2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage

2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage


My mission in publishing this blog is first to provide a living history of my settlement and life in Cuenca, and to provide myself and the reader with a journal account delineating my reasons for why I have chosen to settle in Cuenca. Second, the posts are my way of staying in contact with family and friends back in the states, and to provide them with an understanding of a country and culture that most North Americans have little knowledge and awareness. Third, the blog is open to one and all who wish to compare and contrast the experiences of expat bloggers living in Cuenca, so that you can determine whether or not from your perspective Cuenca is an appropriate move for you. Fourth, my blog provides another example of how expats view and interpret life in Cuenca. Ecuadorians and Cuencanos who may read this blog are especially invited to post comments that may enhance all expats understanding and appreciation of Cuneca and its people, or to correct any misinterpretations in my assumptions and perceptions of Cuencano culture. Finally, I hope I can convey the feeling of love and appreciation that grows within me each passing day for this heavenly city nestled in the Andes and its very special people.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Palermo: Part I

What the Willis (formerly Sear’s Tower ) is to Chicago, what the Empire State Building is to the “Big Apple”; that is what the Palermo is to Cuenca.  All of its mighty eighteen pisos (floors) majestically tower over the city of Cuenca--it displays an impressive edifice.  Yes, the Palermo at eighteen pisos (floors) is and will be the tallest building in Cuenca for some time to come, since city ordinances have been changed with its construction, and no new construction can be more than fourteen stories in height.

Of course, height is relative.  As a high school and college-age youth, it was a big deal to ride to the observation deck at the top level of the Prudential Building.  At forty-nine stories, it was the tallest building in Chicago in the 1960’s.  We, living in Chicago, could not imagine the dizzying heights of a 102 story Empire State Building back then.  

With the 1970’s came the new observation deck in the John Hancock, which was one of the tallest buildings in the world at the time.  In my opinion, the Hancock still offers the best aerial view of Chicago, because of its location on Michigan Avenue and overlooking Lake Shore Drive.  Meanwhile, the Sears Tower was built, and at 114 stories became the tallest building in the world, which was a title it held for approximately thirty years.  Now Saudi Arabia intends to construct the largest edifice in the world, which will be about 3/4ths of a mile.  Imagine a building of approximately 4,000 feet in height compared to the Willis Tower, which is 1,450 feet in height.

So you may laugh at the height of the Palermo, but as I said height and its affect upon human perception is relative.  Take for example, the young man who when he painted my apartment, stepped out on my seventh floor balcony and became woozy from being up so high.  The same young man was here Saturday, drilling holes into the plaster to hang all my paintings and pictures, and chose to pass on the opportunity to step out again onto the balcony.  His experience is an observation that brings home the point of how so much of who and what we are, and how we perceive reality is based upon our experiences or lack thereof.

Speaking of relativity, the Palermo is at an elevation of 8,500 feet.  Add to that the approximately 175-200 feet of the Palermo, and it’s already taller than any new building going up on the flat sea-level sands of Saudi Arabia.  Sorry, can’t help myself but brag.  It comes with being a Chicagoan.  We are always boosting about our city, which is why New York journalists back in the 1800’s derogatorily nicknamed Chicago “the Windy City”.  The name had nothing to do with the wind blowing off Lake Michigan, but rather the name was due to Chicago civic boosterism.

I did an earlier post on the Palermo when I first came to reside in its environs this past May.  Rather than repeat everything I wrote before, you may click on the link below for some background:

Today’s post is basically providing the reader with photos of the exterior of the Palermo:

                    This is a side view of the Palermo facing the east or toward El Centro, the downtown
                     business and residential area.  About two-and-a-half miles from the Palermo to the             
                     heart of El Centro is Parke Calderon.  Notice the homes at the feet of the
                     Palermo.  While numerous high-rises dot Calle Lasso (The main street on which the first  
                     photo above of the Palermo faces), the streets off of Lasso are inhabited by single and two
                     story homes.

                     This is the home in a close-up at the bottom of the feet of the Palermo.  Like many such
                     homes in Cuenca, this home is part of a family compound of homes made up of related   
             families.  In typical South American style, you will find homes gated and walled-off
                          from the street.


This close-up of the east-side of the building shows that the facade is not horizontally flat across the length of the building. There are indentations,   which give the edifice the appearance of more style-variety in the facade. Also, there are two separate wings on each floor. Each wing is composed of four  condos, with the exception of the penthouse  floor. Each wing is separated by the elevators, with one wing on the east-side to the north of
the elevators and the other wing on   the west-side to the south of the elevators. By arranging the wings in such a manner, it avoids one long, continuous hallway of all eight condos.

This is a further closeup, which is focused on my condo-rental.  The balconies are small and semicircular.  My condo is the seventh-floor condo where you see the chair.  I frequently eat my breakfast on the balcony.  In the photo, the window to the right of the balcony is where my kitchen is located; with the laundry room, maid's quarters, and bathroom with shower to the back of the kitchen.  The living room overlooks the balcony, with the dining room behind it.  The first window to the left of the balcony is the guest bedroom.   A smaller bedroom is opposite the guest bedroom, which I use as my man-cave and serves as the T.V. room.   The end window left of the balcony is the master bedroom.  There is a walk-in closest to the back of the bedroom, which leads to the master bathroom.

        A further close-up of my balcony.

This is what the construction of the high-rises looks like in its early stages.  Almost everything is made from concrete.  There are steel rods which run through the pillars pictured above.  The walls are of concrete blocks, over which they are then plastered.  No wall board or insulation is used.  Nor is any wood or steel frame used in construction.

The advantage to the concrete construction, as one Ecuadorian told me, is that Cuenca hasn't had a major house fire in seven years.

The disadvantages are two-fold:

One is that in cold, damp weather the concrete is not the best conduit for retaining heat within the building, particularly since the climate is mild and buildings in Cuenca have no central heating.  During the colder, damp months of  late July through August and September; one must either dress warmly in layer clothes, and/or make use of electrical heaters on occasional days and on many evenings.

The second disadvantage is that high-rise construction in Ecuador does not build on pylons, which allows tall buildings some sway in heavy winds or if a major earthquake strikes.  In fact, most of the single and two-story homes would be rubble in a major earthquake.  I observed the rubble in Beijing, China in 1977 about a year after a major earthquake struck.  However, Cuenca of the four earthquake zones in which Ecuador is divided ranks in the third zone.  The coastal region is ranked one; and Quito which is located in the Northern Andes among a number of active volcanoes is ranked as the second most vulnerable area in Ecuador for potential earthquakes.  The Orient, which is the tropical rain-forest biosphere in Ecuador ranks fourth.  Cuenca has not had a major earthquake in over 500 years.  I have not to date been aware of any information that geologists are predicting a long overdue earthquake for the Cuenca area, like the reports that frequently come out about California with the San Andreas fault-line.

The Palermo is not only Cuenca's tallest building, but is also the standard for construction and interior floor designs.  It has only been opened a year, and almost all the condos have been purchased.  Yesterday was just an example of its current preeminent status as another van of tourists were brought out to the Palermo for a real-estate tour of the kind of upper-scale, high-rise living that is available in Cuenca.

Next post will be of courtyard and interior public places in the Palermo.

Postscript:  A major thanks of appreciate to Lenny Charnoff.  He has followed my blog since its inception when he was still living in Oregon with his wife, Sharon.  Lenny has a tremendous background in software use, and his six hours of instruction in three separate sessions has made these photos possible.  This will astound not only some of my friends in Cuenca, but a number of my friends and relatives back in the states.  Needless to say, now I have no choice but to use my camera more frequently, so that everything Lenny has taught me will be reinforced repeatedly, and eternalletched into my memory.  If anyone wishes or has a need to learn how to do the various things necessary to transfer photos, upload, download, and all the pecuniary steps in between that drove me crazy, Lenny is your go-to man and his rates are reasonable.



  1. Hi Jim,

    Garry here in Morelia Mexico. I am serious considering moving, having decided to retire to Latin America. I am a swiss citizen but i was born and raised in Canada.

    Mexico is a lovely place but it is getting rather too exciting for my tastes of late. I dare not post the nature of this excitement because a number of people who have done so have recieved late night visits.

    I speak a bit of spanish now after two years here and my wife is fluent. We are in our early fifties and have had the good fortune to retire early.

    I enjoyed looking at the work you have done in your condo. Japanese I think with a lot of natural colours and woods. Thank you for opening up your castle for our perusals.

    Here in Mexico, I have rented two apartments, one on top of the other in an older colonial house. I use the upper apartment for my bedroon and work stations and the lower as my public quarters. I have to go outside and up the stairs to get to bed. I wanted to live closer to the centro so i had to compromise in this way.

    I am very much interested in equador. I am obviously interested in finding a decent place within walking distance to services and I enjoy the city life seeing as we still have our cottage in Switzerland that is the country. I am hoping to find a city home that is at least 100 and more meters square. I would be willing to pay about 1000 for everything including all of the services. I wonder if this price is reasonable.

    I enjoy life in this part of the world but want to change for increased security mainly.

    thanks a lot


  2. Is there a phone number for el Palermo?

    1. The telephone number at the Palermo is 0774073267. Senor Estuardo Rubio is the building administrator. Senor Rubio is normally in his office until 4:00 p.m. His English is limited. One of the three security guards will answer at the security desk, whenever Senior Rubio is not present, or they will transfer you to Senior Rubio's office phone when he is present. Once again, two of the three guards speak no English, and one speaks only a little. To those who are English speakers only, it is best to have a Spanish speaking friend to contact the Palermo for you. Unless you only need to give the name of a tenant/owner and apartment/condo number.

  3. Thanks for the phone number to the administration office. If I plan on traveling, how does one pay utilities (water/electricity) when away from the apartment for a while? Thanks, J

  4. Julian, you can pay your association fee and your gas bill right here at the Palermo to the building administrator either before or a month or two after you return from your travels. Your electric, phone, Internet, and if you so desire cable television bills can be paid electronically each month to the various utility companies directly from your bank account. Just be certain that you have sufficient funds to cover your expenses each month, particularly during the time you are traveling.