El Pase Del Niño
From time to time, Alan and I will visit local cafés to get some work done and enjoy a latte or cappuccino or two. I know we are travelling, but we still need WiFi! And it’s nice sometimes to feel some familiarity in a place that has such a different culture and pace of life to “home” – sipping on a coffee together between adventures is a way to unwind and reflect, as well as work on this blog for you guys and other projects.
We were at a popular café and bar in Cuenca, Goza Espresso Bar, recently and noticed a commotion coming from next door. Our server told us it was El Pase del Niño, or “The Passing of the Child” – one of Ecuador’s biggest festivals, with a huge parade with contributions from communities in Cuenca and in outlying villages and towns.
Traditionally, El Pase del Niño is a Roman Catholic celebration, commemorating the birth of baby Jesus as a symbol of hope and redemption and bringing people together to remember him and his legacy. It is celebrated all over Ecuador and Latin America but Cuenca’s festivities are some of the biggest – I didn’t know this at the time but apparently 50,000 people participate in the parade and up to 200,000 come out to watch the procession.
The parade itself is made up of floats, horses, trucks, street performers and statues of Christ. Another big feature? Costumes, lots and lots of costumes. While some of the participants keep their outfits strictly religion-based, depicting biblical characters, there were a lot of “Halloween” style costumes too, particularly from the children. The horses were also dressed up in elaborate and vibrant rugs with color-coordinated harnesses and reins.
What really struck me were the costumes worn by the children in the parade and also in the crowd. Some stuck to tradition, dressed as angels, or wise men or Joseph and Mary, but others were in local attire – little girls dressed in layered Andean polleras (colorful, handwoven wool skirts) and Spanish-style flamenco dresses, most wearing makeup applied by their mothers, and boys in bright, intricately decorated ponchos.
I was really intrigued by the little ones wearing makeup. Although indigenous groups like the Achuar have a rich tradition of using face paint as part of celebrations, there isn’t a massive culture of cosmetics or makeup here, as far as I can tell. It was interesting that these kids had their faces all made up, and they were obviously feeling themselves as they were all smiles when I showed them the photos I had taken. Children are wonderful when they are just being themselves, but the joy on their faces at being a part of this celebration was so beautiful.
Some other spectators were just snapping pictures here, there and everywhere, I thought it would be more polite to ask – particularly when taking pictures of children! It’s so handy to speak Spanish here, it makes me feel more connected to the locals and helps to make interactions like this so much easier.
Cuenca is full of so many beautiful festivals and parties and I just couldn’t resist sharing this one with you – El Pase del Niño traditionally takes place on Christmas Eve, but the whole festival spans for around three months, with fireworks, parties and other events interspersed throughout that time.
The collective happiness and elation during these times is just so infectious, you can’t help but smile and want to be a part of it all. I want to experience as many as I can! Do you guys have a favorite parade, or a celebration you’ve always wished you could be a part of?
“Celebrate Life… Don’t just celebrate festivals! Make a commitment to enjoy every moment, so that your journey becomes a Festival of Joy.” -RVM