Quito, Ecuador » City Info » History

Ancient Quito and the Arrival of Incas:

In 1960, Archeologist Robert Bell found the old traces of human presence in Quito. Nomadic tribes called ‘Quitu’ first settled in the region in their hunt for food and shelter. Later, since the land was fertile, Quitu people developed it into a key commercial and economic centre, then known as ‘Tianguez’. It became an important connecting point for traders of the surrounding regions, especially in the northern Andes.

Later on, the ‘Quitu’ tribe lost to the ‘Caras’ tribe who laid the foundation of the Kingdom of Quito in 980 A.D. When the Incas arrived from Peru, they took over Quito in 1462. Quito was the chief administrative region for Incas to control the northern part of their empire. The city lost an important part of its history when in 1533, Rumiñahui an Inca General, burnt the whole city to refrain the Spanish from taking over the city.

Rule of the Spanish Empire

The Spanish travellers in search of new land reached Quito and built the region once again. In August 1534, under the rule of Diego de Almagro, the Spanish formally named the city of San Francisco de Quito. They developed it both economically and culturally as one of the wealthiest cities in South America.

Sebastián de Benalcázar captured Rumiñahui who was later executed to death on January 10, 1535. The officially present name of the city was announced on March 14 1541, as Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de San Francisco de Quito ("Very Noble and Loyal City of San Francisco of Quito"). It became the administrative district of Spain and part of the Viceroyalty of Peru. Christianity was introduced in the region with the construction of the first church El Belén. About 20 churches were built during the colonial period. The native Quitos were oppressed and used as slaves in laborious work during Colonial rule. In 1545 the status of the city was promoted from Diocese of Quito to Archdiocese of Quito.

Independence from Spain

The oppression from Spanish rulers led to a revolt from natives of Quit. On August 10, 1809, a movement started against the Spanish Empire in the name of the city’s independence. The Quito’s residents formed their own government with Juan Pío Montúfar as President. But this movement was defeated by Spaniards who arrived from Peru and killed the leaders and settlers. After this movement, a chain of conflicts took place and on May 24, 1822, in the final Battle of Pichincha, under the command of Simón Bolívar, Quito achieved its independence.

Attachment to Gran Colombia

When Quito achieved independence, on June 24, 1822, the city got annexed to the Republic of Gran Colombia under the leadership of Simón Bolívar. When the Republic of Gran Colombia dissolved in 1830, the Republic of Ecuador was formed with Quito as the capital city.

Republican Era

In 1833, members of the Society of Free Inhabitants of Quito conspired against the government for which they were assassinated by the government. In the following two years, the Marcist Revolution began which gave birth to an unsettled Quito, a situation that exists even today. President Gabriel García Moreno was assassinated in 1875, and two years later, Archbishop José Ignacio Checa y Barba was murdered using poison.

Dictatorship ruled during the mid 19th century in the form of Ignacio de Veintemilla against whom revolts arose in 1882. When Commander Eloy Alfaro participated in the Battle of Guayaquil, more conflicts took place, but he became the president of Ecuador on September 4, 1895. He ruled the country till 1911, after which he shifted to Europe. When he returned to Ecuador to regain power, he was thrown in prison and murdered by a mob in prison.

In 1932 civil war broke out. The ‘Four Days' War’ followed the election of Neptalí Bonifaz, who held a Peruvian passport. Workers at a major textile factory went on a strike in 1934, and in 1949, more than 20 people died after the telecast of H. G. Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds, which had resulted in mob fire.

Quito has been the central point of mass demonstrations that led to the expelling of presidents Abdalá Bucaram (February 5, 1997), Jamil Mahuad (January 21, 2000), and Lucio Gutiérrez (April 20, 2005).