I'm starting a new category . . . 'culture' After living here for 20 years, we were finally able to run downtown for a little while to catch the annual parade which takes place on December 24th.
I'm going to translate parts of a couple of articles I found to explain a little of the history.
The parade of the traveling child is a procession with the "Child King" which is more developed in Cuenca than in any other city in Ecuador. It starts before dawn on December 24th and continues until sunset. Multitudes of people participate, representing the important moments that took place surrounding the birth of Jesus, generally riding on distinctly decorated floats made up of various sizes of cars and trucks. (We saw from little homemade cars for one child, being pushed the entire route by an adult family member to huge diesel trucks that could have pulled a double trailer.)
The story begins with a small statue of the baby Jesus which was carved in the year 1823. In 1961 it was owned by the Vicar of the Archdiocese of Cuenca, Miguel Cordero, who carried it with him as he traveled to the Holy Lands, and the statue was blessed by Pope John XXIII at that time. Upon his return to Cuenca, he organized the first procession on the 24th of December with some parishioners who walked with the statue from the church of San Sebastian to the cathedral in the center of Cuenca. Another article stated that the Vicar would carry it around to different churches, and when he entered the people would shout, "Here comes the traveling Child!"
Today thousands of different families, neighbors and other groups join together to walk the route, which now extends well beyond the borders of downtown Cuenca. Some say over 20,000 people participate. The idea is to show their veneration of the baby Jesus, and carry their personal (family) statue so that it will receive a blessing for the rest of the year. Represented in the various groupings are the angel who appeared with the star in Bethlehem, the wise men, the shepherds, the holy family, all sizes of floats and people and children on horseback, groups of dancers from different parts of the country accompanied by a band to play while they dance. Many of the cars and horses are festooned with all kinds of candy, liquors and other drinks, and foods which are then eaten as a picnic after their long walk.
There are lots of pictures here - after all it's a 12 hour event!