The city of Cuenca (full name Santa Ana de los Cuatro Ríos de Cuenca) is in the province of Azuay with an altitude of 2550masl or 8399ft. with a population of around 617,000 people and was founded on April 12th 1557 by Gil Ramírez Dávalos. The centre has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site because of the historical buildings.
According to studies and archeological discoveries, the origins of the first inhabitants go back to the year 8060 BC in the Cave of Chopsi. They were hunters, hunting everything the Páramo offered them, and also nomads moving from one place to another. Tools such as arrows and spears, found throughout the Andean alley, are signs of the beginning of this culture. Their presence dates back to approximately 5585 BC.
The early inhabitants used the stable climate, fertile soil and abundant water to develop agriculture. They grew potatoes, melloco, chocho, squash and quinoa. They also domesticated animals such as cuy, guinea pigs, llamas, and alpacas.
Their technology also advanced; they started using ceramics, which are the main archaeological material from which to study their culture. There isn’t much information from between 5000 and 2000 B.C., since remains dating from that era haven’t been found. Around 2000 B.C began a more organized society, demonstrating delegated responsibilities, such as the managing of water, control of plagues and there was a differentiation between administrative and religious authorities (known as shamans). This occurred during the periods of Chaullabamba, Huayco, Pirincay, Monjas, Putushio, Huancarcucho and Jubones. From then until 500 AD began the periods of Tacalshapa III and Cañari.
Cuenca was originally a Cañari settlement called Guapondeleg. It is believed to have been founded around 500 AD. Guapondeleg translates into "land as big as heaven." Less than half a century before the conquistadors landed, the Incas, after a bitter struggle, conquered the Cañari and occupied Guapondeleg and the surrounding area. Though the Incas replaced the Cañari architecture with their own, they did not suppress the Cañari or their impressive achievements in astronomy and agriculture. As was customary for the Incas, they absorbed useful achievements into their culture. They renamed the city Tumebamba. The city became known as the second Cusco.
Shortly after the defeat of the Cañari, the Inca commander, Tupac Yupanqui, ordered the construction of a grand city to be called Pumapungo, "the door of the Puma". Its magnificence was to challenge that of the Inca capital of Cuzco. Indians relayed stories to the Spanish chroniclers of golden temples and other such wonders, but by the time the Spaniards found the legendary city, all that remained were ruins. They wondered what happened to the fabled splendor and riches of the second Inca capital. After having been abandoned by the Cañari and then the Incas, Tumebamba was sparsely populated until the 1550s.
Cuenca was founded on April 12, 1557 by the Spanish explorer Gil Ramírez Dávalos. The founding of the city was commissioned by Andrés Hurtado de Mendoza, then Viceroy of Peru. Hurtado de Mendoza had the city named after his home town of Cuenca, Spain. The date of its founding was notably later than those of other major Ecuadorian cities, such as Quito (1534), Guayaquil (1538), and Loja (1548).
Cuenca's population and importance grew steadily during the colonial era. It reached the peak of its importance in the first years of Ecuador's independence; Cuenca achieved its independence on November 3, 1820. It became the capital of one of the three provinces that made up the nascent republic. The other two capitals were Guayaquil and Quito.
Geography & location
Cuenca, capital of the province of Azuay, is located in the sierra of the Andes in the Austro or southern region of Ecuador. It is approximately nine hours south of Quito and four hours east of Guayaquil. The city ranges from 2,350 to 2,550 meters above sea level. The dominant features of the city's geography are also the source of its name: the four rivers of Cuenca. These rivers are the Tomebamba, Yanuncay, Tarqui and Machangara, in order of importance. The first three of these rivers originate in the Páramo of Parque Nacional Cajas to the west of the city. These four rivers are part of the Amazon river watershed. Cuenca (meaning a basin caused by a confluence of rivers) is surrounded by mountains on all sides, with passes to the west, south and east.
Like the rest of the Ecuadorian Andes, Cuenca enjoys a mild climate year round. Days are generally warm and nights are cool enough that sweaters or jackets are needed. The average daily temperature is 14.6 degrees Celsius - 58 degrees Fahrenheit. There are two seasons: rainy and dry. The dry season, with some variation, falls between June and December. The rainy season, which is characterized by bright sunny mornings and afternoon showers, falls between January and May. The heaviest rains come in the invierno of March, April and May.
Major fiestas of Cuenca come at the time of the "Mass of Children" that is carried out the day of the Arrival of Kings (January 6th - Epiphany Day), or in the commemoration of the independence of the city (November 3rd), during which processions, cultural acts and dances are organized. The nearby Cañar plantation (in the county of the same name) features the biggest Inca ruins in Ecuador. (See below)
Old Cathedral (Iglesia de El Sagrario)
It was built in 1557, but soon was too small for the faithful of the town. In 1880, they decided to build a temple to replace it. At the present time, the old cathedral is in process of restoration. It is no longer consecrated and is operated as a museum.
New cathedral (official name: Catedral Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción)
Its towers are truncated due to a calculation error of the architect. If they had been raised to their planned height, the foundation of this church to the Immaculate Concepcion, would not have been able to bear the weight. In spite of the architect's immense mistake, the New Cathedral of Cuenca is a monumental work of faith that began to be built in 1880. It is in Neo-Gothic style, and its blue and white domes have become a symbol for the city. Its facade is made of alabaster and local marble, while the floor is covered with pink marble, brought from Carrara (Italy).When the Cathedral was first constructed 9,000 out of Cuenca's 10,000 inhabitants could fit.
Park Abdón Calderon
It is in the center of Cuenca between the old and new cathedrals. On the park benches, people meet to converse and absorb its tranquility. The municipal offices are located nearby.
(Quechua: Inkapirqa, "Inca wall") is a town in Cañar Province, Ecuador and the name of an Incan ruin site just outside the town itself.
The ruins are the largest Incan ruins in Ecuador. The most significant building is the temple of the sun, an elliptical shaped building constructed around a large rock. The building is constructed in the Incan way without mortar. The stones were simply chiselled and fashioned to fit together perfectly. The temple of the sun was positioned so that on the solstices, at exactly the right time of day, sunlight would fall through the centre of the doorway of the small chamber at the top of the temple. Most of this chamber has fallen down.
The Incans were not the first inhabitants to Ingapirca. After the King of the Incans died in Peru the oldest son took over the kingdom. He went to the Andes to Ingapirca which was already inhabited. After much fighting and killing the two groups decided to settle their differences and live together peacefully but they still kept most of their individual customs separate. Even though the Incans were more numerous, they did not demand that the other group give up their autonomy. Eventually they merged into one group. On his trip from Macchu Picchu to Ingapirca the younger son developed a taste for fresh fish from the coastal towns that he passed through. He liked it so much that he had relay runners bring him fresh fish on a daily basis from the coast. They also had a very developed underground aqueduct system. This system provided water to the entire compound. They also had celebrations for everything. Gallons of a local fermented drink were used in these festivals. As sun and moon worshippers they tried to be as close to their gods as possible. The weather changes there are usually within minutes of each other, calm and sunny one minute and within fifteen minutes rainy, windy and cold. This extreme climate changing is year round. They felt strongly that this was the place that the gods led them to be, regardless of the climate.