An Ibarra walk
From the viewpoint of San Miguel Arcángel, one observes the city, with its straight streets and white houses, at the foot of Volcán Imbabura. From here, you can also admire the spectacular Yahuarcocha Lake, the ‘lake of blood’, in Kichwa, named so because of the curel massacre perpetrated by the Incas against the Caranquis. Here, it is said that between 20 to 50 thousand people were slaughtered and thrown into the lake, staining it all red.
You must walk on Avda. 17 de Julio to reach this natural observatory and its monument in honor of the “apocalyptic angel”, a site that also commemorates the Battle of Ibarra fought in 1823 against the Spanish realists of Pasto, where Simon Bolivar led his only strategy of what would soon be the free republic of Ecuador. The city would then be shocked by a terrible earthquake in 1868, in which approximately 5,000 people of the 7,200 who lived in Ibarra perished! That is why, from this site, the city look like a model. The then-president Gabriel Garcia Moreno demanded it be reconstructed as fast as possible in 1872, allowing the 550 Ibarra-natives that had been waiting for years in the nearby village of Santa Maria de La Esperanza to return home.
The white city
They call Ibarra the white city, because of the color of the façades. Apparently, due to the climate and proximity to Yahuarcocha Lake, there were frequent mosquito pests and the city suffered from terrible malaria outbreaks. The solution was to paint all the houses with lime. Over the years, the problem was solved, but the city liked the color (and the distinction).
The Historic Center
In just four blocks Ibarra shows the most precious of its historic relics, a heritage site alive and well in our modern day. One can begin at Pedro Moncayo Park, where the monument to this liberal who fought triumphantly against conservative forces in the second half of the twentieth century, stands. Notice the “Torreón“, an Ibarra icon, a beautiful old building with a striking clock tower. Families stop by for dynamic mural-drawing workshops. At some point, it was set to house an opera house, an unfinished opus by architect Frank Schmidt, who had already built the famous and beautiful Teatro Sucre in Quito.
When crossing the old square, you will notice the magic of a provincial city. On the left side, as if emerging from an old postcard, you’ll find the ever-present park photographers with their wooden horses and Mexican hats. The dazzling paintings of Rafael Troya, portraitist and landscaper of the early twentieth century, are a highlight at the Cathedral, as well as, inside, the baroque decorations of the altarpieces. A short one-block walk ahead takes you to the Episcopal Chapel with its pretty neo-Gothic domes.
Further ahead find La Merced Park, where the renovated Barracks of Ibarra are located, an eye-catching brick building with turrets. Half a block away, on Olmedo Street, you’ll find the famous “morocho” empanadas, crispy and bathed in ají (chili sauce). This is a true street of flavors. Head to Olmedo and Flores to taste the classic nogadas and arrope de mora sweets and, from here, on the corner of Oviedo, revel at the fruit flavors of the emblematic paila ice-cream of Rosalía Suárez. You can also seek out the delicious potato patties with chorizo (and the fourteen locales that serve them) on this street. Another icon is La Esquina del Coco, on Oviedo and Sucre. In just two blocks, you arrive at the very site where engineer Arturo Rogerds, with a handful of young Ibarreños, rebuilt the city devastated by the 1868 earthquake. But another story awaits at the Ministry of Culture Museum, with its fascinating pre-Columbian collection that takes us back centuries to the times when legendary Ethnic Caranquis Lords ruled the land.