Party time!!!

Corpus Christi Days

A week ago, for seven days, downtown Cuenca was party central. The town celebrated its version of Corpus Christi. Corpsy-whatsy you say? A bit about Corpus Christi, for the woefully deprived:

When is it? Corpus Christi occurs on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, which is the first Sunday after Pentecost, which is 40 days after Easter which is three days after Good Friday (wouldn’t “Sad Friday” be more in the spirit of the thing?) which is three days before Easter which can fall between 22 March and 25 April (Julian), or, between 4 April and 8 May (Gregorian between 1990 and 2099) which is all pretty arbitrary if you ask me.

I shit you not – this is straight from the Internet via Wikipedia, great arbiter of all truth and accuracy.

What is it? It is a celebration of the belief that the body and blood of Christ is actually right there in that little biscuit the Catholics and a few others pass around in church services. Although, centuries of dedicated scientific scrutiny have failed to corroborate this. (It had to be said.)

St Julie

Photo credit: A. Praefcke;

Why is it? Well! In the 13th century, Julie, a Belgian nun (citation for pic caption: ), had a vision.

Jesus told her it would be a great idea to have a holiday for the Eucharist. Skeptic that she apparently was, Julie held onto this little request for 20 or so years despite recurring visionistical visits. When she finally let it slip out, the church pounced on it. Initially, it was a shared holiday (Jesus washing the disciples feet, the institution of the priesthood, and, certain unfortunate events related to the Garden of Gethsemane). It kinda got lost in the shuffle so a special feast day was created to distinguish it. It’s the feast day that gave rise to centuries of partying.

What’s that got to do with Cuenca? Turns out that the original Cuencanos (the ones that were all but wiped out by the Spanish) had their own, perfectly fine holiday. The Incas celebrated Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun) at about the same time. The Spanish said, “Like, hey man, we too have got this little holiday . Why not give them equal standing and celebrate them together.” The Spanish didn’t mention it, but the day also served to celebrate the subjugation of the indigenous folks. How’d that work out? Well, I ask you, how many Cuencanos remember Inti Raymi? A bar survey by yours truly indicates – zero.

Now, in medieval times many Europeans saw Corpus Christi as a time for theatre. Hence the performance of mystery plays. In Catalonia it is celebrated with the tradition of the Dancing Egg (look it up yourself). Elsewhere, the celebration includes the practice of El Colacho (baby jumping)


… jump those babes!

which is second only to dwarf-tossing, I would say. Go figure.

dwarf tossing

… toss that dwarf!

Today, the Cuencan celebration is about food (…and fireworks – everything here includes fireworks). Specifically, it’s about candy. In the pictures that follow, you can see all kinds of candy spread out over many tables. Vendors compete and can be very assertive – but, it’s all the same candy. Oh, for sure, some vendors do have specifically home-made stuff and there are some small businesses that produce candy and sell their own brand. However, unless someone can absolutely confirm that the manufacture of  Gummy Worms® is an Ecuadorian cottage industry, I’d say that some crass commercialism has crept in.

Anyway, here is some Corpus Crusty Christi for you all (remember, just click on any photo to see enlargements in a slide show):

The candy:

And wasn’t the flower market right next to all the candy (talk about bee heaven!!):

There’s always live entertainment too. These boys were whoopin’ it up for the crowd.