Living in the city of Cuenca in 2016 feels a lot like growing up in midwestern USA in the 1950s: family oriented, conservative, friendly, safe, strong church ties, homecooking and big celebrations.
Think Leave it to Beaver with a Spanish accent.
Cuenca, much like Greenfield, Illinois (population 1,100) has a pavilion smack in the center of downtown.
El Centro, just like the old Greenfield Square, provides shortcuts through the park, connecting restaurants, shops, banks, and churches. Park benches scattered throughout the park offer relatively comfortable places to sit in the shade, allowing occupants to observe both car and foot traffic.
In Cuenca, as was the custom some 50 years ago my hometown, stores and restaurants are, for the most part, closed on Sunday. This day is reserved for rest, for church and for families to be together.
Families are topdog here. Life revolves around the nucleus of parents and children, tios and tias (uncles and aunts) and of course the abuelos (grandparents.) It’s not uncommon for three generations to live, eat, play and stay together.
I cherish the quiet way of life I had as a child living on South Main and then Sycamore Street. That same existence is alive today in this modern-day city. Fathers and mothers keep kids in tow as they walk to the parks on weekends. The swings and slides are full of youngsters squealing with delight as moms and dads push and pull and watch with amusement and pride.
Kids don’t seem to be afraid of strangers. I don’t see many parents hoving over their kids to protect them from unknown dangers. It’s ok for youngsters to get dirty. Children race freely up and down the streets on bikes or foot without a care in the world.
Women and men take care to look very respectable in public. In going to the city buildings, I have been informed adults are expected to be better dressed. No super casual wear for an appointment. Not too long ago, I hear people were aghast to see a gringo attempt to walk into one of the city buildings in what looked like boxer shorts.The guard denied him entry. An ugly American strikes again.
In my experience, despite Cuenca being a metropolis with 400,000+ people, it maintains the feel of a very inviting and friendly small town.
I left Greenfield in 1969 to see the world. In 2016, I moved across the world to settle down in a city that reminds me very much of the place I left.Oh the circle of life.