Quito, living legend of the AndesDecember 9, 2018
To the thousand-year-old Quito, which in the ancestral language quitu-cara means “people of half the world”, came the Spaniard Sebastián de Benalcázar to found on December 6, 1534 what he called “San Francisco de Quito”, according to one of the most known versions of a debate still open about its origin.
During the colonial era, portentous churches of every religious order were built and the so-called Quiteña School emerged, a current that encompassed a whole set of artistic manifestations that left a legacy still embodied in its colonial helmet.
A story that is felt every day as you walk through its narrow streets, which transport visitors to the past and the more than 36,000 inhabitants of its old quarter, declared by UNESCO in 1978 as a World Heritage Site.
Twelve museums, sixteen convents and monasteries with their respective cloisters, seventeen squares, as well as forty churches and chapels, collect within their walls hundreds of works of the Quito School, heritage jewels that have withstood the ravages of nature, including volcanic eruptions and earthquakes .
Among its emblems, in the heart of Quito, is the Church of the Company, of the Jesuit order, one of the best examples of Latin American baroque and that was built by thousands of indigenous hands under the influence of Baroque, Mudejar and Arab art.
Not far from there, on one of the steep colonial streets stands the basilica, the largest neo-Gothic temple in America and inspired by the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
And a little further south, in Panecillo, a natural elevation of 3,000 meters above sea level, the city holds an imposing aluminum sculpture of the “Virgen de Quito”, which ranks 58th among the tallest images of the city. world.
MORE THAN THE COLONIAL HELMET
Although the historic center is the “anchor” of its tourist campaigns, Quito also bewitches the visitor with its nature. It proudly shows the recent declaration as Unesco Reserve of the Biosphere of Chocó Andino, within which is a good part of the metropolitan district of the Ecuadorian capital.
In the northwest of Quito, home of the spectacled bear, the hummingbirds, the emblematic bird of the city, are constantly fluttering. And it is that, in the increasingly asphalt Quito, which has high subtropical regions and also páramos more than 4,000 meters high, is half of the 130 species of hummingbirds in Ecuador, according to the ornithologist Juan Manuel Carrión.
They flap about sixty times a second, an activity for which they require the highly energetic food provided by the nectar of the flowers.
And Quito also knows flowers, not only because millions of roses come from its airport to different markets, but also because thousands of orchids are born around the capital of Ecuador, a country that owns four of the five existing subfamilies of orchids at scale world.
Less than an hour from Quito, in the parish of Nono, is the Pahuma Orchid Reserve, which houses more than 200 species in its 650 hectares and is the second largest orchid reserve in South America.
Those exotic flowers also emerge in the Pululahua geobotanical reserve, one of the only populated craters in the world and located near the famous monument to the Middle of the World, which refers to the imaginary line that divides the planet in the northern and southern hemispheres.
Adventure tourism, on foot or by bicycle, gives the visitor unique postcards of a green and flowery nature around the city. In the northwest, Quito also offers community tourism, income that underpins conservation and prevents the felling of trees or the hunting of animals.
The City Council also wants to rescue the authentic and maintain the essence of the historic center, consisting of 280 blocks in which thousands of merchants carry out their activities on a daily basis and which houses the Carondelet Palace, seat of the Ecuadorian Government.
For Veronica Sevilla, manager of the company Quito Turismo, in countries with historical centers without residents and with modern businesses, “the authentic experience that, today, the traveler wants to live” is distorted.
“We do not have to match New York or Madrid and have the same content. Quite the opposite, the strategy must be differentiated “, he emphasizes when noting that in Quito the roots of the authentic are found, because” things are still pure “.
Another essential point of the Ecuadorian city is a thirty-meter-high obelisk in the so-called Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, in the northwest of Quito, which evokes the arrival of the French geodesic mission to measure a quadrant of the terrestrial meridian. year 1736.
Mandatory tourist stop, visitors are portrayed there with a foot on each side of the line representing the division of the planet into two hemispheres, a custom that remains despite new studies claiming a slight deviation.
The equatorial circumference of the Earth measures 40,075 kilometers and in the small part that corresponds to Ecuador there are countless points that mark the latitude 0º 0 ‘0 “.
The closest to the historic monument, about 20 minutes, is at the top of Mount Catequilla, which was once a ceremonial, religious center and an astrological and astronomical viewpoint.
CITY OF CONTRASTS ACUNATED BY VOLCANOES
“Ecuadorians are rare and unique beings: they sleep peacefully amid crunchy volcanoes, live poor in the midst of incomparable riches and rejoice with sad music,” said the German geographer Alexander Von Humboldt (1769-1859).
Located in the belt of fire of the Pacific, Ecuador is land of volcanoes and, from its capital, it is appraised a score of them -most of them asleep-, according to Mario Ruiz, technician of the Geophysical Institute.
With more than two million inhabitants, Quito spills at the foot of the Pichincha volcano, which in 1999 emanated a column of smoke and ash of 12 kilometers in height.
The imposing massif, almost 4,800 meters, can be climbed by cable car and appreciate the contrasts of the colonial zone with modern, the latter more marked in the north than in the south, giving life to a mosaic with which the capital has conquered this year, thirteen awards at the World Travel Awards, known as the “Tourism Oscars”.
Among the most outstanding, Quito won for the sixth time the “Leading Destination of South America”; for second, the “Lead Leader of Meetings and Conferences”; and for the first time the “Leading Cultural City” of the region.
Quito, where winter and summer coexist in the same day, receives more than half a million foreign tourists a year, but in 2018 the historic center broke the record of visitors when 3.7 million people, mostly Ecuadorians, visited it on the occasion of the III edition of the “Fiesta de la Luz”, a light show, colors and sounds that takes place in August.
Most catholic city, cradle of outstanding intellectuals and kind to tourists, Quito is an Eden of wonders, as one of its most popular songs, a city full of legends where modernity and tradition coexist in perfect harmony.
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