The libertarian story of Ecuador through the streets of colonial Quito

Quito, Aug 8 (EFE) .- The Chapter House, the House of Manuela Cañizares, or the Alberto Mena Caamano Wax Museum, are some of the heritage sites that evoke the historic August 10, 1809 in Quito, vivid scenes of a independence process that would conclude thirteen years later.

The process, which ended in 1822 after the previous independence of Guayaquil and Cuenca, comes to life in Quito in many of the buildings of a historic center that is one of the best preserved in America and in which each door, nook and facade, have a story to tell.

And it is that in just several square kilometers, the colonial helmet reflects in a patrimonial way a process that lasted from 1736, with the French Geodesic Mission, until 1830, when Ecuador was created after the country was part of the project of the Great Colombia. .


“What remains almost intact today is the grid layout, which started from this square. The buildings that have remained almost in their original form would be mainly the temples,” explains Patricio Guerra, a chronicler of a city that was founded. officially in 1534 by the Spanish on a place that “the Indians called Quito”.

With an initial population of just over 200 people, almost 300 years later, Quito had between 25,000 and 27,000 inhabitants, and imposing buildings such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Carondelet Palace and others that, although they have undergone renovations, are located where then.

For the chronicler, the epic begins to be told alone from the Plaza Grande or Plaza de la Independencia, where the monument to the leaders of the “First Cry of Independence” is erected, an act by which a group of Creole leaders deposed the president of the Royal Audience of Quito, Count Manuel Ruiz de Castilla, giving the Ecuadorian capital the nickname “Luz de América” ​​because with this the independence process was opened throughout the continent.

The “Monument to the heroes of August 10” includes in its iconography a condor breaking a chain with its beak and a lion (Spain) retiring wounded.

“It is an obligatory place,” says Guerra, for whom the surroundings of the Plaza Grande must have been very similar to today, with street vendors “from an informal economy,” “indigenous and mestizo people who sold products from their farms (orchards). and that they were in conflict with those who paid fees to the council. ” Even with his political hearsay.


About a hundred meters away, the Metropolitan Cultural Center, a reconstructed monument but which, for the expert, houses the intellectual soul of the independence process.

“The place was then occupied by a Jesuit complex, and since they had been expelled in 1767 (parts) of the building received other uses, one of them as a public library, with 40,000 volumes and whose first director was Eugenio Espejo”, ideologist of the libertarian process .

There, he says, he indoctrinated his disciples with the enlightened ideas of the French Revolution and told them about his contacts with Antonio Nariño in Bogotá.

Opposite, there is the motor, the force: the home of Manuela Cañizares, the heroine who gathered in her house, at dawn on August 10, 1809, the group of libertarians who, after deposing the colonial authority, installed a Government Junta Autonomous

She is credited with the famous phrase to harangue hesitant men to rebel: “Cowardly men born for servitude … What are you afraid of?”

THE Riot of AUGUST 2

Six days later the “First Cry of Independence” was ratified with an act signed in the Chapter House of the nearby Convent of San Agustín.

Located in the eastern corridor, it was used as the Aula Magna of the San Fulgencio University, the first in the city.

As in the Library, the principles of freedom, respect and democracy contained in the Act of Independence were also enshrined there, and there is the crypt of some heroes.

The initial uprising was thwarted a few months later by colonial troops and imprisoned heroes, generating unrest that led to the Mutiny of August 2, 2010, when the population demanded their release: between 200 and 300 died, 1% of the Quito population .

Based on a painting by the Ecuadorian painter César Villacrés, the execution scene of some heroes is later recreated in wax in the Alberto Mena Caamaño Museum, in the exhibition “From Quito to Ecuador (1736 – 1835)”.


Guerra recalls that there are many other places in colonial Quito that “tell” the origin of Ecuadorian national history, because the people were also crucial and left their traces in neighborhoods such as San Roque, which “was permanently in revolt and summoned the rest: the so-called ‘Convite de San Roque’ “, says the historian.

Asked about the facades and streets of colonial Quito, Guerra is told “about a long tradition of discontent, of rebellion.”

And it is that paradoxically, the popular struggle has been repeated numerous times in the last two centuries in the same streets, a custom that for many should cease due to the damage it causes to the national heritage.


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