Quito, Ecuador » City Info » History

Ancient Quito and the Arrival of Incas:

Quito has been known to be inhabited times, as long as the first millennium when nomadic tribes called ‘Quitu’ first settled in the region in hunt for food and shelter. Over time, being a fertile region it developed 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 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 were travellers and constantly in search for new lands to extend their territories. By the time they reached Quito, Rumiñahui had burnt the whole city, leaving only a devastated piece of land to the Spaniards, who built the whole region once again. In the month of August 1534 under the rule of Diego de Almagro the Spanish formally established the city of San Francisco de Quito and developed it both economically and culturally as one of the richest cities in South America.

Sebastián de Benalcázar captured Rumiñahui who was later executed to death on January 10, 1535. 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 Quito’s 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 revolt from native Quito people. On August 10, 1809 a movement was started against the Spanish Empire in name of the city’s independence. The Quito’s residents formed their own government with Juan Pío Montúfar as President. But this movement was short-lived with the Spaniards arriving from Peru and killing all the government dignitaries along with the inhabitants. Even if this movement wasn’t successful, it led to a series of clashes with the Spanish, which concluded on May 24, 1822 when in the 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 got dissolved in 1830, Republic of Ecuador was formed of which Quito became the capital.

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 which exists even today. President, Gabriel García Moreno was killed in 1875 which followed with the murder of Archbishop José Ignacio Checa y Barba in 1877 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. But when he returned to Ecuador to regain power, he was thrown in the prison after which he was murdered by a mob who crashed in to the 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' novel The War of the Worlds which had resulted in mob fire.

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