The celebration of the foundation of Ecuador’s capital, known as “Fiestas de Quito“, is one of the city’s favorite events. The city – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – awakens with parties, gatherings and numerous traditional games oging on all around town and everyone is welcome to join! Typical food, bullfighting, flamenco, open-air concerts, dancing, chivas (Ecuadorian-style party buses), exhibitions, serenades, fairs, festivals and card games are everyday occurrences during the week leading up to the 6th of December – the official date of Quito’s fundation by the Spanish conquistadors. However, there is more to this date than partying, so read on to learn about this historic day before putting on your dancing shoes and heading to the streets to partake in this one-of-a-kind quiteño celebration.
Even though the city of San Francisco de Quito was officially founded by the Spanish in 1534, the territory where the colonial city was built had long been occupied by pre-Hispanic groups. Inhabited as early as the year 1030 B.C. by small indigenous groups, the Quitu-Cara confederation was the biggest group to live in the area prior to the arrival of the Incas. When the Incas arrived to the Quitu-Cara territory in the XV century, they built over the already occupied spaces and benefitted from Quito’s strategic location between rich valleys and water resources. After a short occupation of approximately 80 years, the Spanish conquistadors took over the Incan city of Quito. However, the actual foundation of the city didn’t happen in Quito’s actual location, rather in Riobamba. There, in a hurry, the Spanish conquistador Diego de Almagro signed the official document which, three months later, would be carried to Quito, where the new city was to be built. When Lieutenant Sebastian de Benalcazar arrived, the Incan city of Quito had been burnt to the ground by general Rumiñahui. Quito was finally founded on the 6th of December and built on top of Incan remains and sacred buildings that can still be seen as part of some of the bases of Quito’s most iconic buildings, churches and cathedrals.
Fiestas de Quito
The official celebration of Quito’s foundation was established in the year 1960. Before that it was only considered a civic date of little importance. Ever since its establishment, the date gained relevance until it became the big celebration quiteños know and love. Attracting visitors both local and foreign, the 6th of December is lived in a general atmosphere of fun and commotion. Restaurants offer special banquets and parties throughout the city are organized both privately and publicly. If you happen to be in Quito during this special occasion, make sure to live it to the fullest by staying at Quito’s best-located downtown hotel, Casa Gangotena, and admire the frenzy and excitement from the beautiful terrace. Or, alternatively, head down to the street and partake in the celebration! Try Quito’s typical drink called Canelazo to warm up your spirit during the chilly Andean evenings, learn how to play Quito’s typical card game Cuarenta, and hop on a chiva to tour the city’s old and modern neighbourhoods. You will fall in love with the quiteño’s festive enthusiasm during this period!