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Prehistory of Imbabura

The province’s prehistory mainly revolves around different tribes which inhabited the area: the Imbayas, Cayambis and Otavalos. The latter were dominated by the Caras, a civilisation which arrived in Ecuador via Esmeraldas. These tribes contributed to the birth of the Caranqui culture. The Inca conquest came shortly after, instigated by Tupac-Yupanqui, and continued by Huayna-Capac to whom Cacha (Shiry XV) put up fierce resistance in the northern fortresses (Cochasqui, Guachala y Pesillo). One of the chief leaders of the resistance against the Cuzco offensive was Regulo de Cayambi: Nasacota Puento.

Eventually Cacha was destroyed in the Battle of Atuntaqui in which more than 12 thousand men perished. Paccha, daughter of Cacha was proclaimed heiress to the throne by the Carangues who then proceeded to attack the Cuzquenos, surprising them whilst they were sleeping, however, the Cuzquenos retaliated and pursued the Carangues to Yaguarcocha where they were eventually defeated.

Conquest and Foundation

“Imbabura and its regions were discovered in 1534, around the same time that Benalcazar occupied the territory marching towards the north in search of treasure; the conquest took place afterwards.” (Monograph of Ibarra)


“The Spanish founded Otavalo and Caranqui with luck as up until the first years of the seventeenth century they found many towns with mainly indigenous populations between Quito and Pasto and experimented with the need to found a town of Spanish people” (Gonsalez Suarez).

In the year 1600 a Vizcayan named Don Miguel de Ibarra became president of Quito who, on the 19th September 1606 founded the town called San Miguel de Ibarra. The town was to be given full control of its civil and criminal jurisdiction.


After the defeat of the Spanish troops commanded by Aymerich in the Battle of Pichincha (24 th May 1822) Liberator Simon Bolivar who was staying in the hacienda "El Garzal" in Los Rios received the news that a realist uprising had taken place in Pasto which was threatening to extend to Quito, commanded by Colonel Agustin Agualongo who had succeeded in defeating Colonel Juan Jose Flores. Bolivar started a 7-day campaign to crush the rebellion. On 17 th July 1823 after a bloody battle Agualongo’s troops were annihilated, Ibarra therefore has the honour of boasting the fact that the Liberator himself led a victorious battle on the town’s territory.

The Earthquake of Ibarra
At 1am on the 16 th of August 1868 the city of Ibarra and other small towns and villages were buried under a mountain of rubble as a result of a violent earthquake that took place in the area. Espinosa was president of Ecuador at this time and named Garcia Moreno civil and military chief of Ibarra. ‘It was Garcia Moreno’s organisational skills and energy that were expressed like on no other occasion’,according to historian Alfredo Pareja. Survivors of the earthquake emigrated to other towns and provinces and some stayed in La Esperanza. Four years later (1872) the reconstruction of the city was ordered in the same place and in April of the same year the new city of Ibarra was inaugurated.


During the colonial era the then 'Corregimiento de Otavalo' formed part of the Real Audiencia de Quito, before the founding of Ibarra. Since ancient times Indians from Otavalo have enjoyed the reputation of being expert knitters and weavers.  The Otavaleno community is the community which has made most headway in maintaining its own physiognomy. Otavalo is composed of the communities of Agato, San Jose de la Bolsa, Peguche, Selva Alegre, Quinchuqui, Costama and Iluman. The principle characteristic of Otavalo is its commercial initiative which has succeeded in cracking markets outside of the town and even on an international level.

Otavalenean women take a lot of pride in their appearance, especially with clothes. Rich and poor use the same traditional dress. The only difference is in the quality. Rich and poor also live in the same houses and dedicate themselves to the same line of work.


Folklore and culture in Otavalo is among the richest in the country; this is manifested in festivals such as San Luis (1 and 4 May), ) San Luis Obispo (15 to 22 August) San Miguel, San Juanes (24/29 July) and Yamor (1 to 8 September).

Last Updated 14th August 2006 (DLW)

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