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Carnaval in Cuenca and Lentag

LiveTheLifeinEcuador  | May 5, 2015

This colorful, festive celebration of masks, extravagant costumes, parades, food and merriment happens every year in Ecuador a week before the celebration of Good Friday. This celebration is held all over Ecuador, with each region and city having their own unique way of conducting their own festivities.

Carnaval - Cuenca, Ecuador

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In the historic town of Cuenca, a bunch of activities happen during the week that leads to the official dates of Carnaval as an exciting prelude to what’s to come. During this week-long celebration, the busy marketplace of El Centro transforms into the center for playing Carnaval as shops and stores close down in anticipation of the celebration. There is a variety of events, including food fairs, concerts, art shows as well as traditional fishing and carnival games, which are held not just in the downtown district, but in coastal beach areas as well. If you’re up for it, try one of Ecuador’s famous delicacies – “cuy” or roasted guinea pig, which you can have fresh off the roasting pits.

Why do Ecuadorians celebrate Carnaval?

The word “Carnaval” (carnival in English) is derived from the Italian word “carn-aval” which means “absence of meat.” The festive celebration happens before Lent, wherein Catholics by tradition abstain from meat to commemorate the crucifixion of Christ. Carnaval is like a celebration of excess and merriment before the beginning of the season where Catholics are expected to abstain in penitence.

Carnaval in Ecuador is also influenced by the traditions of the Huarangas Indians from the Chimbos nation who celebrate the second moon of the year by throwing flour, flowers and perfumed water – a tradition that has influenced the popular Carnaval activity or series of activities known as “playing Carnaval.”

Carnaval -

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“Playing Carnaval”

One of the notable activities in this celebration involves water fights using water guns and balloons to playfully target unsuspecting passers-by, festival goers and most especially tourists. Expect to get sprayed with perfumed water or shaving cream, get dusted with flour, and/or be thrown raw eggs at as locals take aim from the safety of their balconies, way up on their rooftops, or even randomly as they walk by you.