The Blacksmiths of Cuenca

An entire street of blacksmith shops! Las Herrerias (the blacksmiths) and the Museum of Fire are an under-rated but fascinating neighborhood in the El Vergel sector of Cuenca. In the late 1800s, blacksmiths were a necessity to shape the iron needs of the community, from horseshoes to elaborate architecture.

This area was once on the outer boundaries of Cuenca, serving as a farmers’ market. Farmers arrived in horse-drawn wagons heaped with their meats and produce. While they were nearby selling their goods, the blacksmiths  kept busy shoeing the horses and fixing or creating ironworks.

This historic 3-block street was once home to more than 50 blacksmiths. The concentration of like businesses still exist today. Here in Cuenca, we have streets of computers, jewelry, automobile dealerships, and others up and down block(s). Although the majority of blacksmiths here are gone, their remnants remain. Look for elaborate crosses on the tops of buildings. A few proprietors still exist fabricating lamps, doorknobs, lanterns, chandeliers, and made-to-order objects. Other metalworkers and woodworkers have infiltrated into the area.

A large plaza exists at one end of the street, complete with small eateries and the ubiquitous church. The Plaza Del Herrero exists at the other end of the street where sits the Museo de los Artes del Fuego.(Museum of Fire) and an impressive stature of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and metal, rising out of a volcano. The volcano is composed of multi-colored ceramic tiles, rocks, bricks and baked clay.

Many of the former blacksmith shops are today small Mexican or Ecuadorian restaurants. These little hole-in-the wall eateries serve tamales, humitas, empanadas, green tortillas, and fresh fruit juices. A meal can be had any time of day for $3-$4. Expect the street to be overly crowded with natives and tourists alike. This captivating street will leave you wanting to make a return visit.

Fact: Cuenca’s origins trace to 400 AD
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