Overview of Quito

History of Quito

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Pre-Inca cultures

Although often underexposed, Ecuador's history did not start with the invasion of the Incas but goes as far back as 20.000 BC. From that period until the arrival of the Incas, a large number of tribes lived divided over the country's three regions: the coast, the Andes, and the Amazon). For example, the Las Vegas people inhabited the coastal region from 9000 BC to 6000 BC. Originally, these indigenous societies lived as hunter-gatherers and fishermen, changing around 6000 BC when agriculture started to develop as a way of live and the use of ceramics increased.

From this moment on, new cultures developed, like the Machalilla and Chorrera at the coast, the Chimba in the Andes, and the Pastaza and Chiguaza in the Amazon region. Through time, these societies became more complex and organized, and already before the arrival of the Incas, the period of regional development started and political organization became stronger.

Inca Empire

In the second half of the 15th century, the Incas were expending their territories towards the north, to modern-day Ecuador. The Ecuadorian tribes, in particular the Cañari in the south near Cuenca, fought fiercely against the Inca conquest. It took from 1463 until 1500 for the Incas to conquer Ecuador, and it was Huayna Capac who finally overcame the resistance of the Ecuadorian people. He made Quito his home and the second capital of the Inca Empire, called Tawantinsuyu by the Incas, to spend the last years the last years of his life in the Andean city. After his death in 1527, Atahualpa and Huáscar, two of his sons (he had more then 50 with numerous women) started a power battle weakening the empire right at the moment the Spanish arrived in Ecuador in 1531.

Spanish colonization

The Spanish conquest of Ecuador was led by Francisco Pizzaro, who knew that the country was suffering among the war between the two Inca leaders and disease, seemingly smallpox.

In 1532, Pizzaro's army succeeded in capturing Atahualpa, who recently had won the war from Huáscar, in Cajamarca in Northern Peru. He was held imprisoned for a few months, while the Spanish gained ransom in the form of gold and silver from the Incas, but Atahualpa was never released. On August 29, 1533, Atahualpa was killed.

Not long after, Lieutenant Benalcázar, leading the mission in Ecuador, defeated the Inca warrior Rumiñahui, first on the foothills of the Chimborazo Volcano and later near Quito. In 1534, Benalcázar and Diego de Almagro established officially San Francisco de Quito. They had to built the city from scratch; when Rumiñahui realized he could not safe the Inca city, he burnt it all down to prevent the Spanish from having it.

In colonial times, Ecuador was part of the Spanish government in Peru until 1720, when the country joined the Viceroyalty of New Granada. However, in 1763 the Audiencia of Quito created an administrative unit that gave Ecuador some freedom to deal directly with Madrid. The territory under this administration was much larger then modern Ecuador; it also included the Northeast Peru, South Colombia, and even a part of Brazil, although the borders of the Audiencia of Quito were not clearly defined nor defended.

Especially in the Andean region, the social system was clearly defined: the Spanish where the ruling elite and the indigenous people were the ones working the land. Since the Spanish colonialists were given land by the Audiencia, including the locals living on it, and they obligated the "free" indigenous people to work on public projects, the colonial system reminded a lot of slavery. Also black slaves were brought to Ecuador to work the lands, in total about 60.000 by the end of the colonial period. Indoctrinating the indigenous people with European religious believes was important in the colonial era, in particular in the beginning.

Independence to Now

The first initiatives leading to independence, also called the 'scream of independence", took place in August 1808, it was not until May 1822 that Ecuador became independent from the Spanish. Antonio José de Sucre, a young lieutenant in the independence army of the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar, was the key person in Ecuador's independence. Until 1830, Ecuador was part of the Republic of Gran Colombia, after which the country became independent.

After independence, Ecuador was governed by leaders with different ideologies. Gabrial García Moreno (1861-65 and 1869-75), for example, was known for its conservatism, while Eloy Elfaro (1895-1901 and 1906-11) brought liberalism to the country, like separation of state and religion. Another notable president was Galo Plaza (1948-1952), who was very committed to making Ecuador a more democratic country. Since April 2017, Lenin Moreno is the president of the Andean country, who is the leader of the same left-wing party as the former president, Rafael Correa.


The Quitus

Although the "Quiteños" celebrate the foundation of their city on the date the Spanish conquerors (re)established Quito, it is believed that the city already existed before the Incas came to Ecuador. The Quitu people lived from 2000 BCE until the beginning of the 16th century in what is modern Quito's historical centre (covering approximately the area of San Blas to the Panecillo). Later, other tribes, like the Shyris, conquered and ruled the Kingdom of Quito until the invasion of the Incas at the end of the 15th century.

Incas in Quito

After obtaining the power in the Kingdom of Quito, Inca leader Huayna Capac became fond of the city located high in the Andes Mountains. Quito became, after Cusco, the second capital of the Inca Empire. The defeat of the Quitus and other tribes in Northern Ecuador was concluded with the marriage of Huayna Capac and the Quitus princess Paccha Duchicela. Out of this marriage Atahualpa was born, who became the governor of Quito after the death of his father in 1527. This led to a power struggle between Atahualpa and his half-brother and leader of the Incas in Cusco, Huascár, which Atahualpa won barely before the Spanish arrived and conquered Quito from the Incas in 1533.

Colonial and Modern Times

On December 6, 1534 Sebastián de Benalcázar founded San Francisco de Quito at its current location, and on March 28, 1541 Quito was declared officially a city. It became the administrative capital of the region. Like in other colonized areas, the Spanish started to convince the local people to change their spiritual believed to their religion, Roman Catholicism. Over 20 catholic churches were built in the city centre during the colonial period and many people converted to Catholicism.

Quito was growing steadily and in the middle of the 18th century, Quito had about 10.000 inhabitants. Not much later, in August 1809, Ecuador's independent movement started in Quito and after the country's independence, Quito continued to grow to the metropolis of over 2 million people it is today.

Update 24/01/2019

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