Quito was first inhabited when nomadic tribes called ‘Quitu’ first settled in the region in hunt for food and shelter. Over time, being a fertile region it developed into a key commercial and economic centre, then known as ‘Tianguez’. It became an important connecting point for traders of the surrounding regions, especially in northern Andes.
Later on the ‘Quitu’ tribe lost to the ‘Caras’ tribe who laid the foundation of the Kingdom of Quito in 980 A.D. When the Incas arrived from Peru, they took over Quito in 1462. Quito was the chief administrative region for Incas to control the northern part of their empire. The city lost an important part of its history when in 1533 Rumiñahui an Inca General, burnt the whole city, to prevent the Spanish from taking over the city.
Rule of the Spanish Empire
The Spanish were travellers and constantly in search for new lands to extend their territories. By the time they reached Quito, Rumiñahui had burnt the whole city, leaving only a devastated piece of land to the Spaniards, who built the whole region once again. In the month of August 1534 under the rule of Diego de Almagro the Spanish formally established the city of San Francisco de Quito and developed it both economically and culturally as one of the richest cities in South America. Sebastián de Benalcázar captured Rumiñahui who was later executed to death on January 10, 1535. Officially present name of the city was announced on March 14, 1541 as Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de San Francisco de Quito ("Very Noble and Loyal City of San Francisco of Quito"). It became the administrative district of Spain and part of the Viceroyalty of Peru. Christianity was introduced in the region with the construction of the first church El Belén. About 20 churches were built during the colonial period. The native Quito’s were oppressed and used as slaves in laborious work during Colonial rule. In 1545 the status of the city was promoted from Diocese of Quito to Archdiocese of Quito.
Independence from Spain
The oppression from Spanish rulers led to revolt from native Quito people. On August 10, 1809 a movement was started against the Spanish Empire in name of the city’s independence. The Quito’s residents formed their own government with Juan Pío Montúfar as President. But this movement was short lived with the Spaniards arriving from Peru and killing all the government dignitaries along with the inhabitants. Even if this movement was not successful, it led to a series of clashes with the Spanish, which concluded on May 24, 1822 when in the Battle of Pichincha, under the command of Simón Bolívar, Quito achieved its independence.
Attachment to Gran Colombia
When Quito achieved independence, on June 24, 1822 the city got annexed to the Republic of Gran Colombia under the leadership of Simón Bolívar. When the Republic of Gran Colombia got dissolved in 1830, Republic of Ecuador was formed of which Quito became the capital.
In 1833, members of the Society of Free Inhabitants of Quito conspired against the government for which they were assassinated by the government. In the following two years the Marcist Revolution began which gave birth to an unsettled Quito, a situation which exists even today. Revolts and dictatorships followed; it had 48 presidents during the first 131 years of the republic.
In 1941, Peru invaded Ecuador and seized a large tract of Ecuadorian territory in the disputed Amazon region. In 1981 and 1995 war broke out again. In May 1999, Ecuador and Peru signed a treaty ending the nearly 60 year border dispute.
In Jan 2000, President Jamil Mahuad was overthrown in the first military coup in Latin America in a decade. The junta gave power to the vice president, Gustavo Noboa. Lucio Gutiérrez, a leftist colonel responsible in the 2000 coup, was elected to the presidency in 2003. In April 2005, Gutiérrez was ousted by the Ecuadorian Congress; Alfredo Palacio took over as president. In 2006, Rafael Correa, a left-wing economist, won with 56.7% of the vote, defeating conservative businessman Alvaro Noboa. Correa took office in January 2007.
In March 2008, Colombian forces crossed into Ecuadorian territory and killed FARC rebel leader, Raúl Reyes, and 20 other rebels. In April 2008, the defense minister resigned without explanation and 4 top military commanders left their positions after President Rafael Correa accused the army of aiding the United States against FARC. President Rafael Correa expelled more than 100 American military members. In September 2008, in an attempt to create more stability in Ecuador, 64% of voters approved a new constitution that increased presidential powers, allowing Correa to run for 2 more consecutive terms.
Despite this history of intense internal rivalry and border conflicts, Ecuador has remained peaceful in recent years and is, at present, one of the safest countries to visit in South America.
Quito is the capital of Ecuador, the country's most populous city and at an elevation of 2,850 metres (9,350 ft) above sea level, it is the second highest official capital city in the world, after La Paz in Bolivia and the one which is closest to the equator. It is situated on the lower slopes of the volcano Pichincha, an active strato volcano in the Andes Mountains, which last erupted in 1666. It is situated in a narrow Andean valley in the Guayllabamba river basin, just south of the Equator.
Quito is the oldest of all South American capitals, and is notable for its well preserved old town, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978. The city is constructed on the foundations of an ancient Incan city, and is known for its well preserved colonial center, rich with 16th and 17th century churches and other structures blending European, Moorish and indigenous styles. These include the cathedral in the Plaza Grande square and ultra-ornate Compañia de Jesús Jesuit church.
The views from Quito are spectacular with 3 snow capped peaks around the city despite it being on the equator. The historic centre of Quito is one of the largest, least altered and best preserved in the Americas. Quito and Kraków, Poland, were the first World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO, in 1978.
The central square of Quito is located about 25 kilometres (16 mi) south of the equator. The city itself extends to within about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) of zero latitude. A monument and museum marking the general location of the equator is known locally as la mitad del mundo, the middle of the world. It is worth a visit although it is very touristy. The word Ecuador is Spanish for equator.
La Mitad del Mundo
La Mitad del Mundo
Basilica of the National Vow
Basilica of the National Vow
El Panecillo lookout
1. Quito Old Town:
Quito’s historic center extends over 320 hectares and is the largest historic center in the Americas. Made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, Quito has taken great pride in restoring its colonial buildings and sprucing up its public spaces to ensure that both locals and visitors continue to breath life into the old town.
2. Independence Plaza:
Known as Plaza Grande to the locals, was Quito’s main square in the 16th century, serving as central market and bullfighting area. The plaza contains several important buildings: the Archbishop’s Palace to the north, City Hall to the east, the cathedral to the south, and the white, Government Palace to the west.
3. Church of the Society of Jesus:
Construction of this church began in 1605, though the building was not completed until 1765. It is considered Quito's most ornate church. During the colonial period, the church’s bell tower was the tallest structure in Quito, but it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1859. Rebuilt within six years, it was again destroyed shortly after by another earthquake and was never rebuilt.
4. Basilica of the National Vow:
Often called La Basilica, is one of the most beautiful Roman Catholic churches in Quito. Set up on a hill and visible from almost anywhere in the city, it’s particularly striking after dark, when it is illuminated. Construction began in 1883 on what became the largest neo-Gothic church in the Americas, measuring 459 feet (140 meters) long and 115 feet (35 meters) wide, and reaching a height of 98 feet (30 meters) in the nave.
5. San Francisco Church:
Nestled in the historic downtown area of Quito, visitors find the first Catholic Church built in the city. The amazing architecture of this Baroque church blends different styles that were incorporated over the more than 100 years of construction.
6. El Panecillo:
At 9,895 feet (3,016 meters) above sea level, El Panecillo is Quito’s most popular lookout, affording 360-degree views over the city. On a clear morning you can even see as far as Cotopaxi’s distinctive volcano. The aluminum statue of the Virgin Mary was introduced to the Panecillo in 1976 and was inspired by the Virgen de Quito (Quito’s Madonna), which can be seen in the Church of St. Francisco.
7. Presidential Palace:
The Presidential Palace is located in Quito’s Independence Square and is currently the seat of government of the Republic of Ecuador.
8. Middle of the World Monument:
The Monument at La Mitad del Mundo commemorates the site where the 18th century French explorer Charles Marie de la Condamine once calculated the globe's equatorial line. A trapezoidal monument in the center of the park houses a viewing platform. There is a small museum on the equator which pays tributes to local indigenous cultures.
While most visitors come to the Middle of the World for a photo opportunity with one foot in either hemisphere, there’s more to this day trip destination than just a painted line. The 98-foot stone obelisk, which contains an Ethnographic Museum, is surrounded by a replica of a traditional Amazon village. Visitors will also find a small planetarium, a scale model of colonial-era Quito, a Craft Beer Museum, and Cocoa Museum, all on-site.