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Friday, March 3, 2017

Faith and Foam

It's always an interesting time, experiencing a culture that is completely different from your own, but when a significant religious holiday rolls around, it kind of makes you sit up and notice. I've been asked a couple of times, by locals, what traditions Canada has for Carnival; the days before the Lenten season. I don't have much to say. We don't have a huge dance festival like Brazil, nor do we have water and foam fights  like they do here.
Elusive foam monster only come out at
Carnaval - our dear friend John
It's very difficult to explain to a predominantly religious (Catholic) society that I come from a country were religion is a very personal thing and that many types are practiced. It's even harder for them to understand that I'm unaffiliated with a recognized belief system. My lack of faithful practice doesn't take away from my joy or curiosity about their own beliefs. I've said many times that being Catholic in Ecuador is a kinder gentler practice than what I'm familiar with. There seems to be a lot of room for other influences.

Aya Huma the Quechuan spirit guide

So comes Carnaval and Mardi Gras. It's celebrated here with water, espuma (spray cans filled with (fairly) harmless foam), corn starch, confetti and the occasional egg.There are parades, loud music, fire works, and general levity. As a visitor, if you aren't in the know, it can prove surprising. Water balloons, drive by foamings and unexpected starch bombs can take you unawares. It's all in good fun and Cuencanos generally respect our gringo ignorance. We've been asked if it's okay to shoot us.

Parque Calderon is a hotbed of foam fighting activity
Now comes Ash Wednesday. A lot of the population wanders around with ash crosses on their foreheads and prepares for the restrictions that come with Lent. Many restaurants will offer fish on Fridays and parades, fireworks and music will be so much less over the next forty days.  It's the only time that Cuenca seems fairly subdued.

I don't know much about faith, but I can see that it drives many of the people here and makes their lives richer. It doesn't seem like they hold differing opinions against people and I suspect that many prayers are said for the faithless, but in the kindest way possible.

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