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|Santiago de Gualaceo|
|Motto: Justo Y Fuerte|
|Canton||June 25, 1824|
|• Mayor||Marco Tapia|
|Elevation||2,449 m (8,032 ft)|
|Time zone||GMT-5:00 (Quito, Bogota, Lima) (UTC-5)|
Gualaceo //, nicknamed "El Jardin Del Azuay" (The Garden of Azuay), is a canton (territorial subdivision) in the south-central region of Ecuador. It belongs to Azuay Province, Ecuador. Its population is 42.000 inhabitants according to the official website visitagualaceo.com.
The origin of its name is debatable. Some historians affirm that the name comes from the Chibcha word “gualaca” meaning macaw’s settlement, while others state that it was named after a mythological Cañari Indian named Gualaco or Gualaca, but both coincide in its meaning “macaw’s settlement”.
Gualaceo is a sizable town located in a valley in the southeast of the Ecuadorian Andes cordillera, and about 20 miles east of the province capital Cuenca; its altitude is 2.449 meters. The valley of Gualaceo is crossed by the Santa Barbara River and its 3 smaller tributaries the San Francisco, San Jose y Guaymincay, creating a beautiful riverfront scenery; their waters are still clean enough that swimmers can be observed virtually every day.
Gualaceo is surrounded by mountains 3,500 meters tall, offering hikers and bikers many recreational possibilities.
The city of Gualaceo is the capital of the canton and is located in the valley of the same name; there are 5 high schools and about 7 elementary schools, there is also a branch of the University of Loja and another of Alfredo Perez University.
The economic income for the canton comes from tourism, handcrafts, construction and commerce, but the main economic source is the money that emigrants living in the United States and Europe send every year keeping the canton economically above its neighbors.
Its history goes back to the etymology of its name "GUALACEO", a cañari word modified from the Chibcha word Gualaca meaning “macaw’s settlement”, it was a Cañari settlement for long time, belonging to the Kingdom of Quito until it was conquered by the Incas.
In the year of 1531 - 1532, the Inca Empire of Tahuantinsuyo arrives to its end, with the death of the last monarch Atahualpa, in the hands of the conquerors that came from the old world, Sebastián de Benalcázar with its presence marks the start of the Spanish colonization.
With the arrival of the Spaniards begins the phase of the colony. The conquerors get to all the corners of the Kingdom of Quito, and Sebastián of Banalcázar assisted by the caciques (overlords) Llivicura (Gualaceo) and Duma (Sigsig) and other cañaris, they explored the valley of the Tomebamba and they rose for the slopes of Dotaxí, Cristo Rey and they arrived to Gualaceo, marvelous place by their landscapes and rivers that hallucinated for the shine of gold.
This happened in the month of April 1534, in which Benalcázar raises with their troop the first camp of mining settlement at the edges of the wider river, which is named Santa Barbara, Benalcázar also named the tributaries San Francisco and San José while the other 2 tributaries still conserve their cañari name: Guaymincay and Shío.
The Spaniards remained in the valley of Gualaceo for many years, since 1534 until 1549 does not exist documents that describe Gualaceo as an organized population, but was a mining camp.
210 years since the first mining settlement passed, until July, 1757 where Gualaceo is elevated to ecclesiastical parish of Cuenca, governed by a party judge lieutenant Manuél Dávila Chica and its vicar José Villavicencio.
Manuel Dávila Chica, in his quality of leader of that region contributed for the independence of Cuenca, with men, horses, wood of cedar and walnut and food.
In 1824 the Congress of Colombia proclaims the department of Azuay conformed by the provinces of Cuenca, Loja and Jaén of Bracamoros & Mainas.
The Cantons of the province of Cuenca are: Cuenca, Gualaceo, Cañar and Girón. This pronouncement was sanctioned by Francisco of Paula Santander president responsible for Colombia on June 25, 1824. Date in which is considered Gualaceo was declared canton.