The Plaza de San Francisco Market is a wild colorful combination of weaving, basketry, ceramics, ironwork, wooden utensils, kitchen cups and plates, pots, plastic trinkets, religious paraphernalia, guinea pig roasters, sweaters, ponchos, rugs, weavings, and more. It has a very storied history. But it hasn’t looked the way it looks now, even since I have been here….
Almost since it’s beginning in 1558, it has been a place where the people brought their products to sell.
From the 1700’s and on, it became the preferred location for fairs and carnivals as well as executions which were a form of entertainment at the time. After Cuenca’s independence in 1820, dozens of enemy soldiers went to the gallows in the plaza.
The most recent renovation of the Plaza was unveiled in January 2019. There were many years of conflict between the merchants, vendors, politicians and local Cuencanos before this renovation was completed. The renovated plaza has 96 units for vendors, distributed around the perimeter of the open square, which is quite a different layout from the very crowded use of the square previously.
In the 1800’s the plaza underwent a transformation when Cuenca officials decided to “clean up” the Plaza de Armas, today’s Parque Calderon, and ordered all commercial activity relocated to San Francisco Plaza. The relocation of the Plaza de Armas vendors caused a minor uproar as they tried to find space with the vendors already in San Francisco Plaza.
The plaza saw another big change in 1953 when the city established the Diez de Agosto market two blocks to the south, on Calle Larga. Most of the plaza’s food vendors relocated to the new market but a few remained. During the next decade, the commerce of the plaza focused on clothing and household goods.
In the 1950’s the plaza served as the city bus station and was home to Cuenca’s first gas station.
City photo) of the San Francisco Plaza renovation.
In addition to the vendors on the plaza, there are many stores and shopping center around the plaza. It is an excellent place to purchase Ecuadorian crafts and merchandise.
Panama hats have always been made in Ecuador! It is a misnomer from the days when Teddy Roosevelt wore an Eucadorian straw hat at the Panama Canal, and the style caught on in a big way!
There is now a fountain in the center, and plenty of space for concerts and music and performances. The paving stones were preserved for the floor of the square, a characteristic material of the streets of old Cuenca.
This Christmas the San Francisco Plaza was the location for Cuenca’s huge electric Christmas tree. The Plaza was the place to be to see Christmas lights with the backdrop of the New Cathedral domes.
Overlooking San Francisco Plaza…..