I'm happy to report that Carnival is alive and well in Cuenca!
We really had no idea that Cuencanos (people from Cuenca) celebrate this Christian festival, linking it mostly to Rio and insanity and boobies.
But it's celebrated here too!
It all started last night when Nate and I walked toward the main plaza. It had been raining all afternoon, and we'd taken nice siestas, so we were hunting for cafecitos (little coffees) before the evening festivities got started in the plaza.
On our walk in, I felt something small hit my ankle. When I looked down, a tiny water balloon (only about 3 inches across) bobbled on the street. I searched for my attacker and made quick eye contact with a six-year-old girl cowering behind a convenience store counter. She looked absolutely mortified. I'm not sure if she was more scared that she'd been spotted or that her balloon attack failed. We proceeded on.
After our coffees, we headed to the main square where a huge stage had been erected and music was blasting from the speakers. People dressed in massive doll heads danced in the streets.
We wandered up to see the dancing when all of a sudden a middle aged woman (clearly a gringa from the US or Canada) sprayed me directly in the chest with foam. I couldn't believe it! Who was this lady? I wasn't even prepared! She laughed maniacally and moved on to her next victim.
As the evening went on, we realized no one was safe. As tall, white Americans, we stood out like targets in our brightly colored rain jackets and backpacks. We were ambushed over and over again.
Always the pacifist, I insisted on staying out of the fray, but after the second or third time getting covered with foam, I turned to Nate and said, "Alright get me a can. I have to protect us!"
We each bought one can of foam for a dollar from a passing vendor and started retaliating on our attackers. We'd wait for a kid to open fire on the gringos and then immediately strike back covered him in foam. It was a little like Lord of the Flies.
We only made it about a half hour before we were completely soaked and cold. We admitted defeat and treated ourselves to some yummy corn and meat skewers from a street vendor before heading home to a hot shower.
All in all, this is a hilarious tradition. For nearly a week, you can spot kids attacking each other with foam guns and dragging each other into public fountains to get dunked. Strangers dump water from balconies onto unsuspecting passersby. The foam smells more like soap, so it doesn't seem to be a huge inconvenience that their city is covered in it for a few days. It washes away easily.
What do you guys think? Does your city do something for Carnival? Would you mind if you got pelted with water balloons heading to work this week?