The Republic of Ecuador, with a population of over 15 million
people, is considered one of the most beautiful and
ecologically diverse nations on earth. The country is composed
of four geographical regions: the coast, the highlands, the
Amazon region and the island region, which is composed of
the archipelago of Galapagos. Within this dynamic country,
more than 14 ethnic groups neighbor each other, some of
which still speak ancient Inca languages, and many of which
are distinguished through the preservation of artisanal skills
which remain central to Ecuadorian art and culture.
Cities like Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca decorate the country
with magnificent Spanish colonial architecture and
complement the country’s natural beauty, with its volcanic
peaks and untouched beaches. Quito, the capital, was the
first city to be declared a Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO,
was the winner of the award for “Best Tourism Destination”
by the World Travel Awards in 2013, and has been declared
“Top destination to travel in 2013” by National Geographic.
Meanwhile, International Living Magazine has highlighted
Cuenca, located in the south of the country, as a “Paradise
for Retirees.” Most recently the United States Tour Operators
Association categorized Ecuador as the third most important
destination of the world.
QUITO – CULTURAL ACTIVITIES | December 6th, 2016
VISIT QUITO’S HISTORIC DOWNTOWN
Quito’s Downtown, the best preserved colonial area of Quito, offers astonishing architecture built since the 16th century. It offers plazas or squares made of volcanic rock, immense republican buildings, monasteries, convents, and churches that decorate the baroque and gothic esthetic, and is also the home of museums filled with history. While architecture embodies the history of downtown, Quito, the preservation of modern customs houses the daily life of its citizens.
The rich architecture is present all throughout churches and squares at the historical center. Quito is home to some of the most beautiful churches, decorated with striking baroque and gothic details. Amongst some of the most popular, the La Merced church and plaza is a perfect example of the baroque and gothic esthetic across town, surrounded by the beautiful masterpieces of Bernardo de Legarda and Miguel de Santiago.
Other churches that embody the work of Bernardo de Legarda and Miguel de Santiago and that are also filled with historical heritage in downtown Quito are the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús and the Plaza de San Agustin church.
The celebration of the history of Quito is born amidst the beautiful views of its plazas and squares. Known as the entrance to the Historical Center of Quito, the San Blas Square presents Quito’s historical tradition, along with modern architecture, remodeled jewelry and vertical gardens. Many identify Plaza Grande as the nucleus of the historical center, which is the home to many places of interest such as: the Cathedral, the Municipal Palace, Presidential Palace, and the Plaza Grande, filled with history for Quito’s citizens and visitors interested in seeing Quito’s rich culture.
BUS TOUR AROUND THE STREET OF THE SEVEN CROSSES
The Street of the Seven Crosses is the other name for García Moreno Street, where the Presidential Palace (also known as Carondelet Palace) is found. Aside from housing Manuela Saenz’s house –a main figure in South America’s independence and Simon Bolivar’s romantic partner– this street has a particular attractive that portrays the faith back in colonial times, which still preserves its ritual nature in the city. Seven churches flank the route, that by the end of the colonial era was used to transport merchandise, but that has now become a touristic milestone.
The tour begins north to south, with the Santa Bárbara church (from 1550, but restored after the 1987 earthquake), and goes through La Concepción church (1575), which served as the first monastery of the city.
The third and fourth cross belong to La Catedral (1564) and El Sagrario church (1699). Their walls keep registry of some of the historical events of Quito, such as the Declaration of Independence in 1809. Only the cross at the Cathedral remains untouched. The fifth church, half a block away, lies on La Compañía de Jesús church (1613), with a baroque style, and whose façade was engraved in volcanic rock, while its interior is completely covered of gold. This is the biggest cross, as it is believed that the Jesuit church had more budget for its building. The sixth and seventh churches are the ones from the Carmen Alto monastery and the San Lázaro chapel.
Throughout this tour you can still find business that arose in the XX century, such as clockmaker workshops, barber shops, spice shops, and coffee shops.
Address: García Moreno Street from north to south.
VISIT THE “IGLESIA DE LA COMPAÑÍA DE JESUS”
The Church of the Society of Jesus (La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús), known colloquially as la Compañía, is a Jesuit church in Quito, Ecuador. It is among the best-known churches in Quito because of its large central nave, which is profusely decorated with gold leaf, gilded plaster and wood carvings. Inspired by two Roman Jesuit churches — the Chiesa del Gesù (1580) and the Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola (1650) — la Compañía is one of the most significant works of Spanish Baroque architecture in South America. It is Quito’s most ornate church and (according to some observers) the country’s most beautiful.
The first group of Jesuit priests arrived in Quito on 19 July 1586. Most sites for the construction of churches had been granted by the city council to the Franciscans, the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy, the Augustinians and the Dominicans. However, in 1587 the council granted land to the Jesuit order at the northwest corner of Plaza Grande (now Independence Square). When the Augustinians showed their displeasure with the decision, the Jesuits chose to settle in another lot located southwest of the Cathedral and Plaza.
Nicolás Duran Mastrilli, a Jesuit priest from the Province of Naples, Italy, was appointed rector of the Jesuit College of Quito in 1602. Upon his arrival from Rome, he brought with him plans for the new Church of the Society of Jesus to be constructed in Quito. The plans for the church have been attributed to Domenico Zampieri, who also served as architect for the Chiesa di Sant’Ignazio di Loyola in Rome.
Construction began in 1605, with Mastrilli laying the first stone. The next documented architect was Gil de Madrigal, a Jesuit brother who arrived in Quito in 1634. The work gained momentum in 1636 with the arrival of Marcos Guerra, an Italian Jesuit priest who was also an architect and sculptor. The building was not completed until 1765.
La Compañía served as the headquarters of the Jesuit order in Ecuador and also housed a school.
During the colonial period, the bell tower of La Compañía was the tallest structure in Quito. The original tower was destroyed by an earthquake in 1859. It was rebuilt in 1865, but it was destroyed a second time by another earthquake in 1868 and never rebuilt.
Another earthquake damaged the church in March 1987. This prompted another period of restoration, undertaken between 1987 and 2005.
WALK AROUND LA RONDA STREET
La Ronda is a traditional street related to bohemian style and Quito’s historical art. It is a synonym of gastronomy, arts and crafts, and fun, especially at night. La Ronda is the oldest street in Quito and saw the rise of pioneer Pasillo musicians, painters, and some of the most famous poets of the 30s.
A block south from the Santo Domingo Square, right in the middle of the Historical Center, there is a big space where you will see games from the old days, such as whipping tops, yo-yos, wooden dolls, or hopscotch, among others. If you want to make pictures, this is the perfect place, as you’ll find artisans working right in front of pedestrians on materials such as silver, hay, and tin (this is a must-see). Some shops like Zalabartes, Humacatama, or Chez Tiff, for instance, will have artisans working with chocolate, honey, wood and textiles.
The smell of quesadillas, empanadas, bread and canelazo –a hot alcoholic beverage made of cinnamon and hard liquor, drank at the places with high altitudes in Ecuador and neighboring countries– swirls around in La Ronda. At night these finger foods are the protagonists of the night and the only thing that will steal the show are musicians playing traditional songs at the different bars and restaurants in the area.
In La Ronda you can also breathe art: you’ll see sculptures, bargueños, and baroque-style saddlebags, which reflect the iconographic fusion between European and indigenous styles that are part of the well-known Escuela Quiteña from colonial times.
Yachay Tech University
Yachay University for Experimental Technology and Research (Yachay Tech) will be a world-class, globally connected and regionally transformative center for research and education. It will be at the heart of Yachay City of Knowledge, a modern, vibrant metropolis with startup incubators, R&D facilities, and modern industry.
Yachay Tech was designed from the onset to be a highly interdisciplinary institution and to have an internationally recognizable philosophy and governance structure. It has been designed to promote fundamental research, encourage basic learning, and reward academic and research excellence. The University’s strategic position right at the heart of the Yachay City of Knowledge allows, in addition to fundamental research, the promotion of technology transfer, the stimulation of business innovation and the establishment of knowledge dissemination which aims at addressing pressing societal needs both within and outside Ecuador.