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El Batán in Cuenca, Ecuador

SOUTHERN AMERICAN HOSPITALITY

The kitchen is a no-fly zone, where space to craft a punch or charcuterie spread has to be carefully usurped at the margins of the vast empire. The best time to sneak in is when my father is updating his tabulation of butter used thus far. A true student of the tradition of Julia Child, he delights in giving us a painfully honest breakdown of precisely how the sausage was made, as waistlines strain against belts. The only time I had ever missed my family’s Thanksgiving before was to share a Turducken with a friend who was stranded and alone under house arrest. Now, thousands of miles from Cleveland in Ecuador, the reality of the glamorous traveler’s life came with a complimentary jar of maraschino cherries.

2×4 FROM TWO BY TOUR: CUENCA STREET ART PT. IV

Cuenca, Ecuador has a lot to offer the eager sight-seer. The city’s reputation for beauty is well deserved, but something that seems missing from tourism literature is the city’s thriving street art scene. The UNESCO Heritage city is known for its religious structures, but around the corner from that church, there’s undoubtedly something just as compelling.

2×4 FROM TWO BY TOUR: CUENCA STREET ART PT. III

Traveling, by definition, takes you out of your comfort zone, at least at first. As you travel more, you become adept at finding signposts of familiarity. Even in places where you may not speak the language, there’s still going to strong threads of universal human experience that binds us all together. For us, one of those signposts is street art. Cuenca, Ecuador has it in spades.

2×4 FROM TWO BY TOUR: CUENCA STREET ART PT. II

We both big admirers of graffiti, street art, public murals and the vibrant people and culture they represent. While our research into Cuenca, Ecuador had already let us know the city was known for its appreciation of the arts, the explosion of color and feeling that awaited us was a truly wonderful surprise.

The holiday market in Plaza El Otorongo, Cuenca, Ecuador

AIN’T NO PARTY LIKE A JESÚS PARTY

Ecuadorians’ adoration of fairs and festivals is only surpassed by their devotion to Catholicism. Subscribing to the Catholic credo that there ain’t no party like a Jesús birthday party, these passions intersect in a three-month celebration around the Christmas holiday that exceeds the birthday week excesses of the most self-indulgent sorority girl. Cuenca is the heart of these festivities, upstaging the larger cities of Quito and Guayaquil to draw people from all across the Andes.

Graffiti, Cuenca, Ecuador

PEDESTRIAN PERSPECTIVES

For them, we were the ones out of place, two gringos staring at a marred wall. Cuenca’s dichotomy of modern and classical, of conservative and rebellious, so unexpected to us, was an an all too mundane part of life for its citizens. Their love for the city had settled and grown comfortable, the recollection of its charms reserved for special occasions. But we were barely acquainted with this place, learning its quirks and becoming ever more intrigued by each discovery into its complicated nature.