We have now returned to Quito, Ecuador’s capital city. We are here for four days in transition from the tropical Amazon rainforest to the Galapagos Islands. Very glad to have time to do some laundry – our “Amazon cloths” came back damp and a bit smelly. We are also exploring Quito and some of the central Ecuadorian plateau.
Parts of Quito are very old, dating back to the mid 1500’s. In old Quito, or Quito Viejo as Ecuadorians would call it, the colonial architecture has been mostly preserved. Like many similar old and colonial cities, there is a main square that features the Presidential Palace, the main cathedral and, in this case, a newer but not entirely out-of-place municipal hall. There are at least four major churches in Quito Viejo, some of which have been beautifully restored, with some yet to be revitalized.
While Catholicism is still the dominant religion in Ecuador, the influence of the church has waned according to our tour guide. This means the government has had to step in to help preserve the buildings that make up a wonderful architectural or “built” heritage. This from a country with fewer resources than Canada! Ecuador recognizes how important it is for Ecuadorians to have pride in both their history and their current city and, perhaps more importantly, to show it. Tourism is now the third largest export (tourism brings people with foreign currency into the country and thus functions like exports which also bring currency in) behind oil and flowers. The government has a focussed tourism development plan and it starts with energizing all Ecuadorians – we were all impressed with our guides, the hotel staff, and the pride the people have for their country really shows.
Quito is proud of its heritage and its designation in 1978 as a World Heritage City. Their pride shows in what they say, and in displays erected in the main square where they “take their case” to everyone, local or tourist. We, in Vancouver, could certainly do a better and similar job of making sure everyone knows we are proud of our city. We could learn from Quito by actively displaying some of the efforts we are investing to improve our city, its institutions and our cultural heritage.