Riobamba Travel Blog

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We spent Thursday in Cuenca. Cuenca is the third largest city in Ecuador (with 500 000 people) and the site of an old Cañari village that was conquered by the Incas and renamed Tomebamba (becoming a major Incan capital, more important than Cuzco). It was in ruins by 1557 and was refounded by the Spanish as Cuenca.


We visited El Sagrario, the old cathedral on Parque Calderon, which is 500 years old (built in 1557) but was restored in 1937 and now looks like new, with fresh plaster covering all the original stonework. Even the original murals looked surprisingly modern, and the wooden pillars were painted to look like stone columns. One statue which really surprised me was that of Joseph holding a baby Jesus, current images always have Mary holding Jesus with Joseph standing next to her. It was a bit like seeing the painting in our hotel of Mary unbuttoning her maternity shirt to breastfeed baby Jesus, an image which is surprising because it is only when you see it that you realise such an everyday scene is never portrayed. The other Cathedral was Catedral de la Immaculada Concapcion, which even thought it was built in 1880 looks far older than the other Cathedral as it is made from stunning marble. Oddly the paintings of God always had the Freemason’s triangle behind him, even in Catholic cathedrals.


After visiting the cathedrals we went to see Panama hats being made. This is the original home of Panama hats, the misnomer comes from the massive export of hats from Ecuador to Panama during the building of the Panama canal. To make the hats the palm stems are cut, boiled, dried and woven. The shape is given by hammering and ironing the peak and the brim.

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photo by: Adrian_Liston