History of Quito

Mother Earth Travel > Ecuador > Quito > History

The history of this beautiful and colonial city, full of legends woven over more than 400 years, is still alive in the memory of its inhabitants. In order to find its official origin it is necessary to go back in time to the 6th of December in 1534, when the Spanish conquistadors founded the city, with 204 settlers.

It was inhabited initially by the Quitus, a tribe from the Quechua civilisation. The strip of land from Cerro del Panecillo in the south, to plaza de San Blas in the centre is the area where these first inhabitants lived. Today this strip has extended to become the great city it is now.

The original name of this city during the pre-Hispanic period was Reino de Quito. Initially the constructions were made of carved stone and sun-dried brick. Later, Spanish architects started to use different materials for their constructions, which were mainly stones brought from pichincha's pits.

During the 16th Century its name was changed to Real Audiencia de Quito. At the beginning of that century, the city adopted a monumental style in the construction of the impressive temples of San Francisco, Santo Domingo, La Catedral and San Agustín, by the various catholic missions. The main events during this period took place in or around these temples; they helped promote religiousness among the peoples of this city.

The truth is that Quito's history starts long before 1534, date of the Spanish foundation. Although pre-Hispanic traces disappeared with the conquistador's arrival, it has been said that before the Europeans arrived, Rumiñahuy, an indigenous warrior, set the city on fire and destroyed the temples of the Incas who lived there.

In compliance with these events, Quito became a city full of legends and hundreds of stories of characters that are told from one generation to the next. The Franciscan and convent city keeps inside its temples and squares, important memories that have become its official history and part of its tradition.

There are important characters such as Atahualpa, last emperor of Tahuauntinsuyo (The Inca Kingdom), who was executed in 1533 after being taken as a prisoner by the Spaniards, despite the fact that the Inca people paid a whole room full of gold and silver for his rescue; Xavier Chusig, who was discriminated due to his condition of being a 'mestizo' and changed his name to Eugenio de Santa Cruz y Espejo, to later be the founder of the first newspaper in the city, with the same liberating vision that led him to his grave; or Manuela Sáenz, the first woman to be part of the Bolivarian army, who was also the right hand of El Libertador Simón Bolívar. For them, as for many others, Quito was the setting of their resistance and struggle.

At the same time the Spaniards were coming into the city of Quito, the catholic missionaries, whose influence in the colony and the republican period can be seen in more than thirty convents, churches and chapels in the historical centre, were also entering. Their influence was not in vain, and the religious devotion was sown in people's souls. In 1649, more than two thousand people crossed the city from north to south various times during the day and night, praying for God to reveal them the identity of the thieves who had stolen the sacred chalice from Convento de Santa Clara.

The 28th of January, 1912, went down in history as a memorable day, when a crowd of people dragged the dead body of general Eloy Alfaro through the streets. Alfaro was the president of Ecuador, and head of the Liberal Revolution. He was assassinated in the city's prison and later incinerated at Parque de El Ejido. Another important event is the coup d'état attempt of the first of September, 1975, when the army attacked the Presidential House during the government of General Guillermo Rodríguez Lara.

Three years later, in 1978, Quito was declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity with the intention of preserving its colonial architecture in convents, churches, and the historical centre in general. The city expansion towards the north and the south started during the 1980's, when also the main tourist area of modern Quito started growing, today known as the central-north area.

Quito, capital city of the Republic of Ecuador, is today an enterprising metropolis, site of the government, and political centre of the country. It has made an enormous effort to offset the damage caused by the natural disasters that have affected it over the years. This city offers multiple options for your visit and for enjoying an absolutely pleasing stay, surrounded by tradition, fantasy and legend.

Mother Earth Travel > Ecuador > Quito > History