Cuenca marked the 463rd anniversary of its Spanish founding on Sunday but there were no concerts, crafts fairs or parades. The celebrations and public gatherings associated with the holiday have been cancelled as a result of the coronavirus health emergency. “It is a sad holiday for us this year because we cannot celebrate in the streets and plazas as we traditionally do,” said Mayor Pedro Palacios. “We take solace, however, in the fact that the celebrations will resume next year and be better than ever.”
The city’s first priority, says Palacios, is overcoming the Covid-19 epidemic. “This is our biggest challenge in almost 200 years and we are responding very well to it,” Palacios said. “We have maintained a low rate of infection by observing the restrictions on public movement and we expect to see the situation improve within two to three weeks and will soon resume our normal lives.” As of Saturday, Cuenca reported 131 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 virus.
Cuenca was founded on April 12, 1557 by the Andalusian explorer Gil Ramírez Dávalos, who named the city after his home town of Cuenca, Spain. As a reward for his service, the Spanish crown deeded Dávalos large tracts of land near Cuenca and he spent much of his time in the city even after his appointment as governor of Quito.
Historians point out that Cuenca was actually established long before the Spanish arrived. “We should never forget that our real ancestors, the Cañari, established a settlement in the valley more than 1,500 years ago,” says retired University of Cuenca history professor Juan Gonzalez. “In fact, there were large groups living in this region as long ago as 4,000 years.” Cuenca was called Guapondelig when it was the center of the Cañari nation. In the late 1400s, the Cañari were conquered by the Incas who renamed the city Tomebamba.