Saturday, April 9: Shopping frenzy

Today is our last full day in Cuenca. After breakfast we dropped in at the bookstore to find out where the best ATM was.
Great ATM with no service charge
We then hiked over to it on Presidente Burreto on the East side between Presidente Cordova and Mariscal Sucre. After withdrawing some cash (no extra fee) we walked to the central plaza, paid our $2 admission fee and went in to the old cathedral (Iglesia del Sangario, now a museum).
Inglesia del Sagrario

The Inglesia del Sagrario museum is on the East side of the main plaza (Parque Calderon).
Main entrance
You enter the museum through a huge set of elaborately carved doors and step into the sanctuary. The church is the oldest building in the city of Cuenca. Its construction was ordered on July 7, 1557, 10 years after the Spanish Foundation of Cuenca and was built in 1567. Its status was raised to that of a Cathedral in the late eighteenth century with the establishment of the Bishopric in Cuenca. Originally the church was quite small but its size was increased through several expansion projects.

When the building became a museum the main altar and the altar rail were removed. The front of the sanctuary contains a life sized depiction of the last supper. At the back of the sanctuary in the balcony is the large pipe organ.

Long view of the pulpit and main altar area
Long view of the pulpit and main altar area
Closeup of the main altar area
Closeup of the main altar area
Pipe organ in balcony at rear
Pipe organ in balcony at rear

Part of the original building
There are some sections of the very first church that have been preserved and incorporated into the present structure. Unfortunately they have been damaged over the centuries.

The church is elaborately decorated with numerous side altars and elaborately painted scenes on the arches supporting the ceiling.

Elaborate side altar
Elaborate side altar
Ceiling arches from rear of church
Ceiling arches from rear of church
Ceiling arches from rear of church
Ceiling arches from rear of church

Model of the new cathedral
This is a wooden model of what the new cathedral was to look like. It was originally designed to be the tallest church in South America. However, the architect made a mistake in his calculations and during the construction of the two bell towers a major crack developed in the building. It could not support the weight of the towers and so the two bell towers have never been completed.


On the way out of the church we paused to look at the elaborately carved doors. They contain the crossed keys that are the symbol of the papacy having the keys to heaven. However, at this point the keys to the church are held by this security guard.

Elaborately carved door
Elaborately carved door
Current keeper of the keys
Current keeper of the keys

We crossed the main plaza and saw these performers beside the new cathedral. The two flute players almost look like members of the Sioux first nation with their elaborate feathered garb. Beside then was a mime seated on a high stool.

Two flute players
Two flute players
Elaborate feathered garb
Elaborate feathered garb
Mime on high stool
Mime on high stool

Keen observer
This old fellow was sitting on a park bench near the flower market just being a keen observer of the passing scene.


There are many, many ways to make a living in Cuenca. Here are a few possibilities: selling trinkets and your accurate weight, selling fruit by the slice, selling rolls of toilet paper to passing pedestrians and motorists.

Trinkets or your weight
Trinkets or your weight
Fruit by the slice
Fruit by the slice
Toilet paper by the roll or pack
Toilet paper by the roll or pack

As we energed onto Calle Larga, people started yelling and running in front of a city bus. It seems that the bus had struck a pedestrian. People seemed genuinely concerned about the woman’s welfare. Eventually the police arrived and shorthly thereafter she was taken away in an ambulance.

Just after the accident
Just after the accident
Concerned citizen
Concerned citizen
Concerned native
Concerned native
Police finally arrive
Police finally arrive

After lunch we went back to the handicraft market with Andy (a Nebraskan staying at our hostel who speaks Spanish) and haggled over a number of items that we wanted to bring home. We bought enough stuff that we needed to buy another suitcase.

Party in the park
When we got back from the market, it appeared as though something major was happening in the park at the bottom of the steps so we investigated. It seems that this weekend is a celebration of the founding of Cuenca in the 1500s. There was a bandstand set up and many different vendors selling food and a wide variety of arts and crafts. Needless to say, we bought some more stuff.

Necklaces & jewellry
Necklaces & jewellry
Wooden toys & ornaments
Wooden toys & ornaments
Interesting artwork
Interesting artwork
Pottery work
Pottery work
Nan looking at bags
Nan looking at bags
Local performer on stage
Local performer on stage
Wandering vendor
Wandering vendor
Religious artwork
Religious artwork
Art in medieval style
Art in medieval style
Alpaca scarves
Alpaca scarves
Knitted masks
Knitted masks
Native woman with baby
Native woman with baby

Party into the night
The party in the park went well into the night. The vendors of the artwork removed their pieces after dark. However, many of the other vendors, particularly the food vendors, remained open despite the intermittent rain. The group Altiplano from Chili provided musical entertainment for most of the evening in Parque de la Madre. About midnight the rain started coming down heavily and the crowds started to disperse.