This year, my family and I spent Christmas in Cuenca and New Year’s in Quito, Ecuador—both cities are full of cathedrals and Spanish-style colonial architecture.
The three blue domes of the New Cathedral dominate Cuenca’s skyline. The city is well-known for its colonial architecture, and the center of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Lights over Rio Tomebamba in Cuenca signal the holiday season.
Fireworks explode over the winged Virgin of Quito on New Year’s Eve. The statue is based on a description of the Woman of the Apocalypse from the Book of Revelations, and locals claim that Quito’s statue is the only one in the world with wings.
A detailed nativity scene, complete with dinosaur, is displayed in one of Cuenca’s markets.
A float in Cuenca’s Pase del Niño parade features a doll atop a roast pig. The name of the parade refers to a statue of the baby Jesus that was blessed by the Pope in 1961 and then returned to Ecuador.
A small girl rides a lavishly decorated horse in Cuenca’s Pase del Niño parade. Adults as well as children go all out for the parade, dressing as angels, Santa Claus, or figures from the Bible, or wearing clothing from different regions of Ecuador and the world.
A uniformed man plays trombone in a pre-Christmas parade passing through Parque Calderon in Cuenca.
Dancers perform in the Parade of the Traveling Child, held in Cuenca every year on December 24. Parades like this are held throughout Ecuador and some other parts of Latin America, but Cuenca claims to be the biggest, with 50,000 participants and 200,000 spectators.
Decorated cars make their way to the much smaller Christmas Day parade in Cuenca.
A man passes on the opposite side of the street during the Changing of the Guards at Quito’s Presidential Palace on New Year’s Day. This half-hour event occurs every Monday and attracts a large crowd of locals and tourists even on rainy days—the guards sing, play instruments, ride horses and are sometimes greeted by the President himself.
Incan representations of the sun are situated alongside traditional Catholic iconography on the ceiling of Quito’s San Sebastian Church. This blending of symbols, called syncretism, can be observed in churches all around Latin America and was meant to entice indigenous people to the church.
A man stands in the plaza outside Quito’s Basílica del Voto Nacional, the largest Neo-Gothic church in North and South America.
View of the Virgin of Quito from Old Town