Weird and wonderful: forbidden culture in Cuenca
It isn’t so often that, while out on a city walk with a guide, you are asked if you are easily offended. But that was the question posed by Wilson, who gave us an excellent tour in Cuenca, Ecuador.
He had already shown us many of the city’s sights, some famous and some less so. We had visited the beautiful Plaza San Sebastian and the Museo de Arte Moderno. We had watched a traditional tin craftsman at work and wandered the streets of the old neighbourhood around the Plaza del Cruz del Vado.
It was near that plaza that Wilson, reassured that we wouldn’t be offended, proposed stopping for coffee in a rather unusual café. I never refuse a coffee; and his hesitation about taking us had only served to intrigue us, so of course we accepted the suggestion.
Prohibido Centro Cultural
In one of the old houses on La Condamine, which are gradually being restored (see my featured photo), a local artist with a bizarre but very creative mind has undertaken a restoration very different in style. Yes, the old house (dating from 1810) has retained its traditional layout, with small rooms leading off open courtyards. But the décor in those rooms would I am sure shock the original inhabitants; although if you go with an open mind you will be intrigued and entertained.
We had to knock for entry and were charged just 50 cents. Believe me, it was worth it! The whole house is an intriguing shrine to the macabre. There are skulls, coffins and tombstones; religious imagery with more than a twist; designs inspired by tattoos, heavy metal music and black magic; even a guillotine! And if you want to use the bathroom facilities (and you really should!) you will find yourself washing your hands in water that flows from the ‘private parts’ of an appropriate sculpture; a goddess for the men and an impish creature for the women.
As you can imagine we spent quite some time looking around and taking photos. But after a while we took our seats with Wilson in the small open courtyard where we had a coffee. The artist’s wife sat with us and was stringing flowers as she chatted, preparing them for their afternoon visit to the family graves as part of the Day of the Dead celebrations. It was an added bonus to learn from her more about how they marked the festival.
Our visit here was a truly weird and wonderful experience that we definitely hadn’t expected in this beautiful Colonial city, and just perfect for this week’s Lens Artists Challenge theme!
The centre appears from online reviews to be coming through the pandemic OK, which is good to know. It is really worth visiting when in Cuenca if you want a change from the more conventional sights; and if, as Wilson put it, you are not easily offended!
I visited Cuenca in 2012
100 Country Trek
Wow! We have been to Ecuador ..always was a great adventure. Brings back memories. Thanks Anita
Yes, it’s a great country to visit and I especially liked Cuenca 😀
Very strange, very cool and fun. I was thinking if you had said you were a sensitive sort, how you would have missed this lovely visit. fantastic. Good on the guide for taking you here. donna
That’s a good point Donna – we would have missed this if we’d said we might be offended! I’m very glad we didn’t but it was never likely, as we tend to throw ourselves into everything when we travel 😀
How lucky you were in Winston! What a super guide and one that had the intelligence to suggest this tour to you letting you know in advance that it wasn’t the ‘usual’ sort of tour offered to visitors. Truly an eye-opener. Your opening shot has so much clarity too, and they colours …….! Brilliant. Great post, thanks.
Thank you Mari, I’m glad you liked this 😀
Local guides are the best!
They are indeed, especially those that are proud of their city and want to show you as much as possible of it!
Wow,how very weird! Thanks for the tour!
Glad you enjoyed it Sue!
It was great
Your post teaches us to be open-minded. Thank you for that, Sarah!
Thank you Amy – not my specific intention but a good impact to have made, I think 🙂
good grief Sarah – you get the award for the weirdest entry of the week! Although I’m surely not offended this one was a bit too out there for me LOL!
Haha, I quite like the idea of wining that award 😏 I can see this would be a bit much for some people and I wouldn’t want my own home to look like this, but it was fascinating to visit and photograph!
Gosh I wish we knew about this house before we visited. Great photos.
That happens to us too – we find out about a great sight just after we get back from somewhere! But you can never see it all. Did you like Cuenca? We loved it 🙂
In general Ecuador seems to be surviving the pandemic pretty well. Everyone wears masks.
That’s good to hear 🙂 You were there recently, I remember – although not in Cuenca I think?
I was there last month – Quito, Guayaquil and the Galapagos. We had to have a negative test to go to the Galapagos. (and to get back to the US)
Fabulous – now that’s the sort of place which is just brilliant to stumble upon!
Yes, absolutely – I doubt we would have found it without Wilson!
the eternal traveller
Different! Having a local guide makes a trip really special.
It does, and Wilson was one of the best we’ve had. Our tour was supposed to be just a morning one but we were well into the afternoon by the time we finished 🙂
the eternal traveller
We had a similar experience in Oman. Our guide took us so many places which weren’t on the itinerary. We were very lucky.
Ah, we had fabulous guides in Oman, both of them. I plan to feature them in a post one day. Especially the guide we had in the south, in Salalah, who even gave us a present when we left, as a memento of his country!
the eternal traveller
We did a four night trip with a wonderful driver/guide. He was fantastic. He and Mr ET struck up an instant rapport and I just sat in the back and enjoyed the ride.
What a very special find, Sarah! And I am not easily offended! Thank you for the tour – indeed a weird and wonderful visit you made there!
Thank you Ann-Christine 😊 I thought it would fit your theme rather nicely!
😊And it did!
What an experience!!
It was – thanks for visiting Yvonne 🙂
Very interesting decor for a cafe
To say the least! Thanks Tanja 🙂