Cuenca, Ecuador - Polarsteps
Cuenca, Ecuador, population of around 330,000 but the metropolitan area is around 662,000. Cuenca is a favorite of ex-pats, supposedly most ex-pats in Ecuador live in this area. I even posted a message on an ex-pats forum days before I arrived and received no responses.
The area of Cuenca has been inhabited all the way back to 8060 BC. Yeah, there is archeological evidence of inhabitants in this area, specifically in the cave called Chopsi. That culture was most evident around 5585 BC. Beginning around 2000 BC the people started organizing their society with delegated responsibilities, administration, and religious authorities (shamans). From around 500 AD until around 1500 the Cañri and Tacalshapa III people were absorbed into the Inca civilization. Archeologists believe Cuenca was founded around 500 AD. The Spanish settled the area and called it Cuenca in 1557. It became an independent city in 1820. Now, the city has a population of around a half-million, with around 5000-7000 expatriates of all nations living in Cuenca.
Cuenca sits at about 2500 meters (8000 feet) elevation, so it's quite cold. And as is typical in this part of the world, people do not have heaters or heating systems in their homes or offices. The major industries include forestry, farming, mining, and tourism. The city has at least a dozen old cathedrals/churches. I didn't have time to see all of them. There are four rivers that run through here - the Tomebamba (named after the Inca culture), Yanuncay, Tarqui, and Machangara.
So, my impressions: On my first day here I met only one group of 3 people from the US. Other than them, I met no other English-speaking people. On my second day, I met several men from the US, three of whom lived in Washington state, and were just about neighbors of mine when I lived there. There was also a man from Montana. And I met a couple of Ecuadorians who spoke English. Cuenca has a fantastic historic center. The historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The churches date back as far as 1557. It also has many parks, and the rivers are lined by park space all the way through the city. The park called El Paraiso is particularly beautiful. As beautiful as the city is, I could not live here, it's simply too cold and too big for me.
My South America Journey