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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cuenca Independence - Part I

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck and I have had a fabulous weekend. So fabulous that I will have to send two separate blogs to share the pictures.

One hundred and eighty seven years ago Cuenca gained its independence from Spain. The celebrations have been going on all over town. We had a hard time deciding which venues to attend. There were many artisan markets, parades, concerts (outdoor and indoor) and fireworks. The newspaper was full of activities to do. We had a hard time deciding on which ones to participate in as many activities were happening simultaneously.

On Thursday we went to several artisan markets. The picture below is one I took at a market. The police band was performing in the entertainment area. I found that children and dogs alike appreciated the music.
We bought tickets to a concert at the Banco Central auditorium. They had four hours of entertainment from Argentina and Mexico. We went with two friends we have met since being here. We met at our apartment and then took a taxi to the theater. The streets were so crowded with traffic that, although we left the apartment in plenty of time, we arrived just a few minutes before the performances began. Since we did not have reserve seats we were seated in the nosebleed section of the balcony. The first hour or so was Tango musicians and dancers. It was only after they were finished and the Mariachi bands from Mexico were performing that I even tried using my camera.

The featured artist for the evening was a singer from Mexico, Sandra Argudo. Her voice was spectacular. Toward the end of her performance she brought her son on stage to sing with her.

Friday morning, we got up and went to the Feria Libre market. This is the biggest market in the city of Cuenca. They were supposed to have entertainment, but we must have arrived before it began. There were many food vendors set up such as this lady below. All I can say about this picture is the folks at Country's Barbecue, down home in Georgia could take some tips from her.

We came home and I took a nap because I knew we had a big evening ahead. The main Plaza in the center of town was having a celebration that we did not want to miss. We arrived early and watched the people assemble the fireworks towers. The towers were made from bamboo cane and decorated with spinners, flags and colored paper.

They stacked the pieces together to make a huge tower. Actually there were four towers, one on each corner of the square.

During the construction of the firework towers there were at least four bands. The odd thing is that they were in different sections of the park and were all playing simultaneously. It was so different from anything we have ever experienced.

About 9:00pm the first tower began it's fireworks display. The fireworks started at the bottom of the tower and progressed up to the top with a fabulous waterfall display.

During all this, the parade of dancers came through the crowd. They were huge doll heads with a couple of people under them to hold them upright. My picture is not very clear since it was taken at night, but I hope you can get a sense of the crowd and excitement there.

The crowd was huge and we knew getting a taxi home would be impossible. I am sure the buses were also packed. So we walked home. On the way home (about a 30 minute walk) we passed three other outdoor entertainment venues.

My next blog will be about the parade we went to this morning.

We are almost partied out, but we are going to the Azteca Mexican restaurant tonight for a night of Boleros and Bohemia.

I will finish sending celebration pictures tomorrow.

Nancy and Chuck

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