Situated at the “top” of the valley, the small town of Girón is known, by tourists, as the location of the popular El Chorro waterfalls, but town itself has a rich history going all the way back at least 3000 years, to pre-Incan times of the aboriginal Cañari people.

Ancient History

The area was known as Leoquine, which meant “lake of the snake” and it was very sacred to all Cañari. Lake Busa itself was actually the center of elaborate religious ceremonies that celebrated the legendary snake, believed to hide at the bottom.

Ceremonies involved making offerings to the snake by throwing small idols carved out of gold and other figures. At that time, the lake was known to the Cañari as Xamexuma, which means “peak and water that shakes and shines”.

The Cañari People were one of the more developed cultures long of the South American continent with advanced techniques in weaving, agricultural practices, and with their gold and metalsmithing. Although they managed to defeat the Incas’ northern incursions into their territory, it was decided they would submit to ruled by the Incan empire in order to prevent a larger war that could have been devastating for both sides.

While the Incas respected the Cañari, imperial rule came with many changes to their culture, their language, and their way of life. The name of the area called Leoquine was changed to “Pacaybamba.”

Colonial History

The first Spaniards arrived to Pacaybamba in 1534. A group of approximately 200 men, led by Sebastián de Benalcázar, traveled from the city of Piura on their way to conquer Quito, the northernmost city in the Incan Empire.

One of the captains of the group was Captain Francisco Hernández Girón, and the area was renamed Girón in his honor. The official name of “San Juan de Girón” was proclaimed by King Philip IV in 1560; at the same time, the neighboring regions of Nabón, San Fernando, Yunguilla, Tarqui, Irquis, Cochapata, Chaucha, and Chumblín were annexed. 

The Colonial era progressed as the land was subdivided into large tracts that were given to prominent Spaniards by Royal Commendation. These tracts replicated the feudal system of Europe wherein the Spanish were legally recognized as Lords and the indigenous residents were forced to work the land and pay tributes of money, livestock, blankets, or anything demanded by the “owners” of the land. Later, the area came under the jurisdiction of the Real Audiencia de Quito, the highest court of the Spanish Crown in the Viceroyalty of Peru, to help maintain peace and order between the Spanish, indigenous, and Creole populations. 

 It has been recorded that during the liberation of Ecuador and the political emancipation of Cuenca on November 3, 1820, the wealthy of the city of Girón contributed money and supplies to General Antonio José de Sucre and at least 90 men joined his army.

During the 19th century, the Canton of Girón had a tumultuous relationship with it neighbors as the national legislature decree dissolved and reestablished it several times. First in 1854, the area was annexed to Cuenca along with Cañar canton. Other than a fire that may have destroyed the Municipal Archives, the annexation was unexpected and to this day, the reason is unknown. At the time, the area’s local administrative offices had been in operation for more than century. It was declared a separate canton and re-incorprated about 30 years later by President José María Plácido Caamaño; however, the National Congress again dissolved the canton by decree in 1890. 

General Eloy Alfaro Delcago, who served as