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Expat notes on Cuenca’s foundation holiday, orchids, and the ‘why am I here’ question

Another celebration has come and gone. It is seen as the founding of Cuenca but in reality it was the renaming of this city by the Spanish on April 12, 1557.daves logo

The city had been around in various forms for more than 3,000 years being in an ideal location in a bowl with four rivers running through it. The Spanish found it ideal also, especially with the stones from the Inca temple and buildings being available for their buildings, which continued into the 20th century. Most Ecuadorian cities have their celebrations but those

of Cuenca, Quito and Guayaquil are national holidays as well.

Cuenca holidays.

Cuenca holidays.

In any event, beginning April 9th, tents were erected along the river and in some city streets with artisans and others selling their wares, lots of extra musical and art presentations, fireworks with a couple of late night shows that I believe were longer and louder than any I have heard to date. I will make an extra effort during the next celebration to know where and when so I can get there. It is always an exhilarating and wonderful thrill for me to be close to, or under, a fireworks show. The big grin on my face says it all.

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chl orchids

Gualaceo orchids.

I didn’t know this before I came here but orchids are native to Ecuador and are an important export crop, being shipped all over the world. I had visitors from the States who wanted to know more so a called to my friend Juan, a wonderful guide, who was free the next day, and off we went to Gualaceo, home to the world’s largest orchid cultivation facility, or so they say.

In the 1950’s a priest began collecting and conserving Ecuadorian orchids in Gualaceo and got Ecuador into the World Orchid Congress in 1968. I wonder if he got into trouble for spending more time with orchids than with people.

Anyway we toured the facility that has the priest’s collection and grows, hybridizes and sells some 6,000 varieties. Must have seen a hundred different ones with one so small I had to get within a few inches to see it. Learned, or at least was told, all about the meticulous care needed to grow and ship orchids. It takes five years before you know if a new orchid is going to work out; seeds in a sterile media for two years sealed in a glass flask. As usual for me, it’s all kind of a blur now, but what an interesting afternoon.

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Meanwhile, life continues (with the exception of Spanish class) comfortably on. Every once in awhile the “what am I doing here?” question pops up but a few minutes of thinking about it and the “I am in the right place” answer manifests itself. As always, the warm and welcoming people is the primary reason. Perhaps the people are the explanation for the calm and peaceful ambiance that suffuses the air here. But why do I want to explain it? It just is, and that is enough.

Cuídense. With my love, Dave

 

About the Author

David Nelson, spent 30 years growing up and getting educated in Oregon before moving to the Oakland, California and the East Bay area, where he practiced worker’s compensation law, representing injured workers, for 40 years. When he retired from his legal practice, he worked another nine years as a part-time gardener before moving to Cuenca.