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TODOS SANTOS COMPLEX
The Todos Santos complex, also known as Todosantos, is located in the heart of Cuenca, Ecuador, deep within the Tomebamba River Valley. During the Inca era, Todos Santos served as a center for spiritual celebrations. After the Spanish conquest, Catholicism was imposed on the native population; Catholic mass was celebrated at Todos Santos for the first time in 1540. Prosperity came readily to this Andean settlement because of the convergence of four rivers and abundant natural resources in the basin formed by mountains around the city.
The architecture of the church is symbolic of the intertwining of Spanish and local cultures of the region. The façade of Todos Santos features Spanish colonial Gothic motifs but is built with the traditional materials of adobe and bahareque, a pre-Inca construction technique mixing sugar cane, straw, local plants, and clay.
The historic center of Cuenca was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1999, confirming the importance of the ensemble of historic buildings, streetscapes, and cultural patrimony.
HOW WE HELPED
WMF, in cooperation with the Conservartecuador Foundation and the Municipality of Cuenca, began work at the Todos Santos complex in 2010. The municipality is focusing on the restoration of the church and its decorative murals, while WMF and local partners are engaged in a tourism development plan that includes the restoration of several historic spaces within the religious complex to house improved visitor services. The first phase of the restoration was completed in April 2011, and areas that were previously closed to the public are now open and functioning, including the café and bakery. WMF and its partners have started work on the second phase of the restoration, which focuses on the convent’s residential quarters, a school, and a botanic garden. The project finished in 2012.
WHY IT MATTERS
Cuenca, noted internationally for its important cultural and architectural heritage, remains an important destination for the community and local and international visitors. In 2005, aging electrical systems caused a fire that critically damaged the infrastructure of Todos Santos. Natural aging has also left areas of the complex deteriorated, while others have simply been abandoned. Inclusion on the 2010 World Monuments Watch highlighted the importance of addressing basic maintenance needs, as well as larger conservation issues. The preservation of Todos Santos will have a direct impact on residents of Cuenca, who benefit from religious and community activities offered by the church. Tourism is an important factor in the economic life of the region and Todos Santos is both a community asset and a component of planning for future visitor itineraries. The plans being implemented will help set the stage for sustainable practices that will allow improved protection of Todos Santos and greater appreciation for its history and continuing contributions to the community.