Our time in Cuenca coincided with the weeklong festival of Corpus Christi which celebrates the Catholic belief in the body and blood of Christ. More importantly to us, this meant that lining the sides of Parque Calderon were stalls selling all kinds of dulces – homemade candy and sweets. Yum! On the first day, we left school after our morning session and walked through one stall after another, checking them all out. There were so many types of treats it was hard to pick just a few to try. And it was even harder to resist coming back day, after day, after day…
In the evenings the streets around Parque Calderon filled with locals. There were vendors selling hot street food, character balloons for sale, and carnival games to play. One of my favorite games was one I named the candy game. The vendor had a huge wooden board to which he tacked tons of wrapped cookies and pieces of candy. For a dollar, you got a BB gun and three shots. Elliott was up for the task, and was my hero when he shot some wafer cookies for me!
The highlight of each evening was the lighting of the castillos. “Castillo” is the Spanish word meaning “castle,” but these castillos were simply large towering structures built by groups of locals for the festivals. The castillos we saw resembled the Eiffel Tower, and each had a figure of Jesus at the very top. On each level, they had fireworks attached to them, on rotating flower petal “fans”.
The Cuencan people love their Latin music – you hear it in the parks each evening as people gather for aerobic dance, and you even hear it when you ride the busses. This festival was no different, and there was very awesome, loud music playing as more and more people gathered around the castillos in the street. It was a very lively and fun scene, with the music, cars driving by, and an announcer every once in a while. We couldn’t wait for the main event to happen!
Finally, some men came out and lit the first Castillo. At first all we could see and hear were sparks, followed by a huge cloud of smoke. And then the firecrackers started going off on those “flower fans,” and the sparks started flying in circles as the firecrackers boomed. The sparks shot higher and higher into the air accompanied by the whistles of the firecrackers. Eventually things would slow down, until the next level of the Castillo was lit, and then it would start all over again, only bigger with each successive level. Finally the Jesus figure on the top was lit up, and the crowd went wild.
P.S. If you watch the video, you will see that yes, we were VERY close to the flying sparks and fireworks! As countries other than the US are not so known for a plethora of law suits, it is often a case of, “Do so at your own risk,” and there are many fewer safeguards than we are used to!