Dec 062016


Quito, current capital of Ecuador, was moved to its present location and re-founded on this date in 1534 by 204 Spanish settlers led by Sebastián de Benalcázar. If that sounds complicated, it is. Let me explain.

Quito’s origins are reputed to date back to the first millennium CE, when the indigenous Quitu occupied the area and eventually formed a commercial center. According to Juan de Velasco in Historia del Reino de Quito (1767) the Quitu were conquered by the Caras, who founded the Kingdom of Quito about 980 CE. For more than four centuries, Quito was ruled by kings (shyris).

The Caras and their allies were narrowly defeated in the epic battles of Tiocajas and Tixán in 1462, by an army of 250,000 led by Túpac Inca, the son of the Inca emperor. After several decades of consolidation, the Kingdom of Quito became integrated into the Incan Empire. In 1534, the Caras/Quitu people were conquered by the Spanish.


Indigenous resistance to the Spanish invasion continued during 1534, with the conquistador Diego de Almagro founding Santiago de Quito (in present-day Colta, near Riobamba) on August 15, 1534, later to be renamed San Francisco de Quito on August 28, 1534. The city was later moved to its present location and was re-founded on 6 December 1534 by 204 settlers led by Sebastián de Benalcázar. The forces of the Inca resistance general, Rumiñawi, and Benalcázar met at the Battle of Mount Chimborazo, where Rumiñawi was defeated. However, before the Spanish forces defeated the Incas, treasures stored in Quito were secreted away and never recovered. The capture of Rumiñawi effectively ended any organized resistance. Rumiñawi was tortured by the Spanish, but never revealed the location of the treasures and so was executed on January 10, 1535. Rumiñawi is now regarded in Ecuador as a hero with 1st December reserved in his honor.


On March 14, 1541, Quito was declared a city and on February 14, 1556, was given the title Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de San Francisco de Quito (“Very Noble and Loyal City of San Francisco of Quito”). In 1563, Quito became the seat of a Real Audiencia (administrative district) of Spain and became part of the Viceroyalty of Peru, until 1717 after the Audiencia was part of a newly created Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada. Its administration on both Viceroyalties remained to Quito. (see Real Audiencia de Quito)

As with other places colonized by the Spanish, the colonizers promptly established Roman Catholicism in Quito. The first church (El Belén) was in fact built even before the city had been officially founded. In January 1535, the San Francisco Convent was constructed, the first of about 20 churches and convents built during the colonial period. The Spanish converted the indigenous population to Christianity and used them as labor for construction.


In 1743, after nearly 300 years of Spanish colonization, Quito was a city of about 10,000 inhabitants. On August 10, 1809, an independence movement against Spanish domination started in Quito. On that date, a plan for government was established that placed Juan Pío Montúfar as president with various other prominent figures in other positions of government. However, this initial movement was ultimately defeated on August 2, 1810, when colonial troops came from Lima, killing the leaders of the uprising along with about 200 settlers. A chain of conflicts concluded on May 24, 1822, when Antonio José de Sucre, under the command of Simón Bolívar, led troops into the Battle of Pichincha. Their victory marked the independence of Quito and the surrounding areas.


Ecuadorean cuisine has many variations because of the extreme range in geographical zones, especially as concerns altitude, which dramatically affects farming conditions. Goat is popular in the mountainous regions, and seco de chivo (goat stew) is a common festival dish. The poaching liquid was traditionally chicha, a mildly alcoholic, fermented corn drink, and tart fruit juices were added as well. Naranjilla, guanábana, and granadilla, are indigenous, but any tart juice will make an adequate substitute. Locals now often use beer in place of the chicha. Piloncillo (or panela) is unrefined brown sugar in a hard block.


Seco de Chivo


2 lb goat meat, with bones
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp achiote powder (or sweet paprika)
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
2 cups seeded and chopped tomatoes
2 cups chicha de jora (or beer)
2 cups tart fruit juice (or stock)
2 tbsp grated piloncillo (or brown sugar)
salt and pepper
small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped


Wash the goat meat in cool water, drain and pat dry. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Working in batches, brown the meat on all sides in the hot oil. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Add more oil to the pot if needed and stir the achoite powder (or paprika) to color the oil. Stir in the onion and bell pepper and sauté  for 3 or 4 minutes, or until the onions are cooked down and translucent. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes.

Add back the reserved goat and stir in the chicha (or beer), fruit juice, piloncillo (or brown sugar) and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered for 2 or more hours, or until the meat is tender and falling off the bone. Add water as necessary to keep the seco from drying out.

Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped cilantro. Serve hot with a side of arroz amarillo (rice colored yellow with turmeric or achiote), platanos fritos (fried plantains) and slices of avocado.


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