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capital of Ecuador and political and economic center of the country. Located on the southern slopes of Pichincha Volcano, 2,818 m above sea level, and 24 km south of the equator. Its equatorial climate is modified by the high elevation; the average monthly temperature is around 25°C. Precipitation is 1,100–1,200 mm per year. Population, 512,000 (1971). Municipal government is in the hands of an elected council, headed by a mayor, who is also elected by the people.
Quito was founded on Dec. 6, 1534, by the Spanish conquistador S. de Belalcázar on the site of an ancient Indian city. Under Spanish rule Quito was the center of a colony (the Kingdom of Quito). Uprisings against Spanish domination broke out in Quito numerous times (in 1592, 1765, 1809). On May 24, 1822, the Battle of Pichincha occurred near Quito, as a result of which the Spanish troops were completely routed and the Kingdom of Quito became a part of Gran Colombia. After the Kingdom of Quito withdrew from Gran Colombia, Quito became the capital of the new Republic of Ecuador in 1830. Since the early 20th century the labor movement has become active, with the holding of labor congresses and the publication of a socialist newspaper; after World War II the student movement also became important in Quito.
In Quito there are enterprises of the textile, food-processing, leather shoe, furniture, and pharmaceutical industries. Native handicrafts produce jewelry, hats, and so forth. The capital city is linked by rail and highway with the major cities of the Andes valley and Pacific Coast. The Pan American Highway connects Quito with Bogotá, Colombia, and Lima, Peru. The city also has an airport.
The layout of the city is not quite regular, although a rectangular street pattern prevails. There are three squares at the center of the city—Plaza de Independencia (with the Palace, built in 1747), Plaza Bolivar, and Plaza Sucre. The old style of one- or two-story buildings has been preserved, as have churches in the plateresque and baroque styles (the Church of San Francisco, 1534–1650, architects J. Ricke and A. Rodriguez; the cathedral, begun in 1557 and completed in the 17th century; and El Sagrario, 1699–1706) and monasteries (with magnificent cloisters, paintings and polychrome wood sculpture by local artists, and rich carving covered with gold leaf). There are other monuments of the colonial period as well. Only in the mid-20th century, with the construction of industrial and residential areas, has Quito’s appearance begun to change. Among the new structures are the Parliament, the Foreign Ministry, and Hotel Quito.
Educational institutions in Quito include the Central University of Ecuador, the Catholic University of Ecuador, the National Polytechnic School, the May 24 National Women’s College, the Women’s Pedagogical Institute, the Latin American Center for the Training of Journalists, and the National Academy of Music, Fine Arts, and Choreography; also located in the city are the Academy of Sciences of Ecuador, the Medical Academy, and other scientific societies and institutions, as well as an astronomical observatory and botanical gardens. Among its libraries are the National Library, the Library of the Central University, and the Municipal Library. Museums include the National Museum of Colonial Arts, the City Art and History Museum, the Museum of Musical Instruments, the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography, the Central University Museum, and the Museum of Mineralogy (petrography). Among the major theaters are the Sucre National Theater and the Bolivar.