Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Carnival Holiday recap 2016

I'm reminded by one of our faithful friends from the States to give an update on Carnival, which is akin to Mardi Gras in the United States.  Carnival is much better known and more of an international tourist type holiday in Brazil, especially Rio de Janeiro but not so much in Ecuador as far as we know.  

Here in Cuenca, Carnival is an Ecuadorian national holiday.  A lot of people start leaving Cuenca for the coast and the beaches on the Friday before the official holiday starts (this year it was February 8th and 9th, the 9th being "Fat Tuesday" as Rio would know and call it, as well as New Orleans in the US).  Saturday can also be a big travel day to the coast, especially in the morning.  As you can tell, this leaves anywhere from two to five days free for families to party and enjoy the fiestas.  The days off are made up by working the next two successive Saturdays, as we found out last year from our law firm, which was open those days (not normally open on Saturdays. . . these two days are the "make up" days to compensate businesses for the time off from work earlier in Carnival).  

The people who visit the coast often end up in or near Salinas, which is the coastal town past Guayaquil, the port city on the Guayas River at its terminus in the Pacific Ocean.  I haven't yet been there, but Carolyn Anne has, and it's hot and humid there especially this time of year, when it's effectively the warmer season of the year from December to February.  We hear it gets crowded in the timeshare rentals, hotels, and lodgings there during Carnival season, and typically attracts a younger crowd.  I doubt that Salinas is where we would spend Carnival.  Cuenca suits us just fine!

An update on our friend that got sprayed with espuma - foam - on the Thursday before Carnival at the social fiesta at Parque Calderon in the El Centro of Cuenca: she is recovering well, and is able to see out of I believe one eye at present.  She will regain her sight, and the worst of it will be that she may have to undergo laser surgery for her affected eye.  That remains to be determined, however.  She is able to walk outside and go visit the doctor (Carolyn Anne went with her to that appointment).  We are grateful to God she is improving after such a nasty attack.  By the way, the foam used came from China, and is alcohol based (which makes it more of a hazard than a non alcohol based foam product).  There's Ecuadorian produced non alcohol foam for sale before Carnival, and if you gotta have espuma, we'd certainly prefer folks purchase the Ecuador produced product.  

Natives to Cuenca that have lived here much longer than us have mentioned that the city used to be a much more dangerous place for tourists and we foreigners to be in during Carnival.  "It was virtually a war zone!," opined one of our Iglesia Verbo pastors.  Tons of balloons, foam, water, ice, and probably more being tossed at warp speed to zing unsuspecting recipients, which probably included some foreigners.  They must have complained to the police, because the local police crack down on a lot of what used to be happening during Carnival season.  Public municipal fountains (not all. . . the one at Av. Solano at Av. Doce de Abril was on this year) get turned off nowadays to prevent people from loading water pistols and water balloons, for example.  Streets aren't near as wet and slick as they used to be (some sidewalks in El Centro and in the El Vergel office/retail district south of El Centro would be exceptions, currently).  

But some things haven't changed despite the police crackdown on the more risky and dangerous behavior.  "I don't know why, but when we have our festivales, we don't think," confided one of our Iglesia Verbo translator volunteers.  "It's like turning our brains off or something."  "Wouldn't it be appropriate to always consider safety in the activities surrounding Carnival?" I asked her.  "Yes, but it's not in us to do that," admitted our young adult friend.  So there you have it.  Culturally when these parties or festivales start up, the Ecuadorianos go loco totalmente and lose their minds.  Now you - and we - know!  You gotta believe we will keep this bit of knowledge and advice in mind regarding future national holidays here in Ecuador.  In but not of, as the apostle John wrote.  In the local culture, but not ensnared by it in a way that would cause us harm.  

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