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.The Christmas Eve Parade in Cuenca 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 prior to that week. You could hear them in various parts of the community.
We Took a Trip But Made Sure We Were Back for 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 there were clouds 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.
Cuenca Ecuador is a wonderful place to visit, and there are many North Americans 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.
We Wandered Aimlessly for 3 Months
After about 4 months in South America, we had to return to Boquete to deal with all of our stuff. Our previous landlord graciously allowed us to store about 30 boxes and suitcases in his house until we figured out where we were going. Towards the end of January 2018, we left Boquete thinking we were going to try Costa Rica for a while. We boarded the bus with almost 30 pieces of luggage and headed to San Jose. Within a day or two, we knew Costa Rica wasn’t for us. It was so darn expensive! I think I could live in Houston for less than in Costa Rica. And even though we had been through the country several times, we had never spent any time actually living there.
During February – April 2018 we wandered aimlessly not knowing where we and the Lord wanted us to go. We were literally “homeless vagabonds”. We had to go back to Houston to take care of some business, so we decided maybe we should give the US a try. So we took a road trip East to Washington, DC, then down through the Carolinas and eventually back to Houston. Thank goodness several friends and my sister let us stay with them. Otherwise, the hotel bills would have put us in the poor house. Fortunately, God got our attention, brought us to our senses, and in May we headed to Medellin, Colombia. Medellin is now our home, and we couldn’t be happier!
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Steve and Paulette Tuggle