Ecuador celebrates the Independence of Cuenca, a national holiday, every November 3. It commemorates the day the city of Cuenca declared its independence in 1820. With the third-largest population, Cuenca was a significant colonial city that proclaimed its independence from Spanish authority before the rest of the nation, with Guayaquil and other cities following its lead. In the end, Cuenca merged with Guayaquil and Quito to become the current state of Ecuador. During the Independence of Cuenca celebrations, you may experience the city’s colorful parades, dancing, and partying.
Cuenca, officially Santa Ana de los Cuatro Ríos de Cuenca, is the largest and capital city of Ecuador’s Azuay Province. It was formerly known as Guapondeleg, a Cañari town established around 500 A.D. When the Cañari were defeated around the 1470s, the Inca ruler Tupac Yupanqui ordered the establishment of Pumapungo, “the gateway of the Puma,” which supposedly rivaled the splendor of Cuzco, the Inca capital, and renamed the city Tomebamba. Spanish historians recorded tales of golden temples and similar wonders, but Spaniards only found the mythical city’s ruins.
Tomebamba was scarcely populated until the 1550s after it was deserted by the Cañari and Incas. Some speculate that it could be the fabled city of gold, which the Spanish referred to as “El Dorado,” because of the destruction left by natives before the Spanish arrived. When the locals learned of the Spanish conquests, they believed El Dorado had been set on fire.
On April 12, 1557, Gil Ramírez Dávalos, a Spanish explorer, laid the groundwork for the Spanish settlement in Cuenca. It was named after Cuenca, Spain, the hometown of then Viceroy of Peru Andrés Hurtado de Mendoza. Cuenca was established decades after the founding of other significant Spanish colonies in the area, including Quito in 1534, Guayaquil in 1538, and Loja in 1548.