Quito is the capital of Ecuador, the country’s most populous city. At an altitude of 2,850 meters, it is the second-highest official capital city in the world, after La Paz, and the nearest to the equator. It is inhabited in the Guayllabamba river basin, on the east slopes of Pichincha, an active volcano in the Andes Mountains.
The most prehistoric traces of human occupation in Quito were unearthed in the mid-1900s, on the hills of the Ilaló volcano, settled between the eastern valleys of Tumbaco and Los Chillos. Hunter-gatherers abandoned tools of obsidian glass, measured to 8000 BCE.
The second vital remains of human settlement were found in the current area of Cotocollao (1500 BCE), northwest of Quito. The prehistoric village spread over 26 hectares in an area flooded by many rivers. Near the old rectangular houses, there are burials with stone offerings and pottery. The Cotocollao people selected and transported obsidian to the coastal region.
Early colonial historians and priests wrote about the Quitu people and the Kingdom of Quito. Their tales said that other people, known as the Cara or the Schyris, came from the shore and took over the territory by 890CE. On what is called the Cara-Quitu kingdom, they controlled until the Inca took over the area in the 15th century. Quitu descendants persisted in the city even after the Spanish conquest.
But by the 20th century, some famous historians began more academic studies. They disputed accounts of the Quitu-Cara kingdom. Little archeological evidence had been found of any artifacts or monuments from it. They began to think it was a mythical account of a pre-Hispanic man in the mountains.
In the early 21st century, there were surprising new finds of 20-meter deep tombs in Quito’s Florida neighborhood. Dating to 800 CE, they present proof of the high quality of craftsmanship among the Quitu and the elaborate and complex character of their funerary rites. In 2010 the Museum of Florida opened to maintain some artifacts from the tombs and explain this sophisticated culture.
Inca indigenous opposition to Spanish expansion continued during 1534. The conquistador Diego de Almagro found Santiago de Quito on August 15, 1534, renamed San Francisco de Quito on August 28, 1534. The city was later refounded at its existing location on December 6, 1534, by 204 settlers led by Sebastián de Benalcázar, who caught leader Rumiñahui, ultimately ending all coordinated resistance. Rumiñahui was executed on January 10, 1535.
The Spanish founded Roman Catholicism in Quito. The first church was constructed before the city was formally established. In January 1535, the San Francisco Convent was built, the first of about 20 churches and convents built during the colonial period. The Spanish forcefully converted the indigenous population to Christianity and used them as laborers for construction.
In 1743, after nearly over 200 years of Spanish colonization, Quito was a town of about 10,000 inhabitants. On August 10, 1809, a campaign was started in Quito to win independence from Spain. On that date, a government plan was installed, which appointed Juan Pío Montúfar as president and leading pro-independence figures in several government positions.
But this original movement was defeated on August 2, 1810 when colonial troops arrived from Lima, Peru and killed the leaders of the revolution, and about 200 other settlers. A chain of conflicts climaxed on May 24, 1822, when Antonio José de Sucre, under the command of Simón Bolívar, led army into the Battle of Pichincha hills of the volcano. Their triumph won the independence of Quito and the surrounding areas.
In 1833 members of the Society of Free Inhabitants of Quito were slaughtered by the government after conspiring against it. On March 6, 1845, the Marcist Revolution began. In 1875 the country’s president, Gabriel García Moreno, was assassinated in Quito. In 1877, Archbishop José Ignacio Checa y Barba was killed by poison while celebrating Mass in Quito.
In 1882 revolutionaries rose against the regime of dictator Ignacio de Veintimilla. However, this did not end the struggle that was occurring throughout the country. On July 9, 1883, the liberal commander Eloy Alfaro engaged in the Battle of Guayaquil, and after further conflict, he became the president of Ecuador on September 4, 1895. Upon completing his second term in 1911, he shifted to Europe. He returned to Ecuador in 1912 and tried to return to power unsuccessfully; he was captured on January 28, 1912, thrown in prison, and assassinated by a mob that stormed the jail. His body was dragged through the streets of Quito to a city park, where it was burned.
In 1932 the Four Days’ War broke out. This was a civil war that followed Neptalí Bonifaz and the consequent recognition that he carried a Peruvian passport.
On February 12, 1949, a graphic broadcast of H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds led to panic and the deaths of more than twenty people who perished in flames set by mobs.