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 24, 2015


Lima was established by Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro in January of 1535.
Today the historic district of Lima is a UNESCO Heritage Site.

Below are photos of Plaza St. Martin, which is a large plaza surrounded by some of the most spectacular Spanish colonial architecture that can be found in South America.  The buildings are impressive and speak to the grandeur of the importance of Lima as Spain's leading Vice-royalty while a colony of Spain.  The park was constructed in 1921, which was the centenary celebration of Peru's independence.  The name of the park and the monument in the center is in honor of General Jose de San Martin.  The photos attempt to give you some idea of the panoramic effect of the buildings encompassing the park.

Most of these buildings were constructed in the early twentieth century. 
As a result, the plaza maintains uniformity with respect to its buildings' facades. Its overall appearance is primarily baroque; the buildings, plaza, and central monument all cohere to uniform and specific styles. The architectural style to which most of the surrounding buildings outside of the Square of St. Martin's in Lima's historic district belong to is that of the neo-hispanic or neo-colonial styles within the realm of European derived architecture, primarily of the Renaissance.

The photos below are of the Basilica del Cathedral de Lima.  It is situated on Plaza Mayor and on Plaza de Armas; began construction in 1535; and it is dedicated to St. John, the Apostle and Evangelist.

The photo above is a painting of Francisco Pizarro landing in present day Lima.  Pizarro's Tomb is in the basilica.

This is the main altar in the Basilica, which is flanked by fourteen side-altars.

Notice the semi-circular vaulted ceilings.

The nave of the Basilica del Cathedral de Lima.  The wood carvings were done by wood craftsmen from Spain of realistic figures of the saints.

Unlike the Italian churches in which the ceilings are covered in frescoes.  The ceiling in the Basilica would be quite plain and austere; if not for the interplay of the gold-painted wood strips, which give an elegance to the ceiling, and nicely complement the structure and the altar adorned in gold.

This facade with the beautiful wood-carved balconies is the Archbishop's Palace.  Over 1,600 balconies exist in the historic center, and every effort is being made to preserve them.  The opulence of the palace was not only unusual for the ecclesiastic hierarchy, but also for the top civil colonial administrators.  The magnificence of many of the buildings were matched by the lavish interiors.  Lima, the capital of the Vice-royalty of Peru was no colonial backwater, as were the  colonial cities in North America during the 18th century.


 The historical district of Lima with it many closely intertwined plazas, churches, courtyards, and public buildings designed in a colonial Renaissance style albeit with a Spanish twist; reminded me of Rome and Florence during my travels from earlier this year.  The impact of the Italian renaissance upon Southern Europe in particular carried over to the Spanish colonies in a way that would not happen in British North America.  Much of the building materials, slave labor, and wealth of the conquered Inca empire was also used to reconstruct new structures for the the Spaniards.

The San Francisco Basilica is next to the Basilica del Cathedral of Lima.  San Francisco has underneath it layers of catacombs where a great deal of skulls and thousands of human skeletal remains are arranged in various geometric designs.   The underground cemetery used during the colonial time is estimated to have 25,000 remains.

There are a large number of churches and ecclesiastical structures (monasteries, convents, hospitals) squeezed into this area.  I am afraid after four months, I can no longer identify them all correctly.  The photo above is the copula of Santa Domingo, the only authentic steeple in Lima.

The photo below is of decorative ceramic tiles from Seville.

A fresco below from a frieze in the courtyard of Santa Domingo.

The background image is of Santa Rosa of Lima.  Lima's patron saint.  Her feast day is one of the biggest celebrations of the year in Peru.

Statue of Santa Rosa of Lima

The courtyard of Santa Domingo reflects the Moorish (Islamic) influence; in particular, in its balcony of arches and pillars.  The monastery also has a colonial library of over 25,000 manuscripts.  Many of which are priceless.

Lima's Circuit Water Park Extravaganza

 Created in 2007.  The water park is spectacular.  We had put off visiting until almost our last evening in Lima.  Little did we know what a fabulous delight it was going to be.  There are a total of thirteen fountains in a park setting.  Easy to walk around, sit on benches, and enjoy.  We spent about ninety minutes in the park.  The evening is the time to go when the lights and fountains appear to interactively rise and fall and change to a multiplicity of colors.

The fountain (above and below) allows people to walk through its center.  Another fountain can also be accessed, as mainly young people moved to the various center rings, and yes get wet as the sprays rise and ebb.

The Fountain of Fantasy presents a thirty minute synchronicity of lights, water elevations, and music with the addition of a colorful laser light program of projected images similar to holograms.  The music and images are of nature, folk, classic, South American, the Beatles--a little of everything--in a fast pace program that is repeated every hour during the evening.

If you like archaeology, history, museums, the architecture of Lima's colonial center, gourmet dining in one of the world's top cuisine capitals, high-end shopping; a gambling casino on almost every block, and summer time enjoyment of the beaches and the Pacific; you just may enjoy a vacation in Lima.

*All photos courtesy of Nancy Thalmann

Sunday, November 8, 2015


This past week was the single biggest celebration that brings easily 100,000 to Cuenca for a fiesta that began Friday night with Halloween and with celebrations that kicked off the long weekend through Tuesday's,  Day of the Dead, on November second, and Cuenca Independence Day on November third.

Halloween is not a biggie in Cuenca or Ecuador.  However, some of us expats and some Ecuadorians who lived in the states, but now have  returned, indulge in  Halloween parties; and some of the discos have costumed dance events as well.   Trick-or-treaters among the kids are rare, but always appear here at the Palermo. I noticed this year that more party shops were carrying masks and costumes specifically for Halloween.  As more retailers realize the dineros in it, no doubt Halloween will continue to grow.

Day of the Dead is celebrated throughout Ecuador.  Some cities have more elaborate parades and celebrations with many masks and costumes that reflect death, ghosts, and skeletons.  Here in Cuenca, folks make their way to church for Masses for the Dead. Special prayers and mass offerings are made in the belief that it will lessen the possible time loved ones may be spending in purgatory.  Purgatory is a place according to Catholic teaching similar to hell, but without the despair.  After death, those who have died, but who were not in the state of mortal sin; must be purified from the fires of Purgatory for all their sins and transgressions in life.  Upon the completion of their purification, they can then go to be with God.  One must be purified to enter into the presence of the beatific vision of God.  

Most Cuecanos will make their way to the cemetery with their families.  Much like Memorial Day in the U.S., it is a time to pay respect to family members and friends who have died.  Many families will take picnic baskets with them and make a day of it, as they will share their meal with one another and their dearly departed.  The Day of the Dead is the equivalent of All Souls Day, which is celebrated in the Catholic Church in the United States also on November second; one day after All Saints Day, which is not celebrated in Ecuador.

In the midst of this was the holiday that for five nights and four days brought out the party fiesta of the big Cuenca Independence Day of dozens upon dozens of big and small concerts--indoors and outside-- and numerous street entertainers throughout primarily El Centro and Avenida Remegio Crespo.  Over 300 events were going on with endless art exhibits, all types of experimental demonstrations of various arts and crafts, puppet shows, queen coronation, magic acts, games, a stock car race, endless food vendors, the smell of grilled meats, and even booths from some of the best restaurants in town with tasty morsels of their menu offerings.  Plays, art film, dance; it was all happening, baby!  It was time to get down, and shake a tail feather.  Celebrate!  Celebrate!  Dance to the Music!  

All of it was held together by Cuenca's biggest art and artisan fair of the year, as it meandered for a mile along the south side of the Rio Tomebama on Twelfth de Noviembre, and then paralleled the north side of the river on Third de Noviembre.  Parque Madre had its share of vendors and art, and eventually one could make their way down Avenida Benigno Malo to Parque Calderon and Sucre before one came to the end or the beginning of seemingly endless everything.

Did I leave out fireworks?  No way, not in Cuenca.  Fireworks are the life-blood of the Cuencanos.  No reason is needed to celebrate with fireworks.  Friends of mine told me they saw their best fireworks display ever on Friday night in Parque Madre after a heavy-metal concert.  What time were the fireworks?  Why 1:00 a.m., of course.

Late Friday afternoon began with some rain, but we were undaunted in our Halloween spirit.

A Halloween Dinner awaited us at the Le Petit Jardin Restaurant in San Miguel de Sayausi. Owner and chef Giovanni Cambizaca 

Note to me, lose ten lbs.   Why do I look so pie-eyed after one drink?

Ah, Chef  Giovanni's son doing the honors.  The culprit who was keeping me well fueled.

Halloween or Day of the Dead, you choose.

After dinner we headed down to El Centro.  Main stage was performing some great music at Parque Calderon, the heart of the city.  The trees, the cathedrals, and many of the surrounding businesses were bathed in colored lights.  I don't recall ever seeing the old cathedral's bell tower so lit up and so beautiful.  Sorry, no photo of the band.  It was so crowded, I couldn't get a decent shot over everybody's heads.  We were lucky to get an outside open table at a nearby restaurant, and enjoyed a few hours of drinks; while conversing, and listening to the music.

Sorry about his eyes.  Hey, it was Halloween night.

Art Fair

There were some great wood-carvings.

People enjoying the greens along the Rio Tomebama with the art fair going on along the left and right of the river.

One of the escalantes leading down from El Centro to the river.

Crowds everywhere

Sometimes you just have to take a break.  Monday was a windy day, but still in the upper sixties.  You would think it was 45 degrees out, the way those little girls are dressed.

Metal Work Art

If you are going to appreciate South American art, you better love warm, vibrant colors.
Kids would have their picture taken with him by their parents.  I had to give him a dollar.  He looked so miserable up there.  There must be something stiff in his outfit that keeps him in place, but he did not look to me like he was enjoying it.

I'm out in the street taking these photos as something loud is coming down Calle Larga.
No, it's not Mao's Cultural Revolution kids, but it is a very large group of young people bands, shouts, mini-parade.

Ending with a furl of banners.

Outside Goza Cafe

The popular Goza Cafe, especially with tourists, formerly known as the Coffee Tree.

              CIPAD offered a Japanese exhibit.  I love Japanese art and architecture, so bear with me.

Lead-in to the Stock Car Race on Calle Larga.  Clear the steets, the stock-cars are coming!

Benigno-Malo with the New Cathedral in the background

Security is seen everywhere.  For a fiesta this large, military personnel and country police are brought in as well, as hundreds-of-thousands enjoyed the days of fiesta.

Military band performance in Parque Calderon

A large numbers of flags were furled along the south side of Parque Calderon and the main stage.

Saying goodbye to friends and to another year of fiesta, as we headed home.  There was still an evening of activities, and I found myself walking against foot-traffic as people were coming from the barrios for the final evening of entertainment.  Cuenca had celebrated its 195th year of Independence from Spain.  I can't imagine what its bicentennial will be like in 2020.