Grant McWilliams

Travel Trip Journals Peru/Ecuador - 2007 Museo de Banco Centro

Museo de Banco Centro

img_0854I thought it quite strange that a museum would be called Central Bank until I got there. It appears that the bank owns the land and/or finances it's operation as the museum is in an adjoining building to the Banco Centro. Before Ecuador was conquered by the Inca there were other cultures there. Cuenca was the city of the Cañari people. We saw Cañari on the bus coming from Riobamba. They were attractive people but like many of the other indigenous groups they were quite small and wore little light colored bowler hats. Anyway, the location of the Museo Banco Centro was a royal Cañari palace which after being conquered by the Inca became a royal Inca palace naturally. It seems the city was founded (which they called Guapondeleg) about 500 AD which makes it very old for an American city. The Incas took over in about 1450 or so. The Inca replaced the Cañari architecture with their own impressive works and in some of the buildings you can see the layers. The Cañari didn't have the advanced carved stone architecture that the Incas had but it was no worse than what the Spanish eventually built over top the Inca buildings.

Shortly after the defeat of the Cañari, the Inca commander, Tupac Yupanqui, ordered the construction of a grand city - Pumapungo, "the door of the Puma" - whose magnificence was to challenge that of the Inca capital of Cuzco. Indians relayed stories to the Spanish chroniclers of golden temples and other such wonders but by the time the Spaniards found the legendary city all that remained were ruins, leaving everyone to wonder what happened to the fabled splendor and riches of the second Inca capital. There are rumors of Inca Jealousy in the ranks and possibly it got destroyed when Atahualpa was fighting his half brother for the title of Inca. Who knows. The city of Cuenca was officially founded about 1550 or so. A city with three names and 1500 years of history! You'd think we were in Europe with numbers like that. Supposedly the palace here was one of Huayna Capac's, the father of the last official emperor.

The museum was pretty nice and had information in Spanish on the various indigenous groups that live in Ecuador as well as mockups of their homes and how they lived. They had a set with the Quichua people that we stayed with in the Amazon as well as plenty of shrunken heads of the Shuar people which was a bit creepy.

Outside the building there are the ruins of Huayna Capac's palace which as I said was built on the Cañari palace. Also there were some Cañari buildings still there that had not been built over and the archeologists believe that the Cañari nobility were still able to hold positions in the government but always under the Inca.

Our plan was that we would go to Banos but the clouds were starting to form and we had plenty of time left before we flew home so we put it off until theimg_0839 next day. We needed our plane tickets to Guayaquil though and the TAME office was across the river from the Museum so we headed there. We found one lady at the TAME office that knew a bit of English and she asked for our passports which of course we didn't have. It just seems strange to need passports within a country so we told her we'd return the next day with them. With that we headed up the University side of the river which is very well groomed and clean. Along the way we saw a lot of clothes laying out on the bushes and on the grass. Our initial reaction was the homeless people were washing their clothes but later Fernando from the hostel says this is normal for the area, people wash their clothes in the river and lay them out to dry. He said where he lives further up the river the whole bank is covered with clothes all the time. Interesting concept. Here if you left your clothes out someone would steal them.

The Let's Go guide recommended Cafe Blue which is a "Mexican" bar/cafe so we went there looking for familiar food. We got burritos that were quite good but didn't really resemble Mexican burritos that we eat at home because they were only wrapped in a long tube like Americans wrap crepes and the ends were open so you needed to eat it with a fork. Mo had the best hot chocolate she said and some more typical boring food that she's drawn to. She's not very open minded when it comes to new food I'm afraid. The rest of the day was spent lounging around Cuenca and checking emails. For dinner we ate at Raymimpampa again which was good but I was starting to get tired of the same food.

Tomorrow we go to Banos and soak in the hot water!