We will be located in the beautifully restored Escuela Central in downtown Cuenca, one block off of Parque Calderon, the main square.
Address: : Gran Colombia Street & Benigno Malo, Cuenca
History of The Escuela Central
Cuenca is built over the ruins of the pre-Columbian city of Tomebamba, a major Inca urban center. This valley, high in the Andes, often touched by the clouds, home of exuberant greenery, and rich in water, could have been the Garden of Eden. Instead, it became the site of Pumapungo, a complex of palaces and gold-plated temples built by Atahualpa, the last Sapa Emperor of the splendid Inca Empire.
Intending to eradicate indigenous culture and replace it with Christianity, Spanish conquistadores engaged in malicious deconstruction of Inca structures in many parts of the Inca Empire. They used the stones to build churches and shelters. Today, only the foundations of Atahualpa’s complex and his garden retention walls remain at the Pumapungo hill site.
Archeologists have uncovered beneath the city of Cuenca numerous foundations from the time of the Cañaris, a pre-Incan civilization. However, around this valley exists proof of human habitation dating back thousands of years. The Valdivian culture, 3,500 years BC, is credited with the development of pottery in the American hemisphere.
Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, Cuenca was a small isolated village of thatched-roof adobe homes amid the Andes Mountains.
Epidemics such as typhus, chicken pox, and smallpox broke out repeatedly over the years. In Peru, these killed over 50% of the population. The residents of Cuenca began to consider the necessity of a hospital.
By October of 1584, the Hospital of Charity was begun near the central plaza of the town, today’s Parque Calderon. The availability of water on the site and a location less exposed to air and cold during the night made the site desirable. The Hospital was surrounded by vacant land. The streets bounding the block became Simon Bolivar, Luis Cordero, Benigno Malo, and Gran Colombia.
Eventually, there were 18,919 inhabitants in Cuenca. The city grew on a simple grid. The principal street, today known as Calle Simon Bolivar, ran from the Church of San Blas on the east side of El Centro to the Church of San Sebastian on the west side. The buildings in between were mostly utilitarian shelters of no major importance.
Because of the aforementioned epidemics, hunger, and the conflicts of independence from Spain, the city declined to about 9,279 inhabitants at the beginning of the 19th century.
However, by the second half of the 19th century, Cuenca saw economic growth spurred in part by the popularization of the toquilla (Panama) hat. Modernization of the city began.
With this prosperity, the city recognized the need for schools for girls. In 1878 plans were registered in the city for the Escuela de Niñas. The Hospital of Charity was relocated to the perimeter of the city, and the existing building was modified to become a school which was inaugurated in 1883. Since 1904, the building has been known as the Escuela Central.
Excavations under the building have revealed water canals as well as ceramics and coins from various civilizations. Further, human remains indicated an old cemetery. These remains, mostly young adults of mixed race, are visible now beneath glass viewing platforms.
By 1920 the building looked as we see it today, but in poor condition. The school for girls continued until at least 1999.
Sited in an important location near Parque Calderon and the old and new Cathedrals, the building has received much attention in connection with its recent renovation. It is one of the few Gothic buildings in the city.
Today, with the renovation complete, it has become the site of a variety of cultural activities such as exhibitions, conferences, and rallies. The facility is also known today as the Museo de la Ciudad, which was inaugurated in October 2015.
Written by Eduardo Cerviño and Lesley Sudders
There are many hotels and hostels near the conference location, ranging in prices from 25 dollars on up. We suggest using Trip Advisor to review all the options available and find the ones right for you. Here is a partial list of lodging options:
Hostels within walking distance:
El Cafecito Cuenca
Posada Gran Colombia
Check Inn B&B Cuenca
La Casa Cuencana
Hostal Hogar Cuencano
Hotels: Note that some of these will require a cab ride of approximately $1.50
Hotel Santa Lucia
Hotel San Juan
Hotel Inca Real
Hotel Santa Monica
Although this is a historic building, it does feature an elevator so if stairs are a problem, you’ll be easily able to navigate the building.