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Quito

  Picture Pages:  Map  |  Our Hotel  |  Cathredral   |  Poder ChurchIndependence Square

San Francisco de Quito was founded in 1534 by Sebastián de Benalázar. The city was built on the ruins of the old city of Quito, one of the capitals of the Inca Empire, which sits at 2800 m (about 9000 feet) above sea level. Ecuador's capital is situated in the Inter Andean valley. It is the pride of Ecuadorians and an object of international admiration. Quito was declared Cultural Patrimony of Mankind by the UNESCO.

In addition to its gorgeous landscape, surrounded by hills and several snowcapped volcanoes, Quito is known for its treasures of Colonial churches, paintings, sculptures and carvings. The Spanish Colonial Period extended from the 16th to the 18th century. The excellent workmanship of Ecuadorian colonial art combine the European Renaissance and Baroque styles with the indigenous and mestizo influences. Spanish conquerors initiated the construction of churches and convents right after the conquest. Following the conquest, the Roman Catholic Church then became the center of religious instruction and promotion of arts. As part of the "aculturation" of indigenous people, the Spanish established painting and sculpture schools where Spanish artists trained the indigenous population in the arts. As a result, the Quiteñan School (Escuela Quiteña) became famous in Latin America for its talented artists, including Bernardo de Legarda and the indigenous artists Caspicara and Pampite. Miguel de Santiago, Javier de Goribar, Manuel Samaniego and Padre Bedán where other outstanding representatives of this school of arts. Their contributions to colonial art are considered by scholars as some of the most valuable in America.

  The-main square 'La Plaza de la Independencia'.  The balconies in the gallery facing the Independence Square were originally from the French government.

The Government Palace

The Catheadral
Also on the main Square. The Cathedral has an interesting collection of sculptures and paintings from the Escuela Quiteña. Among the most important is the "Descending of Christ" by Caspicara. It is a masterpiece of expressionism. As in most Ecuadorian and Latin American churches, many styles are used in the construction of the Cathedral: late Gothic in the arches, Moorish in the ceilings and Baroque in the main altar. See the Neoclassic style in the choir, the stone Episcopal chair, the central painting by Manuel Samaniego and the statues by Caspicara.

Cultrual Center
Right next to the main Square, the buildings originally built by the Jesuits in the 17th Century were remodeled to house a monumental Cultural Center. The original buildings were a Jesuit University and School. In 1767, when Charles Ill of Spain banished the Jesuit Order from the colonized territories, the buildings became a public university, the first public library directed by Eugenio Espejo (the first indigenous who was a doctor and journalist), as well as a tobacco factory. In the last decade of the 18th century, the buildings became the army headquarters of the Spanish Royal troops sent from Lima to oppress the early independence efforts. Thus, the building was known as the "Royal Barrack of Lima". In this building, the heroic efforts for independence ended up in a massacre of a number of patriots from Quito on August 2, 1810.

Later on, the buildings held the city's municipal offices. Finally, the buildings became a cultural and artistic center, holding the Historical Archive, the Alberto Mena Caamaño Museum and the Municipal Library. The remodeled buildings and services were just inaugurated on July 2000, and display a beautiful modern architecture. Today, 'Centro Cultural' holds a library and a permanent museum which intends to be a voyage through Ecuador from1700 through 1830, called "from Quito to Ecuador''. Centro Cultural also includes a Contemporary Art exhibit room which houses temporary exhibitions.

San Francisco Church
This church was constructed after the Spanish Conquest and is said to have given the capital of Ecuador its proper name: San Francisco de Quito. The atrium running along one side of the plaza is opened in the middle to give way to a beautiful staircase. The facade has a style similar to the Escorial in Spain. The inside has a Baroque style. The coffer ceiling in the marthex has a rich Moorish style ornamentation with paintings by Miguel de Santiago. It is interesting to note among the ornate detail images of the sun god, the Inca divinity. The main altar holds the original masterpiece by Legarda: "La Virgen de Quito' (Quito's Virgin). This sculpture is the only winged image of Virgin Mary in colonial art.

We walked through the church of Señor Jesus de Gran Poder, where we saw some remarkable artwork: wood carvings, paintings, sculpture, period furniture, and clothing.  

Our next excursion was to spend three nights in the Andes Mountain highlands.

On our way back from the highlands we visit the Equatorial Monument and the Ethnological Museum which was just north of Quito. 

Our guide, Marcello,  told us that there is 60% unemployment.  The average salary is about $200/month.

We then returned to the Santa Barbara Hotel for a last night in Ecuador.

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