Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca (World Heritage)

Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca (World Heritage), the third largest city in Ecuador, is 2543 m above sea level. Visit for travel to central America. In the shadow of mighty Andean peaks, the city, founded in 1557 on the ruins of a destroyed Inca settlement, has preserved its architectural colonial heritage.

Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca: facts

Official title: Historic center of Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca
Cultural monument: a colonial town ensemble, including with the Museo del Banco Central, the archaeological site Todos los Santos, the cathedrals El Sagrario (16th century) and de la Inmaculada as well as the Museo del Monasterio de las Conceptas
Continent: America
Country: Ecuador, Azuay
Location: Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca, south of Quito and southeast of Guayaquil
Appointment: 1999
Meaning: an outstanding example of a colonial city planned in the Renaissance style

Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca: history

1470 Destruction of the center of the Cañari, subsequently re-establishment as the Inca city of Tomebamba
1527-1533 Fratricidal war between the 13th and last Inca ruler Atahualpa (1502-33) and his half-brother Huáscar
1525 Destruction of the eastern part of the city and the “gate of the puma”
04/12/1557 On behalf of the Viceroy in Lima, founding of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca by Gil Ramírez Dávalos
1599 Creation of the La Concepción convent
1682 Creation of the Las Carmelitas Descalzas Convention
1802 Stay of the explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859)
1868 Creation of the University of Cuenca
1885 Start of construction of the Catedral de la Inmaculada based on a design by Johann Baptist Stiehle (1829-99)
1913-1923 Excavations of the Inca city of Tomebamba
1957 Archbishopric

Royal children between pleated skirts and fratricide

The dispute between the dissimilar brothers ended in a bloodbath: Atahualpa, the beautiful Inca king’s son, murdered his half-brother Huáscar on the banks of the Tomebamba River. The proud warrior also had the eastern part of the city of Tomebamba burned down, including the divine “gate of the puma”, thus sealing the fall of the northern Inca Empire. Thousands of Cañari were also slaughtered.

The Spanish conquerors were warned of the defensive Cañari of Tomebamba, which brought the Incas to their knees more than once. It was not until the middle of the 16th century that the conquistadors founded their Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca on the foundation walls and along the ingenious Tomebambas water system in the southern Andean highlands of today’s Ecuador. And the city, at an altitude of 2500 meters, became a melting pot of European-Christian culture with the pride and strength of the Cañari women, the widows left behind by Atahualpa’s acts of revenge.

For a long time the Spaniards, with their clerical retinue of Franciscans and Dominicans, shaped the architecture and thinking in what is now known as Cuenca for short. Numerous mansions, churches and monasteries from the era of oppression in Latin America rose on the cobbled streets and banks of the rivers.

But the Cañari’s blood pounded more strongly in the veins of the Cuencans than the conquerors could have liked. Cuenca not only freed itself from the oppressors from distant Spain at the beginning of the 19th century, but also sought its own way of liberation. Citizens of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca discovered France and its way of life, and the French, for their part, discovered that self-confident city on the steep slope of the Río Tomebamba. After each trip, well-off citizens brought another piece of Europe to the colonial city. In place of the numerous dilapidated colonial adobe buildings, after Ecuador’s independence in 1830, splendid town houses were built here and there, decorated with lavishly ornamented, curved cast-iron balconies. European fashion found its way into the checkered streets, which still connect the “Spanish” houses of worship today. And a school system based on European models was set up for broad sections of the population.

The quiet middle town devoted itself to the handicraft early on. Outstanding ceramics and the world-famous Panama hat, which is still found in the displays of European high-end department stores and boutiques, come from it. But Cuenca is also the intellectual city – an atelier and international exhibition space for modern art, and of course Cuenca has its own symphony orchestra.

The proud university town is cosmopolitan, but still provincial, liberal and modern, although it was originally a very conservative town between the Andes mountain ranges, where the “freedom hero ” S. Bolívar also gritted his teeth.

But the former tomebamba also stands for the integration of several epochs and continents, symbolized by the so-called »chola cuencana«, that mesticine of Cañarian and Spanish descent, dressed with a wide, white hat and a flower-lined, colored pleated skirt, which the Cholas wear during a spa stay should have copied from an Austrian princess in Cuenca.

Native American cultures, the colonial heritage of Spain, the lifestyle of an up-and-coming new republic and contemporary thinking and art merge here like perhaps no other place on earth. This unique symbiosis can be read in Cuenca in the face of the Chola, in the walls of the buildings and in the order of the paving stones, as evidenced by the Río Tomebamba, which flows around the historical center of the provincial capital.

Santa Ana de los Rios de Cuenca (World Heritage)