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Diocese of Loja
(Lojana), suffragan of Quito, Ecuador, includes the greater part of the Provinces of Loja and El Oro. It thus occupies the southwestern portion of Ecuador, lying between the summit of the Andean Cordilleras and the Pacific Ocean. It has an area of about 10,000 square miles. The city of Loja is situated some 270 miles S.S.W. of Quito, in the Val de Canbamba. It was established about the year 1546 to protect travellers on the royal road from Quito to Peru against the attacks of the Indians, and is thus one of the oldest towns in the state. In 1580 the First Provincial Council of Ecuador was held there; at which time the city contained, in addition to its parish church, a Franciscan convent and a Dominican priory. It was at Loja that the valuable properties of the cinchona-bark, the source of quinine, were first discovered by a Spanish soldier who, having accidentally experienced its antipyretic qualities, by means of it cured the vice-reine of Peru, the Countess of Chichon (a quo cinchona), of a fever, and thus made it known to the world. Loja suffered much from earthquakes and Indian inroads. In 1861 it possessed a Jesuit church, a college, a consistorial house, and a hospital. Five years later a bishopric was erected at Loja, Mgr. Checa being the first occupant of the see; he was succeeded by Mgr. Riofrio, afterwards Archbishop of Quito: the third prelate was Mgr. José Masiá, O.F.M.; born on 14 January, 1815, at Montroig, in Tarragona, Spain, he was consecrated Bishop of Loja on 16 September, 1875. This illustrious prelate died in 1902 in Peru, a glorious exile for the Faith. After an interregnum of several years, Mgr. Juan José Antonio Eguiguren-Escudero was appointed. Mgr. Eguiguren was born at Loja on 26 April, 1867; he studied at the seminary of Quito, where he was ordained on 11 June, 1892. Shortly afterwards he became a professor in his Alma Mater; in 1901 he was named an honorary canon, and three years later was made Administrator Apostolic of Loja; on 6 March 1907, he was elected to fill the vacant see and was consecrated at Quito on 28, July, 1907.
With the exception of individual cases, there is no religion professed in the diocese but Catholicism (and paganism among some of the Indians); many of the Catholics, however, are lukewarm and the Church has suffered from the hostility of liberal political parties in Ecuador. Only a very small proportion of the population of the diocese is of European origin, the remainder being a hybrid race of mixed Spanish, Indian, and Negro blood, known as cholos, zambos, or mestizos, with many pure-blooded Indians. The climate of the diocese varies from a mean of 18 degrees Celsius in the higher regions to torrid heat on the slopes of El Oro to the ocean. The principal towns are Machala, Santa Rosa, Zaruma, and Loja.
A. A. MacErlean.