24 de Mayo y Gapal
Simon Bolivar, The Great Latin American Liberator, visited Cuenca in September 1822. The current building is not the actual house where Bolivar stayed, but it is in the location of the home where he did stay, and has been dedicated to a museum in his honor.
In 1822 Bolivar’s army had a great victory at the Battle of Pichincha on May 24th, in the fight for independence from Spain. Following that on June 16th he triumphantly entered Quito, where he received a hero’s welcome. This was also the day he first met Manuela Saenz, who was to become his lover, and also a very important part of Ecuadorian history.
Bolivar traveled extensively that year, in endeavors to create “Gran Colombia” which at its height eventually included present day Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Venezuela, and parts of northern Peru and northwestern Brazil. After meeting with General San Martin in July in Guayaquil, he traveled to Cuenca through the Cajas mountains, and was received with flower arches, banquets and parties, and celebrations. He was invited to stay at the old Chaguarchimbana estate, owned at the time by Maria Castro de Izquierdo, a very rich woman, and the mother-in-law of Antonio Soler. She was an antimonarchist and a staunch supporter of independence, and she invited Bolivar to stay in the house and work in a quiet environment on his ambitious freedom plans for the whole of Latin American.
However, the country house in which he stayed is not the one standing today. That building was demolished in the 1930’s. The house we see today was built in 1936 by Benjamin Ramirez Arteaga, a prominent legal adviser. It was used as a holiday home, and during its heyday family and friends would frequently gather for parties on the banks of the Yanuncay River.
Quinta Bolivar has a library with an important bibliographic collection on Bolivar, and the time of Independence. The library is named after Manuela Saenz.
This is the only known photograph of the actual house where Bolivar stayed…..
In 1960, Dr. Ramirez donated the property to the Azuay Employees Associate, which used the house initially for its meetings and then rented it out. Several years later, by which time the house had fallen into an advanced state of decay, Cuenca City Council purchased it and embarked on renovation works. The renovation process began in 2004 and ended in 2005.
This is a photo of the current house, before the renovation by the City.
The house is a homage to the Liberator of America and since July 2005 has accommodated the city’s Bolivar Museum.