There are few corners more romantic in Quito’s Historic Center than the legendary Mama Cuchara Hotel residence, where, centuries ago, a desperate woman threw a saint onto the street from one of the balconies and in doing so, found her greatest and most precious wish come true: to find the love of her life.
Legend has it that in the barrio (or ‘neighborhood’) of Mama Cuchara in Quito there was a beautiful maiden lady unable to find a suitor deserving of her affection. She searched the city through and through, but lived disillusioned as not a single gentleman in the world seemed right for her. So, she did the next best thing: got herself the icon of a famous Italian saint that, according to some untold secret recipe for eternal love, would have to be turned upside down; after nine days of passionately praying to her, love would come to the door of whoever asked for it.
Well, this the maiden lady did. And after nine days of her steadfast prayers… nothing happened. She was devastated, set to live a life of solitude. She grabbed the icon, opened the window of her room, and threw the saint over the balcony.
“¡Ouch!” screamed a man upon receiving the heavy Baroque object on his head. Maddened and insulted, he ran up to the door of the maiden’s residence and demanded to speak with whoever could have had the audacity of throwing the saint out the window. Well, our lady of Mama Cuchara walked out, embarrassed and apologetic. But as soon as she set eyes on the stranger, she fell madly in love. And so did he. The couple married and lived happily ever after.
The bedroom from which this legendary Quito love story began, from which the wooden saint was thrown, is one of the 26 gorgeously-appointed rooms of this exclusive, restored hotel in Quito’s Historic Center. Packed with art, a fabulous collection of paintings, exquisite woodwork and home to the outdoor terrace bar, christened “The Saint that gives a husband” in honor of the legend, offers a sumptuous view of Panecillo Hill. Find the most delicious cocktails and feel immersed in the heart of the old city. You will arguably not be able to find a site more romantic than this!
Although the years had gnawed at the façade of the beautiful “last house” of Loma Grande Hill —the end of the roundabout that once marked the southeast limit of colonial Quito— they had not yet hurt its pride. This was something that the Vergara family undoubtedly noticed when she chose the residence as their starting stone for the Art Hotels project, an exclusive line of hotels throughout Ecuador dedicated to breathing new life to heritage residences and neighborhoods.
The property formerly belonged to Hacienda La Encantada. Visitors thus can feel the colonial past of the original beams and ‘bareque‘-adobe walls that have been maintained with great balance in the face of the restoration’s modern additions, which were necessary to strengthen the construction and offer the greatest comfort for guests.
Restoration included, of course, the façade, which shines today like a central jewel on the crown of heritage Calle Rocafuerte. Upon walking inside, its ‘small villa’ feel is transformed, magically opening into a spacious indoor courtyard that by day exposes a fabulous mosaic of natural light. Christened La Plaza, one stands in awe at the unique combination of modern and traditional architectural motifs.
Attention to every detail —the owners’ are avid art lovers— is evident everywhere. The condors donning the central fountain; the colorful lamps that mimic the finest Murano crystals (but are actually recycled plastic); the fabulously intricate wooden backs of beds, made by artisans from the talented town of San Antonio de Ibarra, as well as the shining stained glass windows; the inclusion of skylights in rooms to create a most dreamy chiaroscuro… There are many reasons to fall in love with this heritage gem.
Operations such as these are central to the community. The neighborhood has seen great change in recent years thanks to the presence of a boutique hotel of this caliber, offering visibility to residents and their local projects and businesses as well as turning an area formerly known for its deserted, forgotten streets into a vibrant and dynamic urban enclave.
Hotel Mama Cuchara proves that a city’s charm lies in the stories we choose to preserve. And as one of Quito’s most beautiful stories, Mama Cuchara is also one of its most special places to spend your time… we recommend it to all, especially those seeking romance in the high Andes.
Vicente Rocafuerte E3-250 y Luis Chavez. Quito, Ecuador.
(+593) 2 381 3400
Fotografías por: Juan Ricaurte