Casa de Laura

On a hillside outside of Nabon, overlooking the León Valley, is an enchanting place that is beyond fairy tale dreams come true! It is the magical home of Maria Graciela Vintimilla called “China” by her friends. The house is named after her mother Laura. It is about a 90 minute drive from Cuenca.

China is a whimsical folk artist, and her artistry is visible all throughout the property.

The view of the Leon Valley is constantly changing with the colors of the cloud cover. Rainbows are frequent!

China’s Chicken Vegetable Soup is famous, and worth the trip! A party of at least 12 persons is required for a visit, and lunch.

China had a show of her art at the Cuenca Municipal Casa de Lira this past year.


The small village of Quingeo is about a 50 minute drive southeast of Cuenca, and is full of colorful adobe homes. I am from Santa Fe, New Mexico so when I see old adobe homes like this it makes my heart very happy! ❤

Sra. Maria, la esposa de don Guanoquiza

Here you can see the adobe bricks, and the bahareque construction.

Looks like John Lennon made it to Quingeo Ecuador!

I love the satellite dish!

A pony in the park for taking photos

Everyone riding out the rainstorm…

CASA SAN JOSÉ (a restoration in progress)

I was so honored to be invited by the Teodoro Montero family to view their family home which is currently in the process of being renovated; and to attend a lovely event in the home, featuring Teodoro’s book, an autobiography of his life. The home is being renovated by Felipe Urgiles, who is the same person who recently finished the spectacularly beautiful renovation of Casa del Parque in Cuenca.

The house is a work in progress. Some of the renovation is complete, but there is a good amount still to come. I will be following the progress of the renovation.

The lovely event included jazz musicians, flowers, candlelight; and there was a full house attending. When the renovation is complete, the house will be available for special events.

Felipe Urgiles completely restored this beautiful, very large espejo, mirror, to its original design.

Selecting colors for the walls in the grand sala……

All “before” photos are provided by Felipe’s wife, Lore Izquierda.

Felipe, painstakingly restoring the murals.

This is a sketch, superimposed on a photo of the exterior, sketching out how the front of the house will look when completed. There will be murals of angels on the walls.

Felipe with the new color selected for the grand sala walls.

The event was to celebrate the book written by Teodoro Montero. Teodoro moved to Cuenca from Bilbian. He started working as a jeweler, and eventually set up his own business. During the event he described how his business came to be, and grew. He reminisced about a long time business friendship/relationship with a person from Barcelona Spain. His business donated to non-profits for children. He and his family used to bring baskets of food door to door at Christmas.

The title of the book – “Desde el Soplo con la Churumbela al Rayo Laser” is referring to the tools used for jewelry making. The soplo la Churumbela was originally used. The person using it had to blow on the instrument, and it produced quite a lot of smoke, which could be irritating to the users throat. The Rayo Laser – or laser cutting, is now used.

Teodoro Montero, signing copies of his book. The event was full of friends, admirers, and family.

Teodoro’s daughter Sandra, has continued in the tradition, and has a store of her beautiful jewelry in the building. This is a photo of Sandra’s daughter, Andrea, modeling a “peineta” or jewelry hair piece, which Sandra Montero designed.

Felipe Urgiles in front of the renovated mural.

“Before” photo….

an “After” photo…

Cuenca persons will recognize this ceiling in the Turquesa Room, at Mansion Matilde in Casa del Parque, which Mrs. Gladys Eljuri de Alvarez, owner of Mansion Matilde and La Casa del Parque designed; and Felipe Urgiles painted.

Felipe Urgiles at work. He is an amazing artist, and a treasure for Cuenca.

ITZA Hotel

It’s no secret that I am crazy in love with Cuenca’s gorgeous Spanish Colonial, French, Republic Era, and adobe Architecture. But Cuenca does modern style renovation really well too! This hotel in El Centro just recently opened.

The hotel is at the corner of Gran Colombia and Benigno Malo. It is the old building of the Hotel Internacional designed by the Italian architect Alfonso Durini and built by the masters Ángel and Luis Lupercio between 1927 and 1932, its first owner was the hat exporter Víctor Miguel Delgado. In 1969 it was acquired by Antonio Peña Bernal who made some arrangements and adaptations in the architecture so that his hotel would function under the name of Hotel Internacional. In 1987 the architect Teodoro Peña Cordero carried out important restoration work. Today the current owner, is Mrs. Maritza Yumbla. The splendid current restoration was carried out by the architects Alfredo Ordoñez Castro and Fabián Orellana Serrano, who also directed the restoration of the historic building of the Remigio Crespo Toral Museum; the interior design was carried out by the Portuguese professional Carlos Lopes Silva

The hotel has three floors and fifteen rooms.

The Za-Za Lounge on the top floor has amazing 360 degree views of historical El Centro Cuenca.

There are amazing views in every direction.

Restaurant on the main floor…..

The GM Palace

This spectacular Cuenca Patrimonial home was built in 1890 by the Cuencano poet Ernesto Lopez Diez, inspired by a trip he took to France, and designed in the french style of the early 1900’s.   Ernest Moscoso (Gustavo Moscoso’s father) bought the house in 1995, intending to restore it.  After his father’s death, when Gustavo was only 19, the house was closed up for 15 years.

The house belonged to the Moscoso family for more than 30 years, but it was not until 2014 that they began the meticulous process of restoration

The house has four levels.  There is a car park on the ground floor which used to be a vegetable garden.  Also on the ground floor are offices and design spaces for Gustavo’s fashion business.  

Gustavo Moscoso, is a famous Ecuadorian fashion designer.  He began the restoration of his family’s home in 2014, along with his sister May. (GM Palace stands for Gustavo and May) They maintained the architectural elements and hand painted murals of the style from when the house was built.  They researched the history of the house, and of its architect, Ernesto Lopez Diez, the first owner.  But in the interior decoration they made some changes, and mixed styles.  For Gustavo it was really important to rescue and renovate the existing home, but at the same time keeping its usefulness up to date.  It is a dazzling timeless combination of old and new.  

They brought pieces of furniture from their father’s store, and three chandeliers from their mother’s house.  The sofas, leather armchairs and other furniture were made by hand by Cuenca artisans. 

The second floor includes the kitchen, dining room, and grand sala.

These ceilings are made of polychrome brass, a design element seen in Cuenca homes of the french design in the early 1900’s.

The master bedroom is on the third floor, with the master bath partitioned off with tempered glass behind the bed. 

Hidden in the room are stairs which take you further up to a very magical space in the house.

The fourth floor is a comfortable anteroom attic which leads to the observation deck on the very top of the house. The Observation attic was created by the original owner/builder, because he was an astronomer, and he wanted to study the stars.

There is another flight of stairs up to the actual outdoor observation deck.

Once there, you are treated to a dizzying dazzling 360 degree view of all of Cuenca’s Historical district.

Gustavo Moscoso’s fashion business has a strong family background.  Ernesto Moscoso Fuentes was a cloth merchant in Cuenca.  He married May Ferrando, from Chile. Gustavo took over the business at 19, when his father died suddenly.  He began to import foreign fabrics, and then made a collection of designs with these fabrics.  He launched his first collection in 2001.  His main store is in Guayaquil in the Plaza Lagos.  From Cuenca and Guayaquil he branched out internationally. His successful collections are shown in Buenos Aires, Panama, Cancun, New York, Lima, and Paris.

These painted dresses are a collection put together by Gustavo and his design colleague Olga Doumet, in a collaboration with other designers and artists. The collection is called Ispirato Corpo, which has been shown at the Bienale of Contemporary Art.

The house also is a showcase for some of Gustavo’s collection of contemporary art from different artists in Cuenca and Latin America.

Gustavo has plans to possibly someday turn part of this spectacular house into a restaurant, or jazz club.  It  also can be available as an Airbnb, for a once in a lifetime Cuenca experience. 

A Hidden Hacienda in Cuenca

Recovecos de Cuenca, hidden surprises of Cuenca. I was very honored to be invited into this 225 year old private home in Cuenca, previously a hacienda, with large land holdings. It is now in a very urban part of Cuenca, which used to be considered the countryside. Walking or driving by now, you might not recognize it’s history.

Once you enter the front door, and view the gorgeous garden, you truly enter another time!

The courtyard garden is surrounded by open verandas on all sides, filled with art.

It is the home of Sra’s Mariana and Lucrecia Palacio. Their family has owned the home for all of these years.

The house is full of the art of their brother, Miguel Palacio, who owns a gallery in Miami.

The wood floors all through the house are the original flooring, and they are made of eucalyptus wood.

You never know what lies behind the doors in Cuenca. This beautiful 225 year old hacienda house is a true hidden treasure of Cuenca!

Iglesia San Roque and San Roque Neighborhood

San Roque is a very traditional neighborhood of Cuenca. The first church was built by the priest Fernando Avendaño, between the years 1875 and 1880. A subsequent church was built in 1927 using the foundations and walls of the 1875 church. San Roque was named after the Holy pilgrim who dedicated his life to prayer and healing to the sick of the black plague; The present day church was built in the early 1980’s.

Iglesia de San Roque at sunset…

There are many legends in this neighborhood. La Viuda del Farol, is one of them. It is said that she was a woman who appeared at night, – she went out crying every night in search of her son. She said that they had robbed her and she was carrying a lantern in her hands and walked the entire neighborhood every night in the dark of the night.

San Roque was a neighborhood where there were canteens, which made it known as a bohemian area. Some of the houses in the area still have basements. It is said that the basements were used to hide contraband liquor.

San Roque neighborhood…

The church is located off of Loja Avenue. Loja Avenue used to be considered the southern entrance to the city, and this area was actually considered to be it’s own town. 

This large country house in San Roque Square was built on what was then the outskirts of the city in the late 1800’s. In 1954 the country house was sold to Elsa Valdivieso de Guillén and remained her home until 1980. In 1999 the property gained the name of “Villa Elsita”, in honor of its previous owner.

Neighborhood around Iglesia San Roque. The streets are narrow and winding.

The “Goat man” walking in the San Roque neighborhood. Bring your own bottle – he will fill it for $1.00

Another legend is that that there was a plague of ugly, skinny insects slightly resembling scorpions, in this area in the 1940’s. They are called ututus. The origin of the plague was attributed to the priest of San Roque at that time, who declared a curse to punish a theft from the church. As the years passed, it was discovered that the plague was not a product of the curse of the priest; however ututos can still be found in homes along the rivers. They can be quite scary looking, but they are harmless. When I first moved here, I witnessed an artist’s display of numerous very large metal stick bug structures in San Roque square. I wondered at the time why anyone would create an art piece of all of these large creepy bugs! But now I know the legend of the Ututos of San Roque!

In the center of the square there is a statue of the Marshal of Ayacucho, Antonio José de Sucre. In the past, schools and colleges would congregate in the square every 27th of February to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of Tarqui.


Former Doctor Gonzalo Cordero Crespo House

This beautiful building was constructed between 1945 and 1952. Gonzalo Cordero Crespo was a prominent politician.  CIDAP was created in 1975, through an agreement between Ecuador and the Organization of American States OAS, which is dedicated to the promotion of Artisan craftsmanship and popular culture. In 1977 CIDAP rented the building for its cultural activities, and finally purchased the building in 1984.

Gonzalo Cordero Crespo hired a Spanish architect, Juan Orúz, based in Guayaquil, to design the building. The building is characterized by carved and polished stone used for the doors, windows, staircases, columns, and balustrades.

There is a story that a one-armed stonemason participated in the construction.  It is said he tied a chisel to his wrist to be able to hammer out the balusters, lintels and columns from blocks of grey Andean stone.

CIDAP showcases the continent’s artisans and handicrafts, with the purpose of strengthening culture and popular art in Ecuador and America. 

There are always amazing shows of handicrafts and art in this museum.  And the annual Fiestas Mercado in November which features artists and craftsmen from all over South America, Mexico, and Central America; centers around the CIDAP Museum. 

There is a side door to the building which opens onto to the Escalinata steps.

Escuela de Medicina/Museum of the University of Cuenca

The former School of Medicine of the University of Cuenca was built on this particular plot in 1916 because it was adjacent to the old St Vincent of Paul Hospital, therefore enabling students to obtain practice as well as theoretical training.

The main entrance has an exquisite wrought-iron semicircular gate.  The whole building is slightly raised from the pavement, accessed via short flight of steps in the fashion of a podium.

The project was promoted by Honorato Vázquez, Rector of the University, who also had a distinguished career as a diplomat, being Ecuador’s representative at the court of Madrid during the border conflicts thatoccurred in the country at the beginning of the 20th century. It occupied a privileged location on the banks of the River Tomebamba,

The handsome façade is entirely in exposed brick, in keeping with the style popular at the time.

A large interior courtyard held the classrooms and other facilities.

This courtyard is distinguished by a central gallery with twelve columns possibly added around 1930.  The gallery ceiling is of the polychrome brass variety.

A segmental arch displays a carved marble shield of the University of Cuenca at its centre. Still discernible above is a pinnacle inscribed with the date of construction, 1916.

An old Linotype Printing Press, and the letters used for the Printing Press.

The building was used as a site for the Cuenca International Bienal. Pictured here is an exhibit in the Bienal.

Situated on the west  is a corridor leading to an empty space outside that once accommodated tennis courts. In 1968 the School of Medicine moved but The University of Cuenca continues to own the building, and it is now the Museum of the University of Cuenca.