Even though we had everything ready for our Christmas trek in Cajas National Park, at the last-minute we decided to sleep in that morning and postpone our trip for the next day. After having breakfast at our hostel, we went out to wander around the streets of Cuenca.
Just a couple of blocks away, we stumbled upon a colorful and bizarre crowd gathered on a plaza in front of a church. There were horses everywhere, most of them were covered with vibrant fabrics and ornaments. Some were ridden by children dressed in fancy costumes, while others were carrying trays with roasted chickens and guinea pigs. We were fascinated by this strange scene and wanted to find out what was going on.
It turned out we just had chanced upon our very first Pase del Niño (or Passing of the Child). Hundreds of years ago, when the Spanish first arrived to Latin America, they introduced this Christmas celebration in which the infant Jesus is carried through towns and villages. Apparently, the parade in Cuenca is one of the biggest of its kind in all of Latin America with tens of thousands participants.
The Pase del Niño offers a cornucopia of flavours, sounds and colours. There are lavishly decorated floats, children ridding horses in fancy costumes, folkloric dances and live music, and lots of vendors selling typical food.
As for us, we were delighted to have stumbled upon this beautiful and peculiar celebration by chance. It was one of those rare instances where our laziness payed off handsomely.
Every year, the parade starts at around 10 in the morning on December 24th and lasts about six hours. The procession begins at Iglesia Corazón de Jesús on Calle Gran Colombia and continues down on Calle Simón Bolívar.
Have you been to the Pase del Niño parade in Cuenca, Ecuador? Have you ever stumbled upon a big celebration entirely by chance while travelling? How did you like the experience? Share with us, leave a comment!