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Cuenca celebrates anniversary of UNESCO designation as a Cultural Heritage site

Chola Cuencana dancers pose for pictures Sunday morning in Parque de la Libertad.

In dozens of events on Sunday, Cuenca marked the 20th anniversary of its designation as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity site by the United Nations. In Ecuador, Cuenca shares the distinction with Quito.

Cholo dancers strut their stuff at Parque de la Libertad as three expats look on.

According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), Cuenca received the honor for its importance as a cultural and governmental center of the Cañari and Inca civilizations and, later, for its significance during the Spanish colonial and early republican periods. In particular, UNESCO said that much of the city’s Spanish and French architecture warranted special distinction.

Sunday’s activities included special masses at two historic district churches, a ceremony in Parque Calderon, a walk on Calle Rafael María Arízaga from Av. Huayna Cápac to Parque de la Libertad, a history presentation at the Gullanzhapa Library, three concerts and several craft fairs.

In comments at the Parque Calderón hemicycle, Mayor Pedro Palacio said that Cuenca’s strength is its multi-cultural heritage. “This is the richness that unites us in the past, present and future, and we must recognize and nurture it,” he said. “The designation of Santa Ana de los Cuatro Ríos de Cuenca as an international cultural heritage community is a recognition of our diversity and history and is a call for us to preserve our tangible and intangible heritage,” he said.

Friends meet at a Sunday event.

He added that the celebration of the UNESCO designation coincides with the beginning of the 200th anniversary of the city’s independence from Spain. “We are entering a historic and exciting year that will be filled with many special events celebrating our history.”

At an afternoon ceremony, Palacio said the city is committed to preserving its architectural heritage. “We are redoubling efforts to save the houses that are so important to our history,” he said. “We are committing resources to important structures in the historic center and in El Ejido and Cristo Rey,” citing restoration work on the Vázquez, Donoso, Rodríguez and Ullauri properties.

The morning walk on Calle Rafael María Arízaga attracted about 300 Panama hat-wearing participants and was led by six ceremonial Grenadiers of Tarqui. Among those participating in the walk were Cholo dancing groups, high school and military bands and several civic organizations.