After spending a couple of weeks away this summer, I came back to my city of Ibarra with fresh eyes.  It really is a beautiful city, in a beautiful setting.  For this post, I thought I’d share a little of it with you. 

The San Miguel Arcangel
overlooks and protects the city.

Ibarra is a colonial city (population 140,000) located in the northern part of Ecuador in the Province of Imbabura.  It is set in a bowl at 7,300 feet surrounded by mountains and volcanos, and has easy access to the coast toward the west, the Orient/ Rainforest to the east and the Columbian border to the north.  Ibarra was founded in 1606 but almost completely destroyed in an 1868 earthquake.  Today, its historical architecture and culture are alive and well, rich with Spanish influence.  Although primarily an agricultural centerpoint, Ibarra does have two universities and industries related to textiles and technology.  Ibarra is considered one of the most diverse cities in Ecuador with large populations of Spanish Mestizo, a variety of autonomous Indigenous communities, Afro-Ecuadorians and a hearty flow of Venezuelans and Columbians who are migrating into Ecuador from their countries to the north.  Ibarra is well known for its “tranquilo” (or relaxing) lifestyle.  Some of this can be attributed to its favorable climate with year around temperatures between 45-85 degrees every day of the year.  Because it is located on the Equator it only has two seasons: wet and dry.  

The view from the Arcangel
The pride of Ibarra is beautiful Lago Yahuarcocha.  A bicycle and running track encircles this lake 
and a famous race car track flanks one of its sides. 
Rent a paddle boat or a kayak
for the afternoon! 

The plazas are my favorite part of Ibarra.  They are always adorned with beautiful flowers, trees, public art and fountains.  In the Latino culture, it is important to take part of your day to relax and spend time with family or friends.  Often, the parks and plazas are where they gather.  I sit on the bench to watch old ladies feed the pigeons, or Indigenous women working on their needlepoint, men playing cards, and the vendors selling ice cream, wheelbarrows of grapes, peaches, or a chance to ride on their wooden horse. 

Ofcourse, every plaza is the centerpiece to a beautiful cathedral, and the solitude and cool air 
of these stone buildings makes them inviting to visit on a warm day. 

Ibarra has an historical center with many large colonial buildings.  It is known as the
“White City” for the prominent color of paint on these buildings.  I have heard that historically
the white color was used to keep mosquitos at bay.  Now, it’s the trademark of Ibarra. 

In a Colonial City, the doors themselves are a work of art.
Sometimes, if you peak inside their courtyards, you will find a school,
a cafe or a cultural museum waiting to be explored. 
 The Streets of Ecuador are also filled with lots of art, and Ibarra is no exception.
Clay people such as these grace the entrance way of most cities in this region.
Their clothes, and their actions are meant to represent the culture of the town.
These clay figures are working with leather and embroidering the beautiful cuffs
and collars of the indigenous women’s dresses.  Leatherwork and textiles 

are two major industries in the Imbabura Province. 
Murals and artwork also cover the sides of many buildings and fill the markets.
This is Centro Cultural Daniel Reyes, who was a famous artist in this area.  With his teachings, he left a legacy of artists in a small suburb of Ibarra called San Antonio.  This center, where I take ceramics classes, is also a mainstay of the artisan community. 
One day there was a wood carving
contest in the park.  I watched a
man carve this with a chainsaw
and a chisel.  
Wooden statues – religious or non-religious
are a popular art form here, and artisan
workshops line the streets.
The Cuartel was built as a Military outpost,
but now is an art museum, event center and public library. 

Above ground cemeteries are also a prominent landmark in Ecuador.  Families keep the tombs of loved ones adorned with flowers and photos.  I think their paths are fun to explore. 

             But to me, the best part of Ibarra is its stunning scenery.  Mountains in every direction… 

Volcan Imbabura in the morning sun from my bedroom window
The city below in the setting sun as seen from my house.

Finally, I live on the outskirts of Ibarra and I love 
to explore the nearby fields and pastures.  On my way 
to work, I often see this man, or his wife, walking their
 cow down the sidewalk to a nearby field of grass.
Ibarra… It’s a good life for cows, and Peace Corps Volunteers!