Cuenca (kwĕngˈkä) [key], city (1990 pop. 194,981), alt. c.8,000 ft (2,440 m), capital of Azuay prov., S central Ecuador. Founded in 1557, Cuenca is in one of the richest agricultural basins of the Ecuadorian Andes and is the commercial center of S Ecuador. The chief industry is the weaving of Panama hats. Although isolated from the north and the coast until roads were cut through the Andes in the 1950s, the city has modernized in recent years and tourism is on the increase. Cuenca is known as the "marble city" because of its many fine buildings, including the cathedral, government palace, and two universities.
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