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History of Quito

According to a legend of the pre-Inca Quitu tribe, the city of Quito was founded by Qitumbe, son of the god Quitu, in honour of his father. It is known that the valley that would eventually cradle Quito was originally occupied by the Quitu tribe, who united with the Cara from the north into the Shyris nation around AD 1300. In 1487 the Inca took over and turned the city into an important northern nexus of their empire. Within a hundred years the empire fell to infighting, leaving things wide open for the newly arrived Spanish to start almost from scratch.

Sebastian de Benalcázar founded Santiago de Quito on 15 August 1534, and all was well until Pedro de Alvarado arrived after a long, hard march and expressed his, shall we say, disappointment that the city had been started without him. The two arranged a truce in which the city was refunded on 6 December as San Francisco de Quito.

In the beginning Quito consisted only of the present-day Old Town at the foot of El Panecillo. An art school founded in 1535 put the burgh closer to becoming a centre of religious art during the colonial period, complete with its own style, the Quito School. Through its history Quito has been an administrative, rather than a manufacturing, centre.

By the mid-20th century the city had spread north into what is called New Town today. A population boom, aided by the discovery of oil, brought thousands of immigrants, who settled south of Old Town and west up the slopes of Pichincha. By the mid-1980s these makeshift suburbios counted as much as 15% of the city's population and had acquired most of the services the older areas took for granted. Today the city counts at least 1.2 million residents (officially), with more cramming in every day.

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