Saturday, January 22, 2011

MUSEUMS in Cuenca:

Here is the scope of our museum stalking thus far:

(1) PANAMA HATS – originate in Ecuador, NOT Panama!  The PANAMA HAT MUSEUM is at most a ½ hour stop, but it’s a fun stop.  They have an English-speaking person who will explain the process to you, explaining the difference between a $200 Panama Hat and a $15 hat (it’s the closeness of the weave).  You can crumple and fold the expensive hats, but you have to be somewhat careful with the cheaper ones.  They also have indigenous crafts people weaving, and once weaved, the hats are shaped by being placed in a hot molds at least three times.  Then for completion and decoration, they go to a group of women who put on the finishing touches.  We didn’t buy any hats, but we will.  You can also dress up in native clothes, including the hats, and have your picture taken, and the view from the upper level of the museum is spectacular. 
 (2)    MUSEO DE LAS CULTURAS ABORIGENES:  This museum shows you the cultural artifacts of about 20 pre-Hispanic cultures going back as far as 13,000 BC.  There is a section for many of the cultures of  Ecuador, and along with a little write-up, you can see the metal, pottery, and stone artifacts.  We were amazed at the sophistication of the pieces.  This museum also has quite a nice gift shop with a variety of Ecuadorian items.

 (3)   MUSEO PUMAPUNGO was a real eye-opener about the sophistication of the Inca culture before the Spaniards arrived.  Cuenca was originally called TOMEBAMBA, but since Tupac Yupangui was born there (one of the last Inca kings), he built a spectacular city to honor himself and to challenge the magnificence of Cuzco, Peru.  The name was changed to PUMAPUNGO when Tupac rebuilt it.  The museum includes the excavation of the original archeological site out back.  Fascinating, and we both left having a tremendous appreciation for the Inca lifestyle previous to the Spaniards coming.  The interior of the museum includes displays of many of Ecuador’s various cultures, including dress, jewelry, etc.  – equally fascinating.

And one more bit of trivia – some think that the city of Tomebamba (present day Cuenca) was the original city of gold (El Dorado) sought after by the Spaniards and others.
Harold in front of replica building which would have housed some of the 200 women who worked for the religious community.

Julie in front of the terraced hillside with the religious and government sites on top of the hill.

Another view of terraced hillside from the gardens below.

Irrigation canal

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