A blog about architectural tiles, terra cotta and other ceramic surfaces, architectural glass and ornamentation in and around New York.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Architectural Murals in Ambato, Ecuador

(Courtesy of Google maps)

I recently spent five weeks visiting friends in the city of Ambato, Ecuador and exploring some of the Andean spine of the country from Mindo, northwest of Quito, to Rio Negro, southeast of Ambato. Notes from these travels and a slideshow of photos I took can be accessed at https://mpadwee-travelsandphotos.

Tungurahua Volcano as seen from a street in Ambato. (All color photos courtesy of Michael Padwee unless otherwise noted.)

In 1949 Ambato was almost completely destroyed by a massive earthquake. In the intervening seventy years Ambato has risen from the rubble in almost quilt-like fashion. The city architecture is very colorful, and many of the new buildings give it a modern feel.

"An Ambato Quilt" (Michael Padwee, 2019)

Since at least the early 1970s local artists have designed wall murals throughout Ambato, and in the past twenty years Ambato's municipal government has actively supported this art work to beautify the city and educate the residents to their history.

Fausto Holguín Vásconez, who had been involved in local and national politics for many years, was one of the earliest artists to decorate walls with tile mosaic murals in the 1970s, and this continued almost until his death in 2015. (Photo from his obituary.)

Part of a Holguín mural dated 1974.

One of a series of tiled columns by Holguín created c. 1974.

Holguín's son, Fausto, who has also designed wall murals in Ambato, 

One of a series of mosaic murals by the son of Fausto Holguín.

said that "My father told the story of Ambato through his murals... ."(1) Many of Holguín's murals are historical--they tell the story of Ecuador's Indigenous peoples, the Spanish conquest and colonial rule, and Ecuador's independence movement.

The "credits" for Ambateños Ilustres as part of the overall mural.

"Ambatenõs Ilustres" along Av. Victor Hugo. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

One of Holguin's blocks-long murals, titled "Ambateños Ilustres", was created on the Avenida Indoamerica and Av. Victor Hugo from 2007-2010. 

In a letter to the editor of the newspaper, La Hora, in 2010, Holguín explains the mural to his friend, the mayor of Ambato, Fernando Callejas:

"To the Mayor of Ambato 

Dear colleague and friend:

With regard to the claim for having incorporated your name and face in the mural that I am making in the Av. Indoamerica without your authorization, for the consideration and respect that I have for you, I want to extend [my] criteria that I briefly expounded to you by phone.

Those of us who do public art always assume an immense responsibility, because our work, with its virtues and defects, is left to the judgment of all citizens to be recognized by some and vilified by others.

In my particular case I assumed a greater challenge in deciding that in some of my murals the portraits of some illustrious ambateños are recorded. The first difficulty I faced was of a technical nature, because making a ceramic face is really difficult, and I also had the need to try to do it well out of respect for those people and the city, within my artistic and conceptual limitations.

But the most important commitment has been the choice of those who in my modest understanding should be in those murals. 
What I was trying to do is recover the historical and intellectual values ​​of a group of [Ambatanians] whose historical contribution to the human and productive development of this Province has been formidable and, yet, they are not known and less recognized as they deserve. 

Surely many men and women with sufficient merits are missing that have been overlooked, or I did not have their resumes and photographs on time. Maybe at some point I can repair that injustice, but I am convinced that everyone I put in has merits necessary, for example, to educate future generations and make us all proud. 

To choose them objectively I have meditated a lot, seeking to abstract from any political or friendship factor and not allowing personal sympathies or antipathies to weigh in. 

With the modesty that characterizes you, you told me that being a good mayor is not enough merit to be on a mural and that the ostentation and desire for figuration was far from your personality. And in that you are right, Neptalí Sancho, Rodrigo Pachano and Galo Vela are not in the mural of the Sports Coliseum for being good mayors, and you are not in the latter for being as efficient and honest as they are, but [you are in this mural] because of those Administrative qualities that have added a vision of the city and a human quality that the Ambateños have recognized as exemplary. 


Fausto Holguín Vásconez."(2)

Murals of three famous Ambateños artists and literary figures.
Franklin Ballesteros, a well-known Ambateño artist.

Fausto Aníbal Palacios Gavilanes, whose career spanned the fields of literature, culture, and history, among others. (3)

Pablo Balarezo Moncayo (1904 – 1999) was an Ecuadorian poet, journalist and essayist.(4) He was active in the literary and cultural circles of his native city, Ambato, and in those of Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil. 

Some of the mosaic tile ads to be found as part of this mural.

Another of Fausto Holguín's blocks-long murals can be found along Avenida Atahualpa, near one of Ambato's malls.

A long view of the historical mural. (Courtesy of Google Maps.)

This long mural was created in discrete sections with the help of a community of Ambato artists over a period of a few years. For instance, the segment about Indigenous peoples was created between 2011 and 2014.

The historical sections--those sections that deal with the colonial period and the revolution against Spain--have murals of the men who helped found Ecuador and Ambato.

One section deals with slavery and the liberation of the slaves in Ecuador: 

"Most Afro-Ecuadorians are the descendants of enslaved Africans who originally arrived in Ecuador from the early 16th century. In 1553, the first enslaved Africans reached Ecuador in Quito when a slave ship heading to Peru was stranded off the Ecuadorian coast. The enslaved Africans escaped and established maroon settlements in Esmeraldas, which became a safe haven as many Africans fleeing slave conditions either escaped to there or were forced to live there. Eventually, they started moving from their traditional homeland and were settling everywhere in Ecuador.

"Racism, deeply ingrained from the Spanish colonial era, is still encountered; Afro-Ecuadorians are strongly discriminated against by the mestizo and criollo populations. Poverty is rampant amongst them. Many Afro-Ecuadorians have participated in sports, for instance playing with the Ecuadorian national football team. After slavery was abolished in 1851, Africans became marginalized in Ecuador, dominated by the plantation owners.

"Afro-Ecuadorians live all over the country but there are two places of historic presence which are Esmeraldas province and the Chota Valley along the Mira River in Imbabura province. There is a strong presence in Quito and Guayaquil which have neighborhoods with high Afro-Ecuadorian populations[, well as in] Ibarra ."(5)

Another of Ambato's artist-muralists is Franklin Ballesteros, who was depicted by Holguín in his "Ambateños Ilustres" mural.

2001 tile-mosaic mural by Franklin Ballesteros on the Ambato Cultural Center building.

"Franklin Ballesteros González, (born in Ambato in 1940), is a self-taught plastic artist, and has obtained the following awards: First Prize in the salón of Luis A Martínez, Ambato, Ecuador, as well as other awards and recognitions. He has exhibited first in 1952 at the Ecuador School Center, sponsored by the Municipality of Ambato. Since then he has had more than 100 individual exhibitions in many cities of the country... . He is the creator of the Mural that is located outside the building of the House of Ecuadorian Culture, Tungurahua Nucleus. [See above.]

"Spanish critic Antonio de Santiago says of Ballesteros, 'This kind and gentle Franklin prefers to pictorially capture the soul of his villages and landscapes. In them, although the human presence is not seen, he feels the warmth of their proximity. His paintings are calm and peaceful solitudes, full of serene emotion, which resembles almost a mystical contemplation of nature.' He has received excellent reviews by the best art critics, such as Hernán Rodríguez Castelo and the Spaniards Antonio de Santiago and Antonio Manuel Campoy."(6)

Ballesteros' tile mosaic mural depicting one of his own watercolor paintings.

Part of Franklin Ballesteros' watercolor.

"[...Ambato] is referred to as the 'Cradle of the Three Juans' as it was the birthplace of three notable Ecuadorians: Juan María Montalvo Fiallos,  a noted essayist of the 19th century, Juan León Mera Martínez,  the author of the country's national anthem, and Juan Benigno Vela Hervas,  a key figure in the Ecuadorean independence movement."(7)

"The Three Juans" mural by Fausto Holguín. (8) This mural is located on a building in the central business district.

The "Three Juans" are depicted individually and together on a number of murals throughout Ambato. They can be found, for example, on the historical murals of Fausto Holguín.

Juan María Montalvo Fiallos (1832-1889). "A political liberal, Montalvo's beliefs were marked by anti-clericalism and a keen hatred for the two caudillos that ruled Ecuador during his life: Gabriel García Moreno and Ignacio de Veintemilla. ...He was a dedicated champion of democracy and an enemy of the writer Juan León Mera. In the late seventies Juan Montalvo was twice exiled to France, remaining there from 1879 [...until his death.]" ( The mural is on the facade of the new Ambato Judicial Complex.
I also came across a three-part trompe l'oiel mural on three walls within a block of each other in Ambato's business center. I have not, however, been able to discover anything about the creator.

Trompe l'oiel painted mural made by Hernán Rivera in 2015.

Encuentro Mosaica Ambato - 2016

A mural designed by French artist, "Mantra" (Yuri Cancel), titled, "La Formule Secrete." The mural is on the back wall of the City and Provincal Library (on Castillo street between Sucre and Cevallos). 

In 2015 the municipal government of Ambato co-sponsored with the Central DOGMA Collective (9) "EMA16" (Encuentro Mosaica Ambato 2016), a wall mural project that would ultimately create seven large, painted murals on buildings and other structural walls throughout Ambato. "The focus or concept [for this project] is one of the most important functions that art has; THE TRANSMISSION OF HOPE."(10)

"[...] artists from several countries arrived in the city: Ledania, Skore 99, Guache and Coxmora from Colombia, Mantra from France, the Liquefied Collective and AlfAlfA from Uruguay, and Zesar Bahamonte from Spain. They joined La Suerte and Vera Primavera, from Ecuador to show how much color can transform a city. José Luis Jácome and Verónica Ibarra[, members of the DOGMA Collective,] were curators and producers of this project that was financed by the Municipality of Ambato."(11)

Murals were first designed and then painted "on the facades of the Provincial Government, before the Judicial Council, Luis A. Martínez Educational Unit, 12 de November Park Bridge, Simón Bolívar College of Arts, El Sagrario savings and credit cooperative and on the street wall of Pérez de Anda..., where, according to curator Verónica Ibarra, the theme of Ambato was used."

"[...]according to curator Verónica Ibarra, [ order] to inspire the artists, a concept was written about how they [the artists] feel about the city, in addition to how the Ambassadians [Ambateños?] are and their virtues, the icons of the city and the things that make the inhabitants proud.

"[Ibarra] commented that...the city is still the cradle of artists, but that it felt a bit stagnant, 'but with this project it can be shown that the city is also at the vanguard of art '.

"[Ibarra] reported that the cost of the project was $100,000. Thirteen artists worked on the seven murals; the smallest one is 6 m wide by 10 m high and the largest[--Mantra's mural on the Provincial Library--]is 22 m by 37 m."(12)

"For the sociologist Fernando Cerón, the great murals improved the aesthetics of the city since important spaces were used for the works. 'What makes the city alive, is that art has a place and can distract [interest?] locals and visitors.'"(10)

EME16 mural painted on a wall of a traffic bridge bordering the Parque 12 de Noviembre.

While in Ambato, I stayed in a house on Passe Buganvilla, which was two blocks from the EMA16 mural that was painted on a street wall on Calle Perez de Anda.

Mural created for EMA16 by LEDANIA Y SKORE 999 (Colombia) LEDANIA Skore Nueve Nueve Nueve. Photo taken from the video made by Nacion Films. ( This part of the video was probably filmed from a point across the Ambato River as the entire mural can be seen.

The mural site on Calle Perez de Anda in 2014. (Courtesy of Google Maps.)

These are only a few of the architectural murals that adorn wall spaces throughout Ambato. Other cities in Ecuador, such as Quito, Baños and Guayaquil, and other South American countries, also have traditions of colorful architectural murals, and the movement keeps spreading.
1. La Hora, 22 August 2015; ( 

2. A google translation of La Hora, Nov. 17, 2010;

He was born on April 19, 1929.

Doctor of Jurisprudence from the Central University of Ecuador, in 1955.
Member of the National Academy of History.
Professional journalist by the Ministry of Education and the School of Journalism of the Central University of Ecuador, with 50 years of activity. Historical, traditional, ecological, grammatical articles.
Teaching experience:

Regional Autonomous University of the Andes (UNIANDES), 12 years.

Professional experience:

Free professional practice: Lawyer at the Development Bank, Ministry of Agriculture, Private Institutions, etc., 13 years
Judicial Function, 38 years

Positions held:

Rapporteur Secretary of the Superior Court of Ambato, 4 years.
Third Criminal and Civil Judge of Ambato and Pelileo, 9 years old.
Second Judge of the Civil of Ambato, 4 years.
Fiscal Minister, 1 year.
Minister Judge, 12 years.
Second Notary of Ambato, 8 years.
President of the Superior Court, 4 years (4 periods).
President of the Bar Association, 4 years.
President of the XIII National Assembly of Lawyers.
Member of the National Federation of Lawyers.
President of the House of Culture-Tungurahua Nucleus, 2 years.
President of the Ecuadorian-Tungurahua Athenaeum.
Director of the Festival of fruit and flowers, 6 periods.
President of the Circle of Journalists of Tungurahua.
Editorial of the newspaper El Heraldo, 22 years.
Founding president of the Neighborhood Federation of Ambato.
Fiscal Minister of the Superior Court of Justice of Tungurahua and Pastaza.
Minister Judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Tungurahua and Pastaza.
President of the Superior Court of Justice of Tungurahua and Pastaza.
President of the Tungurahua Bar Association.
Director of the National Federation of Lawyers.
President of the XII Congress of the National Federation of Lawyers.
Co-founder of the National Confederation of Journalists of Ecuador.
Founding professor and professor at the Andean Autonomous University of the Andes.
Professional Journalist, School of Journalism of the Central University.
Founder of the Ecological Association of Tungurahua.

Subjects professed at the Central University:

Constitutional right
Legal and Forensic Idiomatic
Philosophy of Law
Introduction to Law
Law history


He joined as an Honorary Member of the Ecuadorian Academy of Language, in a solemn public session held in Ambato, the City Hall, on August 29, 2019, with the reading of his speech The Word and the Academy, in tribute to the Ecuadorian Academy of Language - Defense and exaltation of the Spanish language; The Director of the Corporation, Dr. Susana Cordero de Espinosa, delivered the welcome speech to the recipient.


Illustrious Municipality of Ambato: Juan Benigno Vela - Journalism
Judicial Merit: National Federation of Lawyers

Historical articles
Articles and conferences on the bicentenary of August 10, Quito, and August 27, Ambato, 1809.


Homeland clean. Song to the Fatherland.
Earth scheme.
You will sing and choose the good one for Hannibal.
I sing to my Mother.
The earthly writings.
Ambato, city of petals and workers. Singing and love story to the city.
Autobiography and confessions of the Ambato river. Or the loneliness and the path of a river.
Ode to the Ambato River in four voices. The stories of singing and telling of a river.
The ambateñiada. (Work staged by the Theater of the Technical University of Ambato, in the Feast of fruit and flowers.
Story of my little Motherland fruit girl.
Primordial song and legend of corn. History and song of corn. Work staged by several Ambato colleges.
Aurora song by Chimborazo.
Aboriginal Father History and elegy.
Intimate and familiar poetry.
Poetry of exaltation to the woman of Ambato, queens of Ambato, Baños, Pelileo, etc.
That can not die. Four words for Pablo Neruda.
My first report on America. The historical and social struggle of the libertarian movements of America. Poetry.
Conferences, essays and articles:

Some unpublished. Others published, or pronounced.

Love and exegesis of an ambateño for Ipiales, land of love and exile of Juan Montalvo.
Pedro Fermín Cevallos.
Singing and praise of the song of the Fatherland. History and tribute to our hymn.
Historical articles about facts and characters of Ambato.
The Miño Naranjo brothers.
Profiles of poetry by Gustavo Egüez.
The boom of Ambassador painters.
Nostalgia. Or the adventures of a traveler in the memory of Ambato. Chronicles and memories.
Other conferences and essays.
Andrés Dalmau, the musician and the man.
Black hell. Demetrio Aguilera Malta.
Recipe for travel. Francisco Aguirre Guarderas.
The harangues Dean Juan Felix Proaño.
Miguel from Santiago.
Augusto Arias
Alberto Enriquez Gallo.
Brief semblance of the garcialorquina work.
García Márquez. Chronicle for a chronicler.
The couplets of Manrique. Brief instance of the Spanish lyric.
Romulo Gallegos.
Walt Whitman
García Márquez.
Gogol His universality El Capote
Wiliam Faulkner Novelist of the deep passions.
Dreams and hopes in the adventure of Columbus.
Albert Camus And the plague.
Alberto Moravia
Luis Pirandelo: Six characters in search of author.
The Crusades.
Carlos Sabat Ercasti.
The disasters of war.
Gonzalo Escudero and his parallelogram.
Beyond hope (Stories).
Law Memorial (Director). Superior Court of Justice of Tungurahua and Pastaza.
Notebooks of Tungurahua (Several numbers). Ecuadorian Culture House. Tungurahua Core (President).
Flag. University Magazine
My neighborhood. Ambato neighborhood newspaper.
Bullets: Twelve volumes
The grammar, you and me. Six volumes"

(A Google translation of http://www.academiaecuatorianade

4. "Pablo Balarezo Moncayo was born in Ambato, Ecuador, on December 10, 1904, within the family formed by Pedro Pablo Balarezo Franco and Julia Eloísa Moncayo Moreno.

His father, a distinguished educator, trained several generations of Tungurans with the example of his teacher, the wise Brother Miguel. 

Balarezo Moncayo was dedicated to the letters from very early; when a student of the centenary Colegio Bolívar de Ambato founded the magazine Alba Azul. In 1923, at the age of 19 he won a silver medal in a collegiate literature contest. Poetry and immeasurable admiration for the great Ambassador writer Juan Montalvo, were fundamental pillars in his literary life.
In 1928, he won a gold medal at the University Floral Games. In Ambato, he founded and directed the Sol de Domingo and Ambato magazines and, the weekly Feminil and Rincón Nativo.
In Guayaquil, in 1934, he directed the Sunday Literary Supplement of Diario El Universo. In 1945, he won the Floral Games for the Political Independence of Guayaquil where he obtained the Carnation of Silver with the poem Canto al Agua Equatorial.
For two consecutive years he won the poetry contest of the Fiesta de la Lira de Cuenca: in 1945, the Natural Flower with the poem Symphony of Marble and, in 1946, the Golden Arirumba with the poem Symbol and Landscape of the City of Los Poets
In 1964, in the Floral Games of the Feast of Fruits and Flowers in Ambato, he won the Capulí de Oro with the poem Song of Stretched Tenderness.

He was appointed Director of the House of Montalvo in 1966 and, as such, three primary objectives were proposed in tribute to the superbo writer: complete edition of the works of Montalvo, creation of the Order of Montalvo and creation of the Montalvo Chair.

In 1972 he was Director of the National Library.

He [...worked for] Diario Avance de Ambato, in 1981, as an opinion columnist in his columns 'Image of the city and trace of the facts' and 'The helmsman and the wave', in which he showed his admiration for the distinguished Ambassador writer Juan Montalvo, defended his memory and fought the stupidity of two municipal mayors of the city at that time.

He died in the city of Ambato on January 23, 1999.



° Hurricane life
° Apotheosis of a teacher
° Anatema
° Water Symphony
° Symbol and landscape of the city of poets
° The wonder of Ambato
° Song of shivering tenderness
° Montalvo - Documentary Testimony
° Poetry in fullness of the soul"

(A google translation of


6. A Google translation of 

This website also has a brief history of Ambato from its founding in 1698.


"Born in Ambato on June 28, 1832, Juan León Mera Martínez is widely considered to be the father of Ecuadorian literature. His most famous novel Cumandá, was completed in 1879 and is still taught in schools throughout Ecuador today. It is counted among the great Latin American literature of the 19th century, revealing Juan León Mera’s talent for using the written word in a way that brings a story to life. Through his description of the dense Ecuadorian jungle, the rushing rivers, majestic mountains, fascinating animals and flowers, along with his insight into the power of love that transcends all barriers, this talented author has brought the story of the forbidden love between a young Amazonian woman and the son of a Spanish Dominican friar to countless readers over the years. Through the pages of this novel Mera was appealing for the peace between the indigenous people of Ecuador and the foreigners who had made the land their home. In addition to being a novelist, Juan León Mera was a journalist, critic, politician and satirist. He was also the poet who penned the words of Ecuador’s national anthem. Mera passed away in Ambato, the town of his birth, on December 13, 1894.

"Ecuadorian author and essayist Juan María Montalvo Fiallos was born in Ambato on April 13, 1832. After studying law and philosophy in Quito, he returned to Ambato in 1854 before carrying out diplomatic duties in Italy and France between 1857 and 1859. As an outspoken critic of Gabriel García Moreno and Ignacio de Veintemilla, who he considered to be dictators, Moreno was exiled to Colombia for a period of seven years. His writings were also cited as a reason for the assassination attempt on Moreno. He was later exiled to France, once again for his open criticism of the ruling authorities in Ecuador, and most of his writings were banned in his home country during his lifetime. Montalvo also had a lighter side to his character as was evidenced in his book entitled Capítulos que se le Olvidaron a Cervantes (Chapters Cervantes Forgot) in which he offered an amusing sequel to Don Quixote, the celebrated novel by Spanish playwright Miguel de Cervantes. Juan Montalvo died in Paris, with his body being returned to Ambato where it now rests in a mausoleum.

"Politician and educator, Juan Benigno Vela Hervas was born in Ambato on July 10, 1843. After completing his law degree at the University of Quito, he became an active member of the Liberal Party, fighting for democracy and freedom. As a political legislator he authored and co-authored a number of governmental policies. In 1877 he was appointed in the province of Tungurahua as the inspector of schools, and was known to use his own money in assisting disadvantaged schools. In addition to being a political figure, Juan Benigno also wrote poetry. He passed away in 1920, having been a loyal and consistent advocate for human rights and freedom in his home country of Ecuador." (

9. The Central DOGMA Collective is "a cultural platform that generates bridges between artists, civil society and public space; a multi-platform exchange interface; among them the Festival of Vanguardia Festivalfff Music, the VFFF Audiovisual Creation Festival, the GRAFFF Public Art Festival and the Residence for Artists 'Pujinostro'. 


Tania Navarrete & José Luis Jácome
Tel: (+593) 984 888 998 / (+593) 32841392
Ambato - Ecuador"

(quoted from:

10. A Google translation of: "Arte urbano proyecta a la mujer indígena", El Comercio17 de febrero de 2017;

11. A Google translation of: Ga Robles, "7 murales grandes dan colores nuevos a Ambato";

12. A Google translation of: "Siete murales reflejan el vivir y costumbres de los ambateños", 16 enero, 2017; 2017/01/16/siete-murales-reflejan-vivir-costumbres-los-ambatenos/.



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Fred Dana Marsh's Tiles


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This is a non-commercial, educational blog. Content is compiled/written by Michael Padwee and all opinions expressed herein are my own, or quoted, and are offered without intending to harm any person or company.

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