Viva Cuenca! Independence Day in Cuenca

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After a long 14-hour bus ride from Otavalo I arrived in Cuenca. It was a Saturday night and I had no idea that it was the beginning of Independence Day in Cuenca.

Yet this was not as exciting as it seemed as the first hostel I visited told me everything in the city was booked.

But someone was looking down on me and a wonderful hostel owner saw me wandering the streets and gave me her last hostel dorm bed.

I’m not known to turn down a party so now that I no longer had to sleep in the streets I decided to stay a few days as the celebrations promised to be plentiful.

It was the best decision to make as there were throngs of people everywhere, dance troupes and bands lining streets.

This afternoon I stumbled upon this parade and was overwhelmed by the energy of this group.

Independence Day in Cuenca Ecuador is one of the city's biggest holidays. Find out what to see and do during this time.

Independence Day In Cuenca

One of the most interesting parts of South American culture is that each country has its own Independence Day.

However, in Ecuador several cities achieved independence before the country as a whole was liberated.

DON’T TRAVEL WITHOUT THIS:
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Cuenca is one of these cities, and its annual Independence Day in Cuenca is held on November 3rd. Furthermore, it is one of the biggest events in the city’s calendar.

This annual holiday draws more than 100,000 in a city that has less than 350,000 people.

Independence Day in Cuenca Ecuador is one of the biggest holidays of the year. Find out what to see and do on this holiday in Ecuador.

History of Cuenca’s Independence from Spain

In 1819 the Spanish Empire territory of Ecuador initiated independence toward becoming the country of Ecuador. Unbelievably it took 11 years.

Like most of South America it started after several years of dissatisfaction with the Spanish regime. Guayaquil was the first city to achieve independence, overcoming the local garrison on October 9th.

Consequently, the news spread like wildfire and soon the city of Portoviejo declared independence on October 18th.
 

ALSO READ:  Cuy in Ecuador

 
At this time, Cuenca was the economic hub and the administrative center of the region. Eventually on November 3rd locals subdued the local garrison and Cuenca also declared its independence.

As a result, the war against Spanish rule successfully continued. The territory of Ecuador joined the independent state of Gran Colombia in 1822 formally ending Spanish rule.

Eight years later in 1830, the country we now know as Ecuador formed. As a result, the country’s national Independence Day is celebrated on August 10.

Cuenca's Independence Day on November 3rd is one of the best times to visit Ecuador. The city celebrations last four days and often draw over 100,000 people. Here's what you need to know about Cuenca Ecuador.

What to See at Cuenca’s Independence Day

The celebrations in Cuenca begin October 29th to incorporate the Day of the Dead festivities. While Cuenca is a relatively small town in 2015 there were over 300 scheduled events.

However, the best thing to see during Independence Day in Cuenca is the parade that streams through the main streets of the city on November 3rd.
 

STUFFED PLANTAIN RECIPE: Bolon de Verde

The parade is a great opportunity to see traditional costumes, music and dance. As the evening continues there are dances, parties and fireworks throughout the city as people pour into the streets.

Local cafes, hostels and hotels prepare for outside visitors and have city guides to the organized events.

Independence Day in Cuenca Ecuador is one of the biggest holidays of the year. Falling right after Day of the Dead this is the best time to visit Cuenca Ecuador.

Impromptu Celebrations and Independent Events

Along with all of the celebrations and organized events, the party atmosphere spreads throughout the city.

Many neighbourhoods host their own parties that are welcome to visitors. You’ll find friendly locals offering you an alcoholic drink or bite to eat.

This is one of the few times you will see open alcohol on the streets in Cuenca, which is a relatively conservative city.

If you don’t know of any parties just wander the streets. You will find small bands or musicians playing in a square or park. 

People quickly congregate around them to dance and to party. While the big showpiece events of Independence Day are spectacular, you really get a local feel with the smaller informal celebrations.

What to Eat on Independence Day

As you would expect street food is the staple for most people during the event, and there are plenty of options to try.

Enjoy traditional Ecuadorian food Cuenca street such as the pork sandwiches and grilled sausages sold in stalls across the city. For dessert there are chocolate dipped strawberries and grapes served on a stick.

As the evening progresses, look for the bubbling pots of a spiced version of canelazo, a local alcoholic drink that is strong but delicious.

READ: Where to Eat Cuy (Guinea Pig) in Cuenca

Shopping in Cuenca

Supporting local artists is important in Cuenca and this is also the best time to visit the markets to see local arts and crafts.

If you are looking for authentic souvenirs head to the largest market at the Escalinatas stairway. Stalls fill a large courtyard and also span a large area on the banks of the river.

The products range from wooden trinkets and decorated items through to textiles and paintings.

READ: Check Out These Wacky Cuenca Museums

Independence Day in Cuenca was one of my favourite memories, if you’re in the area you should definitely check it out.

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Independence Day in Cuenca Ecuador is one of the biggest holidays of the year, don't miss the best things to see and do.

Join the Conversation

  1. Such a fun video. It already made me want to go visit. Festival and fun vibe!~

  2. turkey's for life says:

    Wow, that all looks very energetic! The colours in the top photograph are amazing. Lucky you for stumbling into a festival like that – and for getting a bed!

  3. How lucky for you to have stumbled upon these festivities. Great video, lots of energy and color. It just so happens that it’s Independence Day in Beirut on Monday.

  4. No Vacation Required says:

    I was going to say “how fortunate for you to stumble upon this festival” but it seems more unlikely to NOT stumble upon a street festival. It’s one of the things we loved about South / Central America – there seems to be innumerable holidays and festivals.

    Once in Alicante, Spain, we started following a procession (not having any idea where it was going or for what reason) and ended up walking like three miles. We didn’t figure out what was at the end (a statue of a saint or the Mother Mary no doubt) but we had a blast!

    Did you say you almost slept on the streets in Cuenca?! Girl, you crazy!

  5. Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World says:

    That’s really cool to have stumbled into something like that. Love the video. Nice way to start this cold Saturday morning..

  6. Michael Hodson says:

    Viva Cuenca indeed!! 🙂

  7. Looks like a happy, colourful parade 🙂 Nice video.

  8. Lily @ Explore for a Year says:

    Hi Ayngelina,

    Thanks for sharing this lively video – you just reminded me of my experience in Cuenca 3 years ago. I wasn’t there for independence day, but I do remember loving the area and the food (and it was a restful stop from the more active activities we did right before) 🙂

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. I LOVE when you’re traveling and you get surprised! Thank goodness you found a place to sleep.

  10. Nice post and great festival. Cuenca is lovely, especially the architecture.

  11. YNice one Ayngelina, Cuenca Ecuador is high on our ‘Must do’ list. We spent a magical time in Cuenca Spain some years ago, so exploring it’s namesake in Ecuador draws us. Thanks for the vid and I’ll be reading everything you write on Cuenca.

  12. Wow, that place looks really beautiful. I can’t wait to visit Ecuador some day.

  13. How lucky you were. I love their costumes.

  14. Claire (Travel Funny Travel Light) says:

    Are you going to Vilcabamba? If so, I have a DEFINITE hostel recommendation. Let me know! Definitely the best hostel I have ever, hands down, stayed in!

  15. Wow they’re really going for it! great thing to stumble across!

  16. I love the dancing! Great capture. I couldn’t imagine keeping that pace up for long periods of time.

  17. Cornelius Aesop says:

    Good thing you found that bed, wouldn’t want to spend the night in the streets especially after a festival.

  18. Chris - The Aussie Nomad says:

    What a great festival to stumble upon on your first day there.

  19. Cathy Sweeney says:

    What fun! Great that you happened to be there at that time.

  20. Hogga aka @ _thetraveller_ says:

    That video is awesome lady! Be safe in Ecuador!

  21. Christy - Ordinary Traveler says:

    I love when things work out like that! Have fun!

  22. Thanks so much for your comment on the glamour granny. What a coincidnce. I’m so gald you are now looking forward to going to Peru.

  23. Devin the Travel Writer says:

    Sounds like you are having a blast. Good on ya!

  24. Cuenca is a magical place any time of year, but especially during the festivals (Holy Week is the other major festival time here).

    You were definitely lucky (blessed, even) to have found a room. The city is filled from Friday until Monday or Tuesday (especially this year since it was also Day of the Dead on the Tuesday after).

  25. Zablon Mukuba says:

    that festival looked like a lot of fun

  26. Nice! The video is great. WHere is the part where you start dancing with them? B well, Phil

  27. Love the video. Just randomly coming across festivals while traveling is one of my favorites. And they really know how to do it in Latin America when it comes to singing and dancing and celebrating.

  28. Ayngelina Author says:

    @Ryan

    They did have those big fireworks structures but you couldn’t fool me a second time, I stayed farther back!

  29. What a fun slice of the traditional dancing that you happened upon – gorgeous colors and energy!

  30. Did you have to run from fireworks this time?

  31. Laurel @Expat in Germany says:

    Looks like fun! I can see why you wouldn’t want to leave!

  32. Looks like it’s a good time. It’s so great when you go somewhere and find out that a festival is going on that you didn’t know about. Glad you found somewhere to stay.

  33. That looks like a ridiculous amount of fun.

  34. A Tramp Abroad says:

    Great video! It looks like so much fun and the colors are lovely.

  35. Awesome find! That video really made me smile.

    I had a friend who studied abroad in Cuenca. From what I could tell, he liked it!

  36. greg urbano says:

    what a colorfull and lively parade, loves the colors of s.a.

  37. Caz Makepeace says:

    A great stumble upon. You are really inspiring me to get to South America

  38. Devin the Travel Writer says:

    There is a part of me, albeit a small part, that misses the 14-hour bus rides. It has been a while.

  39. Ayngelina Author says:

    @Devin

    I’m sure that one day I will feel that too, but it won’t be any time soon 🙂

  40. Andrew Murray says:

    Wow what a wonderful coincidence to meeet that hostel owner on the street! Hope you enjoyed the celebrations they look fantastic!

  41. hmm…I never made it there, yet this is inspiring enough to go some other day

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