 months or less for the first 3 years of our retirement. We were too busy having fun and adventures to think about settling down.
Cuenca is known as the “Cultural Capital of Ecuador”. It is a town of about 500,000 so it is much smaller than Medellin. And even though it is very close to the Equator, at 8,500 feet it is about 10 degrees cooler than Medellin. That was just enough to be uncomfortable for us and was the main reason we decided to keep looking after our 3-month tourist visa expired. But otherwise, Cuenca is well worth a visit, and you might even decide to stay a while! If you are there at Christmas time, don’t miss the Christmas parade in Cuenca.
High Altitude Living
As high as the altitude is in Cuenca, it is surrounded by much higher mountains, many lakes and waterfalls, and beautiful scenery everywhere you look. And the cost of living is amazingly low – a very easy place in which to live on your Social Security alone. One day, we hired a driver who took us on a wonderful drive in the country. He took us to a lake, a very popular and fast-moving waterfall, past a cozy village with the required main square church, and then back home. Our friends Geoff and Joy Catron were visiting and they joined us for the day trip.
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Steve and Paulette Tuggle