Part of my mother´s family are illustrated artists and scientist. My grandmother, Alicia Yanez is a world renowned writer, one of my uncle, Luis Campos is the most famous and notable theater director Ecuador ever had. And my grandfather had 3 careers: physician, anthropologist and movie director. They all constantly spoke very highly about Quito colonial center, and it was hard for me to understand why. Dust and the blackest smog covered most of the buildings, robbers were all around and basically it seemed that a visit was not worthy at all.
The night turn magical while special illumination adorns 3 domes. Quito has over 86 churches and cathedrals, most of them 450 years old. The city extends over 30 blocks.
Sometimes it is hard to believe that small countries such as Ecuador – most of the time placed by foreign people in Africa – which are not very often mentioned for scientific discoveries or sport glories, they do have “other” hidden impressive glories within.
I was born in 1977 and the first time I went to the old city in Quito I perhaps was around 12 years old. Quito was declared by United Nations a UNESCO site, Wolrd Heritage on 1976. In fact it was the first colonial center in the world to be declared a Human Heritage Patrimony. And it surely dazzled the UN members who visited the first time to see if this hidden gem war worth or not to be hold in such honor.
Quito´s old city is huge, almost 30 blocks with all types of colonial buildings and churches you can imagine, it is also known as best preserved colonial center in America.
Some of the thousands of stones that supply strong and safe foundations to many buildings in old Quito resemble those commonly found in Cusco and built by the Incas. The Inca Empire reached Quito almost 50 years before the europeans did. Chronicles claim Rumiñahui – a ferocious ecuadorian inca who was Atahualpa emperor most loyal general – burned the city when he found out the emperor had been executed and murdered in Cajamarca by Pizarro. Some foundations seem to be walls buried deep into the soil.
While Catholic faith and believes was disrupted sadly to slave the local indigenous population and tax their wealth and its very own way, it seems this very same new religions produced a fever for creating architectural wonders also.
Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits among others, seemed they all competed in this city 500 years ago when the spanish european style already enriched by their arab inherit clashed with the indigenous advanced art styles. Dozens of churches were raised on indigenous altars and ceremony centers. Gold from treasures and idols were melted down and transformed into gold leaf to profusely cover almost every corner of the “new ceremonial and worship” venues.
Within the next centuries, hundreds of monasteries and convents will be raised and when the republican era came, splendid palaces, hospitals, mansions and squares were raised even with construction material imported from Europe. The french style flooded the republican Quito by the end of XVIII century.
Republican buildings with Panecillo hill in the bottom of the caption. Quito was built as a chess board. A place with cliffs, ravines and gorges should have followed a labyrinth design instead.
But, how was Quito before the Spanish conquerors, and even before the Inca empire invaded Ecuador actual territory? This million dollar question has been spinning in the minds of archeologist, historian, science people and the mind and imaginations of curios mortals like me, that have been fascinated with the fact that this city it must have been some important for people to notice now and before in way that make it pretty relevant and important. Not a very easy question to answer.
This incredible museum holds pieces from all over Ecuador and also from Quito past. Museums and archeologycal sites as La Florida probe Quito first inhabitants do have a remarkable organization and social structures. Sadly there is very little funds to dig and research about our past and even worst, most of the museums remain empty with very little visitors per day.
My country, has no ancient ruins in the scale of Peru, Egypt or even Italy. There are pyramids, a few, temples and ruins on certain areas but not cities or even fortresses at least that we know. What was there in Quito then before the Incas?
Ecuador was a land of small kingdoms in each geographical region. These kingdoms were called “Señorios” (seigniories) and they were communities that came together as one under fixed marriage and trade alliances.
Due to the lack of funds for archeological excavations and research, very little is known about Ecuador pre-Inca and pre- hispanic past. Normally when I spoke about my country to guests, I refer very little to archeology except for Inca – Cañari Ingapirca complex in the south, Cochasqui Pyramids in the north which most of them, almost a dozen are still buried under ground, and some incredible cultures in the coast as the Bahia, Valdivia and Tolita which sintered platinum a millennia before the Europeans did.
The city will build a subway to connect the former airport – to be closed in 6 days – with the colonial city, more precisely with San Francisco Square. Maybe, hidden wonders are patiently expecting to be “accidentally” discovered, and certainly they will alter the original subway schematics. We trust, in that case, our historical inherit weigh more than contracts and schedules.
A great mystery is still unveiled under the long block monasteries sizes and golden altar churches, or the winning streets of Quito, it is no coincidence that Spanish back in the day wanted to erase the old and original believes of the local so they can accomplish their evangelization and expanding plans. When you are in Quito and take a walk in the old town, always look around and notice a church almost every street….most have perfect 90 degrees angle cuts in their foundations, what was there before to be so important and threaten for the newly arrived to be erased and put on instead…?