By Jane Hiltbrand
Photos: Courtesy of Jane Hiltbrand
I can honestly say that I fell in love with Cuenca from the very first moments of seeing it. And for me, an enormous part of that attraction was the architecture in Cuenca. It is stunning and memorable, as you all know.
I moved here from Santa Fe, New Mexico, so I already had an affinity and love for Spanish style/adobe architecture. But Cuenca’s architecture is so much more than that. It is a combination of pre-Colombian, Cañari and Incan archeological sites, as well as buildings from the Spanish Colonial and Republican periods. It is ancient and historic, indigenous, Spanish, French, European, earthen, pastoral, authentic, spirit-filled, elegant, and also humble. And just so amazingly beautiful!
When I moved here, I wanted to learn Spanish, and my wonderful Spanish teacher (Cristina Flores Ortiz, with Walking Spanish Lessons) suggested that we walk around the city, and try to put our lessons to use. I told her that instead of visiting mercados and tiendas, I really wanted to visit some of Cuenca’s beautiful homes, churches and historic buildings. Cristina gifted me with a guide to the City of Cuenca, which was produced in 2007 and featured 165 of Cuenca’s historic buildings. And we were off!
I have always enjoyed photography, so I started a weekly post on my personal Facebook page of the buildings we were exploring. I was only doing it for pure pleasure. However, right from the start I received a large amount of feedback from other persons telling me that they were also enjoying it very much. I started doing a weekly post in August 2019. Then in 2020 along came the coronavirus shutdown and a three-month lockdown. I used that time to assemble all the properties I had visited pre-lockdown into a blog so they would all be together in one place. The blog is called www.architecturalcuenca.com. At this moment, I have covered 33 properties—so I still have 132 more to go! It will take some time!
So many people have told me they enjoyed following along and seeing the photos, especially of the interior of buildings they have never seen. And they also enjoyed, as I have, learning some of the history of the beautiful buildings all around us. Cuenca Expats Magazine approached me about writing a monthly feature – so here we are!
The architecture of Cuenca is not a secret. In December of 1999, Cuenca was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of the historical, cultural and architectural merits of the city. The city, and some of its private citizens, have gone to great efforts to try to preserve and restore the incredible beauty we have all around us. And it is an on-going effort. I love the way Cuencanos are so proud of the beautiful architecture and heritage to be found here.
I hope you will enjoy our monthly exploration of Cuenca’s architecture. (And please feel free to check out my blog.) Any history I provide will be coming from the City of Cuenca, so I hope and trust it is accurate. I would love to hear any “inside stories,” personal experiences, or family history anyone might have of the buildings covered. Please feel free to write to me at the email address below. ¡Vamos a explorar la Arquitectura de Cuenca!