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Writers and poets have long flourished in arts-oriented Cuenca, the country's third-largest city and the capital of the Azuay province. Cafes and galleries are tucked among the narrow cobblestone streets. The main plaza hosts both the old cathedral, started in 1557, the year the city was founded, and the blue-domed Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, dating to 1885. Locally made Panama hats get top billing at the markets, with centrally located Casa de la Mujer a shopping standout.
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