Cuenca for Expats: A complete course in Cuenca history, culture and cuisine taught by the experts

Dec 18, 2020 | 6 comments

Editor’s note: Cuenca for Expats, an Intercultural Experience is a comprehensive introduction to Cuenca taught in English and designed specifically for expats interested in learning more about their adopted home town. The instructors are experts in their fields, many of them members of the faculty of the University of Cuenca. Following are course descriptions, instructor bios, cost and contact information.

The Cuenca for Expats team of instructors is a group of academics, university professors and experts in various areas of knowledge, united by their affection for Cuenca and the issue of culture as a priority. Each instructor’s background includes projects for the protection and improvement of culture and the quality of life in this city. That is why they were chosen for this intercultural experience.

Cuenca for Expats wants to promote greater integration among cultures that not only speak different languages, but also approach life in different ways. This sometimes leads to cultural head-on collisions and isolation. The tendency of immigrants to keep within their own communities is often stronger than their intention to expand their connection with others.

We are convinced that the best way to integrate and enjoy a hospitable and cosmopolitan society like Cuenca is to get to know it better. With this goal in mind, this course offers the necessary information so that expats have a brief but panoramic view of the history, the territory, the people, language and culture of Cuenca and its surroundings.

If we manage to improve the cooperation and shared life between natives and immigrants, we will be achieving our goal, which is to contribute to improving the quality of life for everyone in Cuenca.


  • The forum is designed for:
  • Expats residing permanently or occasionally in Cuenca, or are thinking of moving to Cuenca.
  • Professionals and Technicians in the fields of tourism, gastronomy, culture and foreign affairs.
  • All those interested in these subjects.
  • Our intention is not for expats to go back to school or undergo a rigorous specialist course! This is a Forum that intends to provide a pleasant and insightful experience through talks with questions and answers in real time. We will ensure that all conferences are interactive.
  • The lectures will use photographs, video, multimedia texts and practical activities in order to access deep information that is also fun and entertaining.
  • Lectures last one hour, from 5 to 6 p.m from Monday to Thursday.
  • The online mode through the Zoom platform allows participants to attend the conferences in the comfort and safety of their own homes.
  • The sessions can be recorded on the personal platform of each user so they can be viewed again, or in case the class cannot be attended live.
  • The Forum is endorsed by the Faculty of Hospitality Sciences of the University of Cuenca, the Municipality of Cuenca, the Casa de la Cultura of Azuay, the Chamber of Tourism of Azuay, and CAMMPUS.  A Diploma will be awarded to each user with the signatures of the representatives of the endorsing institutions.
  • The FORUM has two relatively independent MODULES, with eleven Topics each.

Module 1: January 4 -January 21, 2021.
Module 2: February 1 – February 19,      2021.

Cost: We need to self-finance the forum so the costs are as follows:

Module 1:     $ 75
Module 2:     $ 75

Those who sign up for both modules receive the discounted fee of $ 120.




Guapondelig, Tumipampa and the Spanish Foundation.
We will look in on this area’s original inhabitants: small bands of hunter/ gatherers whose culinary delicacy was the mountain deer.  Then on to the Cañaris who traded in spondylus and rock crystal. Their ventures to Peru, hundreds of kilometers away, changed their own civilization forever. We’ll meet the Incas, builders of an administrative and religious center that was considered a second Cusco.  Later we encounter the Spaniards, founders of two Cuencas. 12,000 years of history marks this region as a fascinating part of the Andean territory.

Instructor:  Juan Martínez Borrero. Doctor in History and Geography. Magister in American History. Professor at University of Cuenca


The Green City Of Water
A characteristic of Cuenca’s identity is its water. We belong to three large hydrographic basins: Cañar, Jubones and Paute. We have four rivers, and the Cajas mountain system with hundreds of lagoons .We supply water to the largest hydroelectric project in the country. We defend our water from environmental and man-made threats because it is the source of our natural wealth, in addition to defining our landscape.

Instructor: Antonio Borrero Vega. Master of Science in Electrical and computer Engineering. ELECAUSTRO Manager.Professor at University of Cuenca.


Our Identity Sings
Culture shapes our identities and our ways of being in the world, and Cuenca is a multicultural city. In this course, we will address some of the notable elements of Cuenca, with an emphasis on traditional festivities and crafts.

Instructor: Gabriela Eljuri Jaramillo. Anthropologist. Former Undersecretariat of Cultural Heritage of Ecuador.


Our Spanish-Expressions in Daily Conversations
As a community that was often isolated from the rest of Ecuador for several reasons, we developed specific ways of speaking, and expressions that are particular to our identity as Cuencanos. In this presentation, we wish to share and practice these expressions with you so you can understand their meanings and implications. You’ll learn how to use them in your day-to-day dealings with Cuencanos, and you’ll have the opportunity to clarify the meaning of other expressions you have picked up during your life here.

Instructor: Marcela Carrasco Pozo. Master of Arts in English Language and Literature. Professor of Languages and Teacher Trainer at the Universidad Católica de Cuenca.  Former owner and Director of Nexus: Lenguas y Culturas


Cuenca-UNESCO World Heritage Site
World Heritage Sites are designated by UNESCO for having cultural, historical, scientific or other forms of significance. Cuenca holds this designation since 1999, enabling its inhabitants and visitors to experience the cultural diversity of an exceptional city. What is Cuenca’s heritage comprised of?  Together we will explore the criteria under which Cuenca was nominated as a World Heritage Site, and how everyone can contribute to its preservation.

Instructor: María Eugenia Sigüencia. Architect. PhD. Researcher, Consultant, Professor at University of Cuenca, Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism.


The Sound of Local Music
We’ll begin this musical journey by listening to the other-worldy “sound objects” used in pre-Spanish rituals of the Andes region. The growth of Cuenca soon added classical music, jazz and rock to the local palette of pasillo, san juanito, albazo, capishca and other Andean styles. We’ll also hear samples of the artistry and creativity of Cuenca’s noted performers, along with some young talents who just might become the stars of the future.

Instructor: Su Terry. Composer, Recording Artist, Writer & Lecturer.


Museums, Galleries and Artists
The city is well known for having very good contemporary artists, most of which started their careers or international exposure at the time when the International Biennal of Art in Cuenca was first launched in 1987. I shall choose some of these artists to illustrate the kind of work done and how they have weaved their way into exhibiting and/or marketing their art in closed spaces such as local galleries and museums or in beautiful urban locations in open air.

Instructor: Alexandra Kennedy Troya. Art and Architectural Historian. Professor at the University of Cuenca, Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism.


Testimonies – Let them speak
The testimony of the expats who are living in Cuenca will be very useful to access a better knowledge of the city and also the way of thinking of immigrant communities about Cuenca, and its people.

Instructors:  Immigrants living in Cuenca. Jeff Salz. PhD in Cultural Anthroplogy. President/Founder in Way Of Adventure, Inc. and David Shallenberger.


Gastronomy and Culture in Cuenca
Cuenca, unlike other cities in Ecuador, maintains a distinctive traditional culture with a strong popular base. We see it manifest throughout the year in festivals, artisanal crafts, in the character of its citizens and the constant presence of the campesinos (peasants). Cuenca’s fertile valley and the exchange routes of food and ideas have shaped a particular traditional cuisine based on local agricultural products such as maize, fruits and vegetables.  We find great seasonal dishes of unique character and an interesting variety of culinary preparations for daily cooking.

Instructor: Juan Martínez Borrero. Doctor in History and Geography. Magister in American History. Professor at University of Cuenca


Cuenca: Flavors & Traditional Recipes
We have many flavors in our traditional cooking. Our gastronomy is outstanding, it changes from region to region; either the Andean valleys or down to the flat lands and sea shore. The traditional food has not remain static, and has  a cross breeding between European and indigenous food. Which I will be delighted to speak about. Some of them are made once a year and  linked to the religious  and popular festivities which enriches our gastronomy. Since my time is short I will teach three dishes. An Ecuadorian tamal and a cazuela de verde (green plantain and fish cazuela) .  For dessert a Sorbete de taxo

Instructor: Rosa Vintimilla Vinueza. Researcher in Gastronomy and Culture. Writer.


Natural medicine in Cuenca. Secrets and recipes.
Natural medicine in Cuenca is closely linked with the ancestral wisdom of communities that have always considered nature as a decisive essence in human life. We will review the traditional management of herbs, plants and recipes to cure or prevent diseases and the meaning of some traditional rites such as the “cura del espanto”.

Instructor: Alexandra Moreno. Naturist



Cuenca in the XX Century and Today
A review of the life of Cuenca in the twentieth century to the present day will allow to highlight the milestones of the economy, society and culture of one of the most important and iconic cities of Ecuador.

Instructor:  Juan Martínez Borrero. Doctor in History and Geography. Magister in American History. Professor at University of Cuenca


The Southern Region – Azuay & Cuenca
Being one of the most important cities of the Southern Region has granted Cuenca some special characteristics related to physical and geographical aspects, and also some cultural characteristics that should be seen in context. This module is a journey through the southern region features including landmarks, culture, and important touristic sites.

Instructor: Soledad Moscoso Cordero. Architect. Cultural Heritage Researcher at University of Cuenca. Professor at University of Cuenca, Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism.


The Human Diversity of Cuenca- Yesterday and today
Cuenca is home to an important cultural diversity. This diversity comes not only from an evolving historical process, but also from more recent cultural trends. Cuenca’s cultural diversity comes to life in myriad ways through the interaction of its people of diverse ethnic backgrounds. In this course, we will view how this diversity is reflected in everyday life, particularly in the urban-rural relations that take place in the city.

Instructor: Gabriela Eljuri Jaramillo. Anthropologist. Former Undersecretariat of Cultural Heritage of Ecuador.


The immigrant cultures in Cuenca
An integral view of the very different immigrant cultures in Cuenca. It will offer us valuable insights toward the complex dynamics of the life of foreigners in the city, and on public policies that can facilitate harmonious and inclusive inter-cultural coexistence.

Instructor: Sofía Arce. Head of International Relations at Municipality of Cuenca.


Accent and Speaking in Cuenca
We will focus on the Cuencano accent, specific grammatical structures, and our particular way of speaking Spanish. We will also review “Cuencanoisms” such as diminutives for everything, using le for direct and indirect objects, the use of vos, tu, and usted, articles before proper names as well as other features. Participants are encouraged to bring their questions.

Instructor: Marcela Carrasco Pozo. Master of Arts in English Language and Literature. Professor of Languages and Teacher Trainer at the Universidad Católica de Cuenca.  Former owner and Director of Nexus: Lenguas y Culturas


Voices of Poetry and Literature
This course summarizes the most important movements and figures of Cuenca´s literature from mid XIX century to the present day. So many greats, so little time– we can only mention the key players in our literary history, like Fray Vicente Solano, Luis Cordero, Remigio Crespo Toral, Alfonso Moreno Mora, César Dávila Andrade and Efraín Jara Idrovo. We’ll also discuss important figures belonging to our strong journalist tradition, like Benigno Malo and Manuel J. Calle, all the way up to present day writers and poets. Participants will receive a panoramic view of our literature and the historical events that nurtured it.

Instructor: Johnny Jara Jaramillo. Author.


Cuenca, Cultural and historical sites
Instructor: Xavier Guerrero Balarezo. Degree in Tourism. Professor at Faculty of Hospitality Sciences of University of Cuenca.


Cuenca- University City
Cuenca has been a university city since 1867, when the current University of Cuenca, second oldest university in Ecuador, was founded. In 2011 the National Assembly named Cuenca the University City of Ecuador. We’ll see how the university identity has built much of Cuenca’s cultural prestige. We’ll examine the university presence in terms of the city’s past and present development, and take a look at Cuenca’s future conversion into an International University City.

Instructor: Jaime Astudillo Romero. Former Rector of University of Cuenca. Doctor of Jurisprudence, Urban Planner.


How to do it better. Laws, rules and procedures
We put the immigrant community in contact with the various regulations and procedures related to their particular status. Topics like: Legal Immigration to Ecuador Visas / Citizenship / Visa category changes; Real State Law / Contracts / Deeds / Rentals; Purchase / Sale Agreements; Last will and testaments / Powers of Attorney; Registration of university degrees; IESS. Government Health Insurance rules; Taxes; Licenses for Businesses Companies; Labor law.

Instructor: Gustavo Toledo. Legal Assistant at SUR LEGAL. Attorneys at Law.


Traditional recipes of Cuenca
Two recipes of the traditional cuisine of Cuenca will be presented and guided by experts.

Instructor: Rosa Vintimilla. Researcher in Gastronomy and Culture. Writer.


Typical gastronomic routes of Cuenca.
We will make a guided tour through the most important places where you can find the traditional flavors of Cuenca cuisine.

Instructor: María Emilia Piedra. Master in Marketing

For more information and to sign up for Cuenca for Expats, an Intercultural Experience, contact Emilia Piedra at


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