Category Archives: Festivals

Mother’s Day in Latin America

Mothers Day‘A mother is someone who, on seeing only 4 pieces of chocolate cake for 5 people, will be the first to say that she doesn’t really like chocolate.’  In Latin America, a mother plays an important role as self-sacrificing goddess and center of the family.  Women are sacred and revered, and the mothers are the most revered of all.   It is no wonder, then, that Mothers Days across Central and South America are major days of celebration and thanks.

In Mexico, Mother’s Day is celebrated on May 10th.  When ‘Dia de la Madre’ falls midweek, mothers often take the day off work and children stay home to spend time with their mama.   Traditions on this day include waking mother up with a traditional song then presents, flowers and general pampering for the day.  Schools will invite mothers to performances of songs and dances, many businesses also offer small gifts and mementoes to show their appreciation of mothers in general.    In more traditional areas, the whole family gather around the grandmother for a day of eating, drinking, singing and family togetherness.  Everywhere you will see a lot of flowers on Mother’s Day especially in churches, cemeteries and family homes.

Mother's DayIn Panama, Mother’s Day is celebrated on December 8th to tie in with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  This is in recognition of the connection between Mary, the mother of Jesus and mothers everywhere.  There are local festivals and dances and religious parades.  Some say, thought, that the day was chosen to coincide with an important religious festival in order to make it a national holiday.

In some countries Mothers day is tied to the mother country (la patria).  In Bolivia, May 27th, also commemorates the Battle of Coronilla, in the Bolivian War of Indpendence.  During the battle, hundreds of women fighting for independence were slaughtered by the Spanish in the city of Cochabamba.

In Paraguay, May 15th is a celebration of both mothers and the independence of Paraguay.  The date was chosen in recognition of the role played by Juana Maria de Laura in the independence struggles.  Not a happy combination for the Paraguayan Minister of Culture who, in 2008 complained that the day of Independence was regularly overshadowed by the celebrations of mothers and asked for the date to be changed.

Mother's DayIn Argentina, mother’s day is celebrated in October.  Since Argentina has an austral summer, October coincides with the arrival of spring.  Mothers are associated with spring and the arrival of new life into the world.  It is no coincidence that north of the equator many countries such as Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru and Colombia celebrate Dia de la Madre in spring like May.

In Ecuador, Mother’s Day begins with a serenade.  Trucks of men and boys travel the countryside,  guitars in hand to sing outside the houses of their mothers.  The grateful mothers will hand them glasses of Canelazo – the local liquor.  After a few glasses of this local alcohol, the romantic songs for mothers and the emotion that a Latino Man’s love for his mother can produce; you can be sure there are plenty of tears before daybreak.

Wherever you travel in South and Central America you will be delighted by the strength of family ties and the joy of celebration.

Into Latin America would like to wish mothers everywhere a Happy Mothers Day for April 3rd when mothers are celebrated in the UK.


Cuenca Festival, Mon 1st Nov – Nov 3rd

Children celbrating

Festival time in Cuenca

In continuation…here’s a selection of events till Nov 3rd.  Last night I went to the Crafts fair in CIDAP at the bottom of the Escalinata where there are some beautiful quality crafts on display from artesan communities around Cuenca and also Peru and Colombia.


There is ‘Noche Cuencana’ every night in the main squares with music and fireworlks at 8pm on Mon and Tue.  There will be plenty going on in the Parque de la Madre, Barranco, Otorongo area until the 3rd.

Sunday Nov 1st

Events and Music

Family Painting – Puente Roto – 10am

Latin American Music concert with artists from various countries – Parque de la Madre – 3pm

Traditional dancing – Mall del Rio – 6pm

Night bike ride – El Barraco – 7pm

Fairs and Festivals

Guinea Pig Eating! (had to happen) – Don Bosco and Loja – all day

Local and International Food – 10 Aug Market – all day

Food, dogs and children’s games – Plaza San Francisco – all day

Festivals of Food and Dance – El Arenal – all day (dance 10am)

Extreme Sports – Parque de la Madre – till Nov 3


Toys Made of Recycled Materials – Mall del Rio- all day

Guitars by the Association of Guitar Makers of San Bartoome – Borrero 6-83 – 9am-7pm

Iconography of Art – Galeria de Arte Illescas (Av Solano)


‘Embanderamiento’, or putting up the flags – all over the city

Tuesday Nov 2nd

Events and Music

Festival of Chameleons – various artists and ballet – Parque Calderon – 7pm

Military Tattoo – Parque Calderon – 9am

Student Parade – San Blas to San Sebastian – 10am

Vallenato music night – Plaza de Toros Santa Ana – 8pm

Football match: Cholas vs Clowns – Parque Paraiso – 10am (also on Wed)

Festivals and Fairs

Gastronomic – Parque de Miraflores – all day

Clothes market – 27 Feb Market – all day to 3rd

Agroecological Fair – Parque de San Blas – all day

Arts and crafts and puppet show – Plaza Rotary – all day till Nov 3


Open Day at army barracks in Tarqui – near Via a Banos – 9am-5pm

Flower arranging competition – 9 Oct Market – 10am

Tasting of foods of Ecudaor – Parque de la Madre – 10am

Wednesday Nov 3rd

Events and Music

Military Parade – Solano – 9am

Latin american music concert – Parque Calderon and Glorieta – 2pm

National competition of wooden vehicles – Larga and Malo to Parque Paraiso – 3pm

Election of Chola Cuencana (beauty pagent) – Parque Miraflores – 3pm

Donkey race – Larga and Malo to Parque Paraiso – 4pm


Mass and floral offerings – Cathedral – 8am

Folk dancing and parade of children’s fashions – 27 Feb Market – 10am

Cuenca Festival

Everyone in Cuenca, including the toddlers in my son’s nursery, is hopping in anticipation of a few days off and a whole slew of free festive events to celebrate 190 years of Cuenca independence.

Here’s just a small selection of the huge range of bizarre, big, small, traditional and downright wacky events going on in the city.

Friday 29th Octoberr


Handicrafts exhibition –  CIDAP  – throughout the festival

Open House of Alternative Medicine – Remigio Crespo 2-33 – 9am

Art and Sculpture Outside –  Puente Rot0 – throughout the festival.

Festivals and Fairs

Festival of food and folclore – Plaza Santo Domingo – from 9am

Jewellery Fair – Borerro and Munoz


The Subregional Building for Vaccines

Hector’s BBQ Grill, near Mall del Rio

Music and Shows

1812 Overture with fireworks,  and cannons? – Parque Calderon – 8pm

Club night: ‘I love 80s and 90s’ – Quinta Balzay – from 8pm

Other events

Multicolored lights illuminating Barranco  – till Nov 5th

Saturday 30th October

Festivals and Fairs

Gastronomic – 12 Abril and Agusto Cueva

Of the ‘active neighbourhood’: dancing, workshops, games, clowns, shows from the schools – Parque Miraflores – 2pm-6pm

Traditional games – Plaza Chagurarchibamba

Music and Events

Marching bands.  All over the center of the city from 9am

Police display incl acrobatic gymnastics on horses – Estadio Alejandro Serrano Aguilar – 10am

Rock Bands   – Coleseum – 4pm

Cinema: ‘Prometo Deportado’ – Teatro Sucre – 8pm

10km Night Run – From Parque el Paraiso – 7pm


WiFi in the bus station

Sunday 31st Octoberr


Display of wooden cars, painted cars and classic cars – Mercado 3 Nov – 10am

Art in the Park – Parque de la Madre – 3pm

Festivals and Fairs

Festival of BBQ meat – Parque Maria Auxiladora – 9am

Dog Show – Parque Paraiso -10-12am

Music and Events

Classic bike competition – Mall del Rio

Traditional Dance Display – Av 3 Nov – 3pm

Tripi Tripi: Electronic Club Night – Quinta Balzay – from 8pm

Festival of Pyrotechnics and ‘Acts’ – around Otorongo Bridge- from 9pm

Noche Cuencana: music, fireworks etc – Various Plazas in Center 8pm

.. More to come including

Festival of Guinea Pigs, Queen of Cuenca, Extreme Sportsog Show…

Yellow knickers and firewords: New Year in Cusco

Cusqueňans take the idea of out with the old and in with the new to extremes.  Fed up with your wardrobe?  No problem. Now is the time to burn it all up and go out and buy a whole new set of clothes.  Fed up with a particular politician; something in the last year you would like to forget?  Dress up a doll to symbolize what you want to leave behind, and then ceremonially burn it in the street.  For a more private ceremony, a friend of mine writes down what she would like to leave behind and burns the paper.  On another paper are her hopes for the new year.  Keep the hopes paper in a safe place, and maybe they will come true

If you head down to the busy market of El Molino you will find stalls spilling out onto the roads outside selling heaps of yellow knickers. Why? Wearing yellow on the big night brings good luck.  If its love you are after, go for red; then there’s green for money and white for health.  You can also light candles in the color of your wishes.  .  In case you are wondering, yellow knickers can be worn under OR outside your clothes.  You can also team the underwear with huge comedy glasses and heaps of confetti (yellow of course).

Head out to the Plaza de Armas on December 31st and you will find the streets filled with people in all kinds of fancy dress, with yellow much in evidence.  Watch out though as the main square gets crowded fast near midnight.  The belief is that its luck to go around the square three times and if you want to travel in the new year,  don’t forget to take your suitcase with you for the circuit!

At midnight the fireworks are off, they are in the sky, on the ground.  Everywhere!  If you don’t want to take your chances in the square, settle in one of the balconies overlooking.  Or, better still, find a rooftop with views of the whole city.  You will see that it’s not just in the main square, every home in Cusco seemingly has its fireworks and they cover the entire city and up into the hills around.

Wherever you end up you are sure to go back to your bed in the morning tired, with a few more friends… and with lots of yellow confetti in your clothes.

Cusco Christmas

Christmas is essentially a religious celebration in Cusco.  But for the visitor, there are some special traditions that make this a magical time to visit the ancient city.

You won´t see the massive commercialization here that you do at home.   Ask a Cusqueňans what´s special about Christmas and they are bound to mention the all important  Panetóns – on sale everywhere in the build up to Dec 25.    Essentially cake iwth dried fruit,  which brand or bakery has the best, fruitiest cake is often a hotly contested issue.  The panetóns come in boxes of different sizes and are an ideal gift for local families.

How about a paneton from the bakery of the Santa Catalina Monastery?

Show your family you love them with Paneton

Meanwhile, many organizations are getting ready for their Chocolatadas.

As a way of considering others at Christmas,  businesses, churches and other organizations regularly organize a Chocolatada.  The name comes from the cups of hot chocolate given out to children from poorer communities.  It’s not only chocolate though, they might also give out other items, like toys, panetóns, bags of sugar and so on.  In the days leading up to Dec 25, you can see lines of people waiting for the chocolate hand out by local businesses.  Less obvious are the many organizations who travel to remote communities to give out chocolate and gifts.  They will often go to the same community year after year.  If you are in Cusco around this time, taking part in a Chocolatada is a great, fun way to meet local people.

Chocolatada in the mountains

On December 24th Cusco’s main square (Plaza de Armas)  becomes a huge street market called Santuranticuy; ´the saints’ market´.  Traditionally this is where people come to buy their images of  Jesus and other figures for the family nativity scene.  To this day, the main items on sale are mosses, grasses, sculptures, wooden stables and handicrafts of all kinds devoted to the nativity scenes so important in local homes.  Many of the sellers travel far from the mountains, some of the journey on foot, and spend the nights around the 24th sleeping in the portales, or archways, around the square.     The market has a lovely calm but busy atmosphere.  When you have finished admiring the handicrafts you can escape to one of the balconies overlooking the square to sip your own hot chocolate and soak up the atmosphere.


At 12.00 midnight on the 24th, Cusqueňans raise a toast, embrace and a family member will place the image of Jesus in its manger in the nativity scene.  Now the baby is in place, Christmas has officially begun.  After hot chocolate, champagne and of course panetón, some gifts might be exchanged.

Cusco has a large international community, though, so as a visitor, you can always find your own version of Christmas.

How about camp and extravagant at Fallen Angel?  Or traditional British at Real McCoy?  The Dutch and Belgian communities even celebrate Sinterklaas on December 6th with gifts for children.  You can attend a midnight mass, or shake your stuff till the morning at Mama Africa, Ukukus or Siete Angelitos.

Wherever you go, the time of year often brings travelers and locals together and there is bound to be a great, friendly atmosphere.

On the 25th, families will stay at home for their enormous lunch of turkey, potatoes, apple sauce, and, of course, panetón.  Most businesses are closed but many restaurants are open serving a special Christmas menu – either Peruvian or international style.  You will find the city unusually quiet, making this a great day to wander around and enjoy Cusco without the traffic.

Best to conserve your energy, though…for the far more raucous New Year!