Issue 43, Cuenca Expats Magazine

Photos: Courtesy of Jane Hiltbrand

I can honestly say that I fell in love with Cuenca from my 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; and 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! 



21 San Luis Seminary 2

15 Corte de Justicia 1

When I moved here, I wanted to learn Spanish, and my wonderful Spanish teacher (Cristina Flores Ortiz, with Walking Spanish Lessons) suggested we walk around the city and try to put our lessons to use.  I told her that instead of visiting mercados and tiendas, I would really like to visit some of Cuenca’s beautiful homes, churches, and historic buildings. Cristina gifted me with a guide that the city of Cuenca had previously produced in 2007, which featured 165 of Cuenca’s historic buildings.  And, we were off! I have always enjoyed photography, and I started a weekly post on my personal Facebook page of the buildings we were exploring. I was only doing it for the pure pleasure. 

However, right from the start, I received a large amount of feedback from others telling me that they were also enjoying it very much. I then started doing a weekly post in August 2019. In 2020 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 can be reached at  Please feel free to visit it and follow it. At this moment, I have covered 33 properties, so I still have 132 more to go!  It will take some time. 

So many people told me they enjoyed following along and seeing photos especially of the interior of buildings they had not seen. They also said they enjoyed, as I have, learning some of the history of the beautiful buildings all around us. Cuenca Expats Magazine then 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.  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 know of the buildings covered in my articles. Please feel free to write to me at the email address below.  ¡Vamos a explorar la arquitectura de Cuenca!

13 Parque Calderon 15
27 Casa del Coco 3
17 Carmen of the Assumption Convent 1without watermark

Jane Hiltbrand

A Guide to Cuenca Architecture



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