2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage

2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage


My mission in publishing this blog is first to provide a living history of my settlement and life in Cuenca, and to provide myself and the reader with a journal account delineating my reasons for why I have chosen to settle in Cuenca. Second, the posts are my way of staying in contact with family and friends back in the states, and to provide them with an understanding of a country and culture that most North Americans have little knowledge and awareness. Third, the blog is open to one and all who wish to compare and contrast the experiences of expat bloggers living in Cuenca, so that you can determine whether or not from your perspective Cuenca is an appropriate move for you. Fourth, my blog provides another example of how expats view and interpret life in Cuenca. Ecuadorians and Cuencanos who may read this blog are especially invited to post comments that may enhance all expats understanding and appreciation of Cuneca and its people, or to correct any misinterpretations in my assumptions and perceptions of Cuencano culture. Finally, I hope I can convey the feeling of love and appreciation that grows within me each passing day for this heavenly city nestled in the Andes and its very special people.

Monday, November 7, 2011

No Two Days Are Alike Part II

Tuesday, November 1st, another warm, sunny, beautiful, down-right hot day.  I had lunch with a friend at one of my favorite restaurants in Cuenca, the “Terrace Grill”.  The restaurant is like an American sports bar with large television screens everywhere.  Usually during the afternoon hours, music video concerts are being played.  This time it was Celine Dione in concert.  Last time I lunched at Terrace Grill a hot video was playing. The Queen of Disco herself, Ms. Donna  Summers was featured in video concert.  The food as always was delicious, relatively inexpensive for a more upscale restaurant, and the service is always much appreciated.
After lunch, we made our way down to the 9th Annual Free National Art Fair of Excellence, which sponsored art not only from Ecuador, but also from Argentina, Peru, Columbia, and Venezuela.  While every type of art was on display and for sale, there was also a small fair a few blocks down by Cuenca University of primarily fabric and jewelry type crafts.  Music and food was also provided throughout the fair areas.  The dry weather had worked out beautifully for all the week’s festivities.
Wednesday, November 2nd, I was out to Monay Mall in the evening for a dance festival.  I regretted not having my camera, but the lighting was too dark anyway.  The traditional Ecuadorian dancers were fabulous, and the young ladies were dressed in the most beautifully, dazzling costumes in which to perform.  The dances progressed to electronic rock, a couple who were very good salsa dancers also performed, and the big performance of the evening was fourteen year old Joshua Riveros, as the Zombie or alter ego, of Michael Jackson, who was performed exceptionally well by a college student whose first name was Boris. The two did a rendition from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and as Joshua also performed as the ghost from Michael Jackson’s “Ghost" video. 

All of us went up to eat in the third floor food court after the dance performances as we sat under the behemoth Christmas tree.  Ornamented, white artificial trees seem to be the thing in Cuenca.  The food court was trimmed in Christmas decorations.  Ironically for a northerner from the Midwestern United States, Christmas in Cuenca is hard to imagine as the temperatures continue to get warmer.
Thursday, November 3rd, an evening was spent with Martha Abril’s good friends, Cheryl and Ray Pawson.   An extended evening of conversation took place, and little did I know when Martha and I left that I next would be on my way at 11:30 p.m. for the block parties that were going on in her neighborhood as well as multiple neighborhoods across the city to celebrate Cuenca Independence Day from the Spaniards.  Independence Day was a humongous day of celebrations in Cuenca.  We made our way through the throngs of people who were listening and dancing to the music, and we walked the six block area while each concert stage was spaced about two blocks from one another.  The smell of food from beef, to pork, to chicken, to vegetable variations all grilling and at the same time filling the night air with the delightful aroma that beckoned to the taste buds and lured the crowd-goers to share in the captivating feast.

The music was blaring, but it was good.  No heavy metal, no rap, just nice variations of South American music from rock style to more traditional  music that offered something for everyone. The people danced, they drank, they ate, they walked, they stood and watched the goings-on, and like us associated with friends they met along the way.  One young man was out cold, lying in a fetal position on the curb when we arrived and was still there ninety minutes later when we left the block parties.  Yet everyone was in good spirits, considerate of one another, and if there were any problems, they were unnoticed by me and my companions.  It was about 1:10 a.m. and by now I was really exhausted and ready to head home.

Friday, November 4th, I was invited by my Ecuadorian friends to a party outside the city, but I was way too fatigued, and pardoned myself from the invitation.  I slept until 1:30 p.m. and still wanted to sleep most of the day.  Once again at my age I need recuperation time from my high spirited moments.

The festivities of the week gathered steam by Wednesday, which was also the "Day of the Dead". (I know, that last sentence sounds contradictory and weird.) Many Ecuadorians visit the cemetery of their ancestors, and offer prayers for the dead.  The prayers, if necessary, promise a shortened time in Purgatory for their dearly departed according to Catholic beliefs; as one must be purified from the sins of this life, before one can come into the presence of the beatific vision of God in the next life. 

If you would like to know more about the Day of the Dead, which Catholics in the United States call "All Souls Day", click on the following link to "Grimm's Tales".  The Grimms participated in the event, and have an excellent post on the rituals and ceremonies of the day, with many photos


Beginning with the "Day of the Dead" began the five day festival in which all schools and almost all individually owned stores, and businesses were closed.  Only essential services and the malls basically remained opened.  There were also two major parades in the city during the week.  One was a military parade.  I saw part of another parade that made its way down Gran Columbia.  Parades really are not my thing.  However, if you like parades, Cuenca knows how to put on some spectacular ones.  

Yes, there are fireworks around the clock.  The fireworks are initially worth seeing if you are new to Cuenca or happen to be visiting, because they can be quite different from the fireworks displays we are accustomed to in the states.  However, Cuencanos celebrate everything with fireworks, so the explosives can be almost nightly routines somewhere in the city.  When I was in Quito, I asked the young man who took me to process my sedula and censo, if fireworks were as common in Quito as they are in Cuenca.  His response was of interest.  He stated, “Oh no, that is a Cuencano thing.  They have the money for such displays.”  

There were literally hundreds of some kind of activities of music and cultural events going on everywhere throughout the city during the five days.  Despite all the activities or possibly in spite of all the activities, there were many Cuencanos who with the extended five day holiday chose to make their way to the coast and spend it on the Ecuadorian beaches of the Pacific.  Meanwhile, their numbers were more than made up for by the large number of visitors who came to Cuenca from the surrounding areas to partake in the week's festivities.

Saturday, November 5th, would turn out to be the most unanticipated day of all.  The plan was for me, my friend, and her two children to spend the afternoon in Parque El Paraiso, the largest park in Cuenca and very family-friendly.  Upon our arrival a fair was in process.  In the United States, we would call it a “New Age Fair”.  There were numerous booths, which offered all types of massage therapies, herbal jars filled with every type of herbs imaginable, the aromatic smell from aroma therapies, and the incessant smell of incense.  No psychics, however.

The show stopper for me was the shaman.  My friend and her two children each went individually through the ritual of holding some log-like object which while they were shaking it, the shaman would make his way around the individual chanting and shaking a rattle.  The ritual was concluded when the shaman opened a large jar of water filled with some type of herbs, took a big mouthful of the solution and spat it first in the person’s face, the second mouthful was spat on the individual's bare chest, then another mouthful on the back of the head, and finally the last mouthful was spat on the back.  That "ritual washing" was just for each of the two kids.  The mother got additional mouthfuls of “blessings” on her sides as well; whether her fortuitous sprays of water were because she was an adult, or whether they were because the shaman told her she was too stressed is anybody’s guess.  Well, what can I say, there was no way in Hades this guy was going to spew mouthfuls on me of whatever only God knows what he had in that jar, especially with it mixed with his saliva.  I’ll gladly stay stressed, thank you.

I also ran into another expat at the fair who I knew and who had just had himself injected with three syringe shots without any knowledge of what he was given nor for what health purpose.  He was standing in line for the alternative medicine colonoscopy next. Once again, God only knows what that entailed, and I don't think you would want me to describe it if I had hung around to witness it.  I won’t mentioned the well-known expat's name.  He has his own blog, and if he wishes to, he can “out” himself on these activities of which he so willingly and unflinchingly partook.  He explained to me that this is Ecuador and you need to go with the flow.  I’ll let the reader arrive at their own judgments on that bit of philosophy, and when it should and should not be applied.

I did submit to a foot massage and a muscle massage, both of which did help relieve much bodily tension, and for the first time all week I was no longer feeling fatigued.  The price was right.  There were no charges for any of the treatments.  I didn’t have time for the acupuncture and massage combination treatment, which looked promising.  Some of the other offered treatments struck me as more like magic then treatment.  At least my masseur had a doctorate (P.H.D.) in Alternative Medicine.  (Talk about pile it high and dig it deeper.)  My comments are not meant to disparage all alternative medicine practices.  Some work quite effectively, and we know how often M.D. conventional medical treatments leave much to be desired.  I have found massages to be far more helpful, for example, than an M.D. just throwing pain pills at me.

Sunday, November 6th was “come down to earth day”.  After days of excitement and nonstop action, the festival was beginning to wind down.  The art fairs were in their last day of exhibitions, and some minor music celebration was still accompanying the fairs.  No doubt the evening ended with fireworks somewhere in the city.  Otherwise, Sunday was a day for church-going, returning from coastal vacations, and unwinding and resting up for the return to school and to work tomorrow for most Cuecanos.

Unfortunately, I am so accustomed to not having my camera on me that I forgot to take it out of my bag at the time when my friend and her children were getting hosed down by the shaman, which would have made some great comical shots,  although the participants were taking the whole ritual quite seriously.  Then when the crowd gathered to watch shamans or whoever the men were who walked on red hot charcoals, I was being massaged and missed photos of that as well. I couldn’t even get a shot of two handsome roosters together.  In the short time it took to focus, one jumped into a nearby bush and the other rooster fled in the opposite direction.   However, I do have some generic photos of the “Healing Fair”, which are shared with you below:  (Just click on the link, and follow the slide presentation.)  The photos have commentaries.

This is just the beginning of the festival season, which dominates much of the calendar in Cuenca right up through Easter.  By midnight, Monday morning, it was heavily raining and from what I can tell it rained pretty much throughout the day Monday.  Rainy and cloudy all day long.  Like I said, no two days are alike in Cuenca.   What a down day to go back to work or school after a warm, sunny, week of celebration.  I just curled up in bed, and spent the day nestled in the comfort of my condo, ever so thankful that I am retired.


  1. Thank you for sharing this information. The information was very helpful and saved a lot of my time.

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  2. Nice share, Jim.
    We are on track for being in Cuenca by the first part of April.
    I officialy retire December 23rd. Doug finishes in March.
    see you in the spring!
    Diana & Doug

  3. Fantastic! Congratulations to you both. Oh, are you ever going to be busy in the months ahead, but it will go by quickly. Once you're here, the time goes even faster. I can't believe, I've already been here eight months. I very much look forward to seeing you both again in the spring. What the heck, let me be the first to wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and obviously a glorious New Year! Jim