Cuenca festivals "like burningman except without the naked people"

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A city official hands me a red booklet. At 34 pages long, this the incomplete agenda of all the activities for the weeklong November festivals celebrating the independence of Cuenca. Incomplete because many of the bars and restaurants host their own live music events in addition!

Hotels display no vacancy signs as the masses from all over ecuador and the world pour into town. The smell of fresh bread wafts through the streets and every cafe bakery and convenience store sells “colada morada and guayas de pan” a hot drink made from purple corn, fruit and herbs and bread shaped more or less like a baby in a blanket. Traditionally eaten at the grave of your ancestors, but the best I could do was Skype my family.

Thursday I walk to the central parque Calderon for the enormous parade where dance groups perform to huge crowds. Luckily a dSLR camera gets one a free pass to stand directly in the street in the middle if the parade (under the guise of being a professional). Afternoon I walk along the Tomebamba river where hordes if artisans from all over South America have set up tables selling everything from jewelry to handwoven shawls. I walk aimlessly around the city until I find the agricultural festival in plaza San Blas. The local women slowly turn the local delicacy of “cuy” aka guinea pig over hot coals while others offer a spiritual cleansing (which involves being whacked repeatedly with a bunch of herbs all over your body). In plaza of 9 de octubre there is more dancing.

Friday, not to be just a spectator, I do a salsa performance with Salseros Cuenca amongst a lot if other groups- rock music and reggaeton slike! At night I meet up with a group if friends and hit up…a bar, a coffee shop, a dance club with cumbia and salsa and finally end the night at the famous Inca bar where musicians who have come from other events give us an impromptu rock concert at our table. 3am and the party continues at their house, minus one rather overwhelmed and exhausted gringa.

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