The state where the country house is built was bought in 1695 by a landowner, Don Mateo de la Escalera y Velasco, as per a public deed executed in the city of Tacunga before the Notary Don Luis de Cabrera. Mateo de la Escalera, who was born in Lascuarre (Huesca), married on January 20, 1680 to Doña Gabriela Muñoz, who was born in Quito and baptized at its Cathedral on March 27, 1662. An only child was born to the couple –Doña María Rosa de la Escalera y Muñoz – who was married to Captain Gregorio Matheu y Villamayor at Quito´s Cathedral on February 4, 1702. Their son, Gregorio, fell in love in Lima with a thirteen years old girl named Doña María Ana de Aranda y Guzmán, Marquise of Maenza, got married in Lima and brought her to the Province of Quito escorted by one hundred of his servants, thus becoming Marquis of Maenza and Knight of the Calatrava Order. At age 20 he was “encomendero” (Spanish colonist who was granted Indian laborers by royal decree) in Archidona and Colonel of the Armies of Tacunga and Ambato. La Ciénega was their habitual residence.
In the Royal District of Quito the eighteenth century was one of very important events. Among them, it is worth highlighting, because of their direct relation with La Ciénega, such events as the arrival of the French Geodesic Mission; the intense geological activity of the Andes mountain Range, including a long period of eruptions in Cotopaxi volcano, and the worsening of the antagonism between Spaniards and Creoles which a few years later would give rise to the Quito Revolution the debut of the American emancipation.
The French Geodesic Mission expedition to Royal District of Quito was aimed at measuring several meridian degrees from the equator in order to determine the actual shape of the earth, and its permit was obtained from the Royal Council of the Indies, Three academicians left La Rochelle on May 16, 1735: Luis Godin, Pierre Bouguer and Charles Marie de la Condamine. Two lieutenants designated by the King of Spain to accompany the mission joined them in Cartagena, Jorge Juan de Santacilia and Antonio de Ulloa. The mission arrived in Quito a year later, on May 29, 1736.
It is not wort mentioning alll the activities carried out by the academicians during the nine years they spent in the District of Quito. We will just mention the coincidence that motivated La Condamine´s trip to La Ciénega and his sojourn there and his friendship with the Marquis of Maenza. Indeed, on June 5, 1742 Bouguer and La Condamine climbed the Pichincha to examine its crater. From this place, they observed the eruption of the Cotopaxi that took place on the same date after more than two hundred years of inactivity, as the preceding eruption had taken place in 1534. An unusual phenomenon for a European traveler who was also a scientist. This prompted him to Travel to the area of the volcano and thus he sojourned in La Ciénega. No information is available concerning any further visits of La Condamine to La Ciénega, but we can assume he visited several times due to his friendship with the Marquis and the fact Cotopaxi erupted four more times, while he was in Ecuador, on December 9, 1743; from September 27 to October 4, 1743; on November 30, 1744; and on December 2, 1744; which must have certainly been of much interest for a scientist.
At the same time the geological activity of the Andes was very intense throughout the Royal District of Quito, especially in the central area. From 1687 the city underwent frequent and devastating earthquakes: on June 20, 1698 with 3.500 victims; in 1703; and on December 5, 1736 in which the villages of Pujilí, Toacaso, Tanicuchí, and Saquisilí had the most severe earthquakes has undergone up to then, causing also serious damages in the areas near Latacunga. Finally, on February 22, 1757 there was a “Terrible earthquake that ruins the city of Latacunga. All the churches and almost all the houses came down”. (History of Ecuador by Federico González Suárez and Teodoro Wolf, Ecuador). In addition to these earthquakes, as we mentioned, the Cotopaxi was permanently in activity; there were seven eruptions in a short period of time, the worst of which took place in April 4, 1768. In December 1740 the Quilotoa volcano also made its last eruption that was observed by the Marquis of Maenza, who personally informed La Condamine about it in Paris in 1751.
It is worth stressing the fact that, although this tremendous geological activity, La Cienega remained undamaged. This might be due been to its solid construction with Stone walls almost two meters thick and the fact it is built in swampy land which cushions and attenuates the violent quakes. Family tradition attributes to the Virgin of the Rosary, Patroness of La Ciénega, the fact that it has been preserved without any damage. The mail bell contains an inscription concerning this tradition.
The discord between Creoles and Spaniards worsened in the eighteenth century. This happened for several reasons, but we will mention only those having relations with La Ciénega. Don Dionisio de Alsedo y Herrera, an Spaniard from Madrid, had been appointed President of the Royal District of Quito and arrived in December 1728.
President Alsedo had been appointed in view of his own merits and not, as it was usual then, through a payment made to the Crown. He took sides with the Spaniards against the Creoles, and since he was a close friend of the Marquis of Maenza, the later got involved in the resentment, especially upon the arrival of the next President of the Royal District of Quito, Dr. José de Araujo y Río, born in Lima and thus Creole. There was a dispute between the new President and the Spanish Officers Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa. These events moved the Marquis of Maenza to get involved in the lawsuit filed against the President in which the Marquis was fined with one thousand pesos and sentenced to one year exile which he spent in La Ciénega.
Gregorio Matheu y de la Escalera and María Ana de Aranda y Guzmán among other children had a son, Manuel, who was baptized in Quito on June 18, 1743; he was an attorney of the Royal District and the Vice chancellor of Saint Thomas University; he married in Quito Doña María Josefa de Herrera y Berrío on April 8, 1777. His daughter, Doña María Rosa, married José Antonio de Ascásubi Olabegoitia and they had only two children: Francisco Javier de Ascásubi y Matheu and José Javier de Ascásubi y Matheu.
Francisco Javier was one of the most outstanding patriots of Quito who participated in the 1809 revolution. He was appointed Lieutenaut Colonel by the Supreme Board, upon request of Juan Salinas, who was the Colonel of the Falange of Fernando VII. He was captured in Sapuyes and transfered to the Royal headquarters in Lima where he was cowardly assassinated, together with other patriots, by the soldiers of Coronel Arredondo on August 2, 1810.
His brother, José Javier, obtained a doctorate at Law at Saint Thomas University in Quito and was accepted as attorney before the Royal District in February 1774. He married his cousin, Doña María Ana Matheu y Herrera. A sister of Juan, First Class Count of Puñoenrostro Grande de España. For this reason, the couple had obtain a Royal permit to get married. Just as his brother Francisco Javier, he also supported with enthusiasm the Independence movement.
On August 10, 1809, he was appointed by the people Governor to the Senate; once the Spanish authorities were reestablished, he was imprisoned with his brother in the Royal Headquarters in Lima and he miraculously escaped from being assassinated on August 2, 1810. In 1816 he was condemned by the Spanish authorities to be sent to the Península, but he elude this sentence by hiding out. During this period his wife fell ill and she died without seeing her husband again since the Spanish authorities did not grant José Javier a permit to visit her wife in agony. José Javier filled a claim before the Royal District authorities against the Count de Puñoenrostro for such an inhuman action, as evidenced in the corresponding document kept in the Royal Archives of the Indies in Sevilla.
José Javier de Ascásubi and his wife, María Ana Matheu, has a son, Don Manuel de Ascásubi y Matheu, one of the most prestigious men at that time, the beginning of our republican life. As Vice-president and acting President of the Republic, he proved to be energetic in difficult circumstances. Don Manuel married Doña Maria del Carmen Salinas, daughter of Juan Salinas, a hero of the Independence. Thus, two families of heroes got together. Ascásubi and Salinas were the owners of La Ciénega, whose austere rooms witnessed part of the plans of the Independence.
The persecution undergone by the hero’s relatives, specially by Juan Salinas widow and children, whose property was confiscated upon mandate of the Count Ruíz de Castilla, moved Marshal of Ayacucho, Antonio José de Sucre, to visit La Ciénega after the Spanish armies were defeated and the property belonging to Doña María del Carmen de Ascásubi was given back to her.
Baron Alexander Von Humbolt was a renowned guest at La Ciénega when he carried out his study on the Cotopaxi in 1802. He was accompanied by Bompland and Carlos Montufar.
President Gabriel García Moreno married Doña Rosa de Ascásubi y Matheu and after she died, he married her niece, Doña Mariana de Alcázar y de Ascásubi. Because of this family relationship with the owners of La Ciénega, the President visited frequently, especially in his trips to the Southern part of Ecuador and to Guayaquil.
When Manuel de Ascásubi and Carmen Salinas died, La Ciénega passed to the hands of their daughter, Doña Avelina de Ascásubi y Salinas, who married Don José María Lasso de la Vega y Aguirre. The had two descendants: Colonel Juan Manuel Lasso y Ascásubi and Avelina Lasso y Ascásubi. The former married Doña María Carrión y Mata and the latter, Colonel Leonidas Plaza Gutierrez who was President of the Republic in two occasions.
Colonel Juan Manuel Lasso and María Carrión has three children: Patricio Lasso Carrión, Bolivar Lasso Carrión and Elsa Lasso Carrión. La Ciénega was transformed in a hotel by the family in 1981, and has become one of the most prestigious hostelries in the country. This country house was built in 1580 in a site that is unique in Ecuador and probably also in Latin America. It has been classified by the Central Bank of Ecuador as a historical monument.