Cuenca Highlights

Tents on the River

Paul and I recently traveled to Cuenca, a charming city in the sierra for the Festival de Artesanía de América run by CIDAP, the government ministry that supports artisans and the “popular arts.” The tents were all lined up on the river and we were lucky to have gorgeous weather throughout the whole event. Our booth was in the middle section of the above image.

Host Family Love

Some of our best friends from Peace Corps live in Cuenca and it is also where I lived when I was a 16 year-old volunteer and where my host family (see above) from that summer still lives. So, besides presenting an incredible opportunity for Mujeres: Cambia, it was the perfect place to visit with friends both old and new and to celebrate my birthday! Here are a few highlights from the trip.

The Fair

A table with Mujeres: Cambia jewelry with a sign that reads, "hecho de papel reciclado"

I can’t tell you the number of people who stopped and asked, “papel?” or “paper?” Yes, Mujeres: Cambia jewelry is made from paper! We were fortunate not only to find many new supporters but also those who acted as ambassadors and sent their friends to visit us throughout the festival. We loved seeing the happy customers walking around the fair and several came back by our booth to model their new pieces.

A member of Mujeres: Cambia describes the paper bead making process to a crowd at a street festival in Cuenca, Ecuador

Leticia and Betsy were chosen as two of the featured artisans to give public demonstrations of their process. Above, Leticia explains the process of rolling paper beads to an enthusiastic crowd.

Members of the artisan cooperative Mujeres: Cambia in front of a booth at a festival in Cuenca, Ecuador

Betsy, Leticia, Paul, and I spent many long hours manning the booth together. It was nice to have time to catch up during our 11 hour days. In the end, all of the hard work paid off as the women earned over $2,500 in sales!


Cupcakes at a baby shower even

My amazing friends threw us a surprise baby shower complete with games (guess the number of candies in the baby bottle, among others), music, and Ecuadorian food. I was shocked but so happy to share this experience with the women from Mujeres: Cambia and with **Natalia**, my Cuencana host mom.

Three women jump off steps and are caught in mid-air in Cuenca

Besides our great friends **Clare**, **Nikki**, and **Steph** who live in Cuenca, **Jess** and **Khayla** also came into town for the festivities. On my birthday, we walked around town wearing tinsel antennae and taking silly photos.

A man kisses a woman in front of a birthday cake

I felt very special on my birthday as we celebrated a home-cooked lunch with our host family (the only candle we could find was the number 2!).

Many small bowls of sauces and vegetables on a table

Every time we visit Cuenca we make an attempt to eat at Tiestos, a well-known hot spot. Finally, we were able to make it a reality with a birthday dinner there. Our favorite part of the meal (besides the delicious cake they gifted me) was the variety of delicious sauces that came with the bread and variety of salads that came with the main dishes. We can’t wait to eat there again!

All in all, we had a wonderful time on our trip and even managed to visit two museums, take a double-decker bus tour, and see two movies (one in 3D with Leticia and Betsy, their first ever!). We miss you already, Cuenca!