Contrary to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, paradise can be found in Cuenca’s largest park. Parque El Paradiso is a respite from the noisy city while still being in the city. My friend Chong and I visited the park one busy Saturday. [Chong is a friend of Frédéric whose apartment I subleased when I arrived in Cuenca and who has been kind enough to show me around the city.] Cuenca created this park in 2003 along the Yanuncay River where it joins the Tomebamba River. The park comprises nearly 40 acres and more than 300 eucalyptus trees, in addition to willows and flowers.
Water from the Tomebamba River has created a lagoon of slightly over 3-1/2 acres, and where there is water, there are ducks, geese, and migratory birds. At a depth of about six feet, the lagoon has in pre-Covid days welcomed the use of small pedal boats for pleasure. May they return.
Back on land, there are slightly less than 2 miles of ecological trails, flanked by vendors selling ice cream, other food, and various gadgets. Like many of Cuenca’s smaller parks, Paradiso is no exception to having exercise equipment for adults and children, with courts and plazas for other games. I was amused and impressed with a setup of roads and traffic lights on which children could drive bumper-like cars and learn the rules of the road. It was great fun to watch.
The expanse of open land lends itself to games of various sorts. On the weekends, numerous teams play futbol (soccer); on my visit, I saw some teenagers playing with an actual football. I could not figure out the large space covered with upright stakes. Chong asked and learned that the area was set aside for regrowth. When achieved, the stakes will undoubtedly be moved to the current playing fields.
On the way to the park, we happened upon a plaza that housed a large Asian-looking building. It seemed out of place for the area. Chong told me it was the Museum of the Arts of Fire, otherwise known as the Firecracker Museum. Latin people love noise, but it never occurred to me that they would enshrine it. That museum might be worth a visit another day.
Fact: Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
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