Paseo del Niño

If there were ever a day that will live in infamy in our memories, it’s December 24 here in Cuenca, Ecuador: the day of the Paseo del Niño parade. It is said that Cuenca is host to the largest Paseo del Niño parade in all of Latin America. I don’t know if that’s the literal truth, but for a smallish city, they do it big. If ever photos did a better job than words, it’s now. These are some of the best, but I admit it was hard to choose.

An Amazon warrior carrying a tiny Amazon warrior Jesus.

Easily the most astounding vehicle in the parade. You cannot see it, but there is a little kid riding underneath the carriage, completely invisible in the photo.

A detail from the side of that carriage. I don’t know who the little girl was supposed to be, but ‘queen for the day’ seems accurate.

Tiny legs hanging off the back.

Paseo del Niño is a tradition of celebrating the Christ Child and giving thanks for all the good things of living here on earth. The tradition was brought to Ecuador over 500 years ago by the Spanish. In Cuenca, the star of the parade is a lovely polychrome statue of the Baby Jesus, waving his chubby arm in blessing. This statue, sculpted in 1823 here in Cuenca, came into the possession of one Monsignor Miguel Cordero Crespo of Cuenca about a century later. He traveled through the Holy Land and to Rome with the statue where it was blessed by Pope John XXIII in 1961.  Since then, this traveling Jesus has been featured in the parade.

This is the statue that stars in the parade. “Heavily Guarded” does not begin to describe the sheer number of armed guards that surrounded this statue.

Pretty sure she is dressed as the Angel of the Annunciation. Her carriage was just before the Jesus statue.

The celebration is a combination of the Catholic values and traditions and indigenous cultural traditions. There are people from all parts of Ecuador dressed in their traditional clothing and some doing traditional dances, but also carrying their own Baby Jesus with them. In fact that is one of the aspects of the parade that I found to be most, well, charming, actually. People of all ages: men, women, boys, girls, carried their own statue of the infant Jesus through the parade. These statues were done in the polychrome tradition, and some were dressed in finery made of velvet, sequins, and other sparkly things. This was not only a celebration of the child, but an unabashed celebration of parenthood.

This couple dressed as Mary and Joseph. There were a lot of these.

Cars in the parade were decked out with Jesus statues and flowers on the hood, and sometimes with babies. This mom got to the infant  angel before she started crying.

Horses dressed in decked out saddle blankets filled the streets, carrying children dressed up as characters from the Christmas story or simply dressed in sequined finery. There were a few Santas, which is a recent phenomenon here. The blankets are covered with all kinds of food and drink, and often there will be a basket attached to the back of the saddle carrying a roasted pig and roasted guinea pigs. (Culturally, that one was a bit hard. I used to have those as pets.)

Mike decides to just get his water bottle filled with chicha. This batch was not particularly alcoholic, we found. Kind of fruity, with a tiny kick.

Asleep on the saddle.

This boy danced and danced with his bull puppet.

Here are your roasted guinea pigs. No, we haven’t sampled them. There are some things I’m just not eating, and this is one of them.

We went early. We stayed late. We drank Chicha (a traditional fermented drink that is given out freely to the crowd). We witnessed the blessed statue of the Christ Child, heavily protected by the armed National Police, and received the blessing of the priest riding with the statue. We went home tired but with out hearts and minds filled with images and experiences we will never forget.

Yes, it’s a guinea pig.

This little one has had enough of all this nonsense of riding on a horse. She refused to stay on one minute longer.

7 thoughts on “Paseo del Niño

    • I just can’t do it. I had too many of them as pets and loved their little squeals so much. I’m not very ‘food brave’, I’m afraid. There are a lot of things I won’t eat; many of them live in the sea. I, too, love all the baby Jesus dolls. I almost bought one, but then couldn’t think what I would do with it on the boat. Seeing full grown men carrying baby Jesus around just melts my heart.

  1. Melissa, thank you for sharing all of this. Your Ecuador travels reminds me in many ways of our PERU travels. In Peru, they call Guinea Pigs “Cuy” pronounced Coo-eye. We didn’t try it only because whenever we saw it offered on a street sign in front of a restaurant we had just eaten. I am so anxious to go back to PERU again. Now maybe Ecuador too. Your daughter lives there? The little girl in the Purple and gold dress, beautiful, both her and the gown. Take care and enjoy.

    • That was a stand-out day! They call Guinea Pig ‘Cuy’ here as well and it’s mostly served in the mountains. I just can’t bring myself to try it. Yes, our daughter lives in Ecuador for now. Sadly, it’s easier for she and her husband to get residency here than it is for either one of them to get residency in either of their home countries. They do love it here. Glad to see you are still reading along!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.