Remnants of the past in Quito

Holiday in Ecuador

Remnants of the past in Quito

There was magic in the air as I strolled through the streets of the historical city of Quito with its heritage buildings and plazas. A loud lilting music drew me like a magnet to the plaza, where a large crowd had congregated. A group of indigenous men, women, young boys and girls were dancing to a tuneful music played by a few musicians from the steps of a building. Practically every plaza had some attraction or the other with singers or musicians entertaining the crowd.

A number of churches dot the central district of Quito with some of them dating back to the Spanish colonial era. One such magnificent church was the La Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus (Church of the Society of Jesus) built in the early 1600 AD, the design is considered to be an excellent example of Baroque architecture in the New World. These churches have painted roofs and the altars large and tastefully decorated. Ecuador is predominantly a Roman Catholic country with over 90 per cent of the population following it.

I walked along the narrow cobbled roads that are an integral part of the historic centre of Quito. It is a history of invasion, capture and execution that followed the Spanish invasion, toppling the Inca Empire in Ecuador. Francisco Pizzaro, a Spanish general, had captured the Inca Emperor Atahualpa and demanded gold and silver for his release.

Although the ransom was given, the Spanish still executed the emperor. The Incas were furious and their leader Ruminahui buried the gold and burned down the city to prevent Spanish invaders from claiming their glory. The gold was never found. As the Spanish colonial rule took roots, Quito was built brick by brick, with churches and buildings in the historic centre taking pride of place, as per Spanish design.

In one of the public buildings, Centro Cultural Metropolitans, which is devoted to art, an exhibition with multi-media was in progress, ‘Voces Indigenas’, showcasing the lifestyle of people inhabiting various types of climates. Another exhibition that attracted me was housed in the museum, Centro de Arte Contemporaro de Quito. At the entrance was a plaque, with a clock, with the caption in big letters, Pablo Cardoso, and below it teoria para actuar antes de tiempo (theory to act before time). He was born in Cuenca, Ecuador, in 1965 and he describes himself as a self-taught artist, specialising in landscapes and recently on environmental issues concerning Ecuador’s rainforests, which are under threat from oil exploration. The museum contained many interesting art works pertaining to modern art.

The historic centre is a quiet, traffic-free place. It was a joy to walk peacefully enjoying the sights and sounds of a great capital which had seen many historic and some tragic events. UNESCO has recognised this historic city as a World Heritage Centre.

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