07:59. It’s a beautiful morning in Cuenca. Clear skies, white clouds. Sun reflecting off palm trees and the Tomebamba River. No rush hour this morning as it is Good Friday and the city is pretty much shut down. Children have been out of school since Wednesday and I hear many families go out of town for the holiday. Avenida 12 de Abril outside my window is silent.
This morning David and I (and Katherine if she gets up) will climb the 84 steps (they don’t seem to get any easier…sigh) and spend late morning in El Centro. Don’t know how busy it will be as most of the stores close at noon in celebration of Good Friday.
Last night was the official walk for the Holy Thursday visit to seven churches in El Centro. The Catholic tradition of visiting seven churches on this holy jueves dates to Roman times when Christian pilgrims visited the seven basilicas as an act of penance.
In Cuenca, the visit attracts thousands of tourists due to the short distances between churches in the old part of town. “In most cities in Ecuador, you would walk many kilometers between seven churches,” says priest Nelson Ramirez. “Here, the distances are short and churches are very beautiful.” [Cuenca HighLife, March 24, 2016.] 10,000 people were expected to participate.
Well, we missed that — partly because I thought it was today but also because we had a busy day taking a bus tour of the city, and David and Katherine had a date to the symphony last night. I remained at home as I can only walk so much and then my knees and hips give out. David prefers to hoof it and he seldom reaches a point of collapse. Gifted, I guess. Or just stubborn.
Partly because I thought it was today but also because we had a busy day taking a bus tour of the city, and David and Katherine had a date to the symphony last night. I remained at home as I can only walk so much and then my knees and hips give out. David prefers to hoof it and he seldom reaches a point of collapse. Gifted, I guess. Or just stubborn.
I learned something interesting. Here, Good Friday is the focus of the holiday season, not Easter Sunday. The crucifixion and darkness seem to outweigh the resurrection and light. A parade composed of thousands of people follows a statue of Jesus on the cross that is carried by robed penitents. An actual cross is also carried by men in the crowd. Children dressed as Roman soldiers carry spears and walk at the front of the procession.
Certainly no Easter bunnies or baskets or decorated eggs exciting the children here.
What strikes me is the lack of materialism. The celebration is the event of Christ’s betrayal and death. I see no ads promoting gifts to buy for children– no battle of one Easter bunny to outdo the other. Stores hold no baskets filled-to-overflowing with chocolates, candy bars, tiny toys and STUFF.
Families take the day off and go to the parade, to church, to their homes for a traditional dinner and then to the parks. The focus is both spiritual (or religious) and relationships.
We missed much of the celebrations this year (hard to know what’s happening when you can’t read Spanish and don’t know the city.) But we’ll be there, hasta anos.
David and I come from families pretty steeped in their own religious traditions and theology. The emphasis has always been on Sunday, not Friday. The distinction I supposed is pretty significant. I don’t get all the ramifications, nor do I really want to. The point is, traditions in the US that have continued year after year has contributed to me being dulled to the importance of what we commemorate.
Living here and experiencing a small part of this Easter Season through new eyes has stirred something in me.
I’m thankful for the experience. Blessed to be here. And tickled we didn’t have to deal with the Easter basket!
Again, a blessed Easter.