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Visit Quito

History and Culture Quito

Pre-Hispanic Times

You only have to take a walk through the streets of Quito upon arrival in order to realise that it is a place seeped in history and the influence of its ancestors. The actual site of the city dates back to pre-Hispanic times. The early inhabitants of the area were known as the Quitu people (They gave their name to the city). Following a period of mixing with other indigenous tribes such as the coastal Shyris and the Puruhas. The descendants of this eventual group then fought against the Incas in the late 15th Century and were incorporated into the Inca Empire

Colonial Rule

In 1534 Quito was conquered by the Spanish colonists and in August of that same year was renamed San Francisco de Quito. It was founded by Diego de Almargo, but was moved from its then location to the current one in December 1534 by Sebastian de Benacazar. In 1541 Quito was officially named a city and in 1563 it became the seat of the Royal Audencia of Spain and part of the Viceroyalty of Peru.


One thing that was brought to Ecuador by the Spanish conquest and which is still very evident today is the Catholic faith. There are many churches and cathedrals throughout the capital city, most of which were constructed by the indigenous people at the order of the Spanish. In 1545 the Diocese of Quito was established. The population of the city continued to grow and an infrastructure began to develop. By 1809 there were 10,000 inhabitants. It was around then that the people of Quito then began to break away from Spanish rule, influenced by the echoes of cries for independence from many other cities in the Americas. Opposition leaders even went as far as to establish a Government, but all were killed by imperial troops and some civilians also lost their lives in the attack. Independence was, however, finally achieved in 1822, following success in the Battle of Pichincha when troops led by Simon Bolivar defeated the colonial army and Quito was declared independent.

Political Turbulence

Ecuador from that point on has had quite a tempestuous political scene. Following the declaration of independence from the Spanish, there was a period of bloody events and controversies. In 1833, members of the Society of Free Inhabitants of Quito were assassinated by the Government after they protested openly about against it.At this time the city was made up of a lot of power hungry 'Caudillos' and in 1845 one of them, called General Flores, a military leader from Venezuela who spent most of the available Government money on the military, neglecting all other areas and making the people very unhappy. Eventually an insurrection by a mixed group of liberal intellectuals and clergymen forced Flores from the country. However, the period that followed was one of infighting and attempts to overthrow this group known as 'marcistas'. Jose Maria Urbina emerged as leader and came to power in 1851, marking the start of a period of struggle between the Liberals from Guayaquil and the Conservatives from Quito. A struggle that was to last throughout the decades. Eventually, in 1859, the Liberals were defeated after a period of much unrest and anarchy. In 1875 Gabriel Garcia Moreno, the country's President, was assassinated in Quito by a Colombian man with a machete and later, in 1877, Archbishop José Ignacio Checa y Barba was killed by poison whilst giving mass. Conservatism reigned from this time up until 1895 when the Liberals returned to power and implemented a development program and brought aid to rural areas, reforms, budgets and customs, in between the now seemingly inevitable coup d'etat.

The majority of the 20th Century was characterised by increasingly strained relations between Ecuador and neighbouring Peru and politically, a mix of governments from military to constitutional rule. In 1979 there was a return to democratic rule and shortly after, in 1990 the country went through an economic crisis during which the national currency of the Sucre was changed for the dollar in an effort to stabilise it. This annoyed many people and this, combined with a lack of social reform was the cause of a coup d'etat by demonstrators in 2000. In 2007 the current President, Rafael Correa was elected and promised to focus on alleviating poverty and the drafting of a new constitution, which was approved by referendum in 2008.


Modern Day Quito

In 2011 the Quito population was measured at about 2.25 million and growing. The city has implemented a huge regeneration project in the Old Town part of Quito, helping to turn the city into the lively and attractive city that it is today, attracting thousands of tourists every year to its charming streets filled with monuments and stories and cool refreshing temperatures. It is also a popular spot for tourists who want to learn Spanish in Latin America and bring a part of the culture of Ecuador back with them from their trip.