October 31 – November 4: One of the perks, I thought, about our year in Cuenca was that I would miss having to make Halloween costumes. Wrong! Alex takes art classes once a week with two US Americans from New Mexico and they threw a children’s Halloween party that the kids did not want to miss. It was a sweet party with all recycled party games – and someone even brought a decadent chocolate gluten free cake!
Day of the Dead (more commonly referred to as Dia de los Difuntos here) we went to the city cemetery. First off, this place is huge – it is like a city unto itself complete with street signs! The graves are not in the ground, but rather are in what I call coffin hotels. Tons of families – babies to grandparents and all generations in between, were there cleaning up, placing fresh flowers and candles in the little cubicles. No one was sad. It was another occasion where families were getting together – this time was just with their dead loved ones at the cemetery. What a wonderful way to honor death as a part of life. We admired the custom and appreciated the time to reflect on our own loved ones who have passed on.
During this time it is also custom to eat “pan de guagua” (Guagua is a Quechua word for little child – hence “child’s bread”) and “colada morada” – a drink made of purple corn and lots of fruit. The bread, shaped like a baby with each bakery making its own style, is supposed to ease mourning by remembering that for every person who dies, another baby is born.
The weekend of Nov. 2 – 4 is big here for another reason – it’s Cuenca’s Independence celebration. For those Ashevillians reading this post, think Belle Chere weekend Latin American style. There were tons of stalls selling crafts and art from all over Ecuador and South America. Street food was everywhere. Live music was abundant in the many parks. And parades had people filling the streets. This weekend Cuenca came alive. It was quite a party!