Ecuador travel blog by Mark Berman -
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Latacunga has a gem of an historic center that most backpackers miss because it is on the other side of the bridge from the bus terminal. I had missed it on
my 1st 2 visits to Latacunga when I stayed across the road from the terminal before and after visiting Quilotoa Laguna in 2009. In 2012, 2015 and 2018 I returned and
stayed each time a couple of nights to explore the city, there is a lot to see and Latacunga is kind of like a mini-Quito. It had been a long 9hrs by bus from Portoviejo to
get to Latacunga this time - through the towns of Chone, El Carmen, Santo Domingo and Machachi.
If you are on a budget the best bet for cheap hotels is around the bus terminal, it's a 5min walk across the bridge to the historic center, but the prices of hotels are a lot higher.
Vicente Leon Park & Central
The main square called Parque Vicente Leon is right in the heart of the historic center. It's a big octagonal shape with palm trees
and flower gardens and is dominated by the huge monument in the middle of (you guessed it) Vicente Leon (1773-1839), a local philanthropist. On one side of
the park is the great white cathedral, it has been rebuilt several times along with the city after earthquakes in 1742, 1768 and 1877. Just 2 blocks south
from here is church Iglesia San Agustin, the Plaza of Culture (Plazoleta de la Cultura) and the historical Hermanas Paez Hospital - a nice area to explore.
A couple of blocks east I found another interesting building - the Army Polytechnic School (Escuela Politecnica del Ejercito) with courtyard, gardens, fountain
and bronze head of ex-President General Alberto Enriquez Gallo (1895-1962).
Parque Nautico la Laguna and Mama Negra
Walking south-east towards park Parque Nautico la Laguna, I came to a monument of the main character from the famous Mama Negra Festival (a man dressed as a
woman on a horse). The festival is held in Latacunga twice a year. As I got to the lagoon there was another monument of a character from Mama Negra, also on
horseback. The lagoon is quite big, you can hire a dinghy and paddle around. The tourist office is located across an arched bridge in the middle of the lagoon, there is also a small kiosk that has maps of the city.
Near the park are some markets and a pink church with a big belltower and a shrine "Jesus del Gran Poder" at the bottom. To the west is a monument
(1497-1533) - the last emperor of the Incan Empire.
At this point a street celebration erupted with a marching band, costumes, colorful dress and religious symbols. I followed the procession for a while taking photos along the way.
Parque la Filantropia
Park Parque la Filantropia, a nice place with trees, palms and flower gardens. The central two-sided monument pays homage to Senora Dona Maria Elvira
Campi de Yoder - a local who founded the Red Cross and Rafael Cajiao Enriquez - 5 times Mayor of Latacunga. As I walked back towards the bridge I saw
a typical monument of Ecuador in a small park - an indigenous woman sitting down with vegetables to sell. You see these characters everywhere around the country, I love them!
Around the Bridge
Right where the bridge is you will see Church El Salto, there is a lot of activity around here with markets, street vendors, shops and traffic. I could see
in the distance a monument and further up the street another, this is Av. Amazonas. I decided to investigate. The first is a soldier with red hat, blue shirt
and white pants holding a flag, next is the angel of the stars on a white horse, thirdly is the captain in a yellow suit and mohawk hat holding a sword,
these are all characters from the Mama Negra Festival. At the Cotopaxi Air Base, there is a fighter plane monument and a statue in respect of the pilots.
The huge white church Iglesia de Santo Domingo - domes, towers, columns. The grey stone brick church Iglesia
San Francisco and Plazoleta Simon Bolivar featuring Bolivar on his black horse. Across the road is the shady park Parque San Francisco. Along
the cobblestone streets with their colorful buildings is the interesting looking white church Iglesia de la Merced with its intricate designs and
shell-like arched doorway. San Sebastian is the next church I found. That's why I say Latacunga is like a mini-Quito, because of all these churches.
A walk over the bridge across the Cutuchi River opens up views in the distance of the Cotapaxi Volcano covered in snow.
Bus 2hrs to Quito
I headed 2hrs north to Quito
for the night from here (89kms).
Distances from Latacunga to other places in Ecuador: Pujili
335kms and Puyo