1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Quito
|←Quirites||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 22
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QUITO, the capital of the republic of Ecuador, the see of an archbishopric covering the same territory, and the capital of the province of Pichincha, in lat. 0º 14' S., long. 79º 45' W., about 114 m. from the Pacific coast and 165 m. in a direct line N.E. of Guayaquil, with which it is connected by a railway completed in 1908. Pop. (1906) 50,840, of whom 1365 were foreigners, mostly Colombians. It occupies a small basin of the great central plateau formed by the volcano Pichincha on the W., the Puengasi ridge on the E., and ridges N. and S. formed by spurs from the eastern side of Pichincha. The ground upon which the city is built is uneven and is traversed from W. to E. by two deep ravines (quebradas), one of which is arched over in great part to preserve the alignment of the streets, the drainage of which escapes through a cleft in the ridge northward to the plain of Tumbaco. The city is in great part laid out in rectangular squares, the streets running nearly with the cardinal points of the compass. The houses of Quito are chiefly of the old Spanish or Moorish style. The building material in general use is sun-dried bricks, which in the better houses is covered with plaster or stucco. The public buildings are of the heavy Spanish type. Facing the principal square (Plaza Mayor), and occupying the whole S. side, is the cathedral; on the W. side is the government palace; on the N. the archbishop's palace; and on the E. the municipal hall. The elevation of this plaza is 9343 ft. above sea-level. The finest building in the city is the Jesuits' church, whose façade is covered with elaborate carving. Among public institutions are the university, which occupies part of the old Jesuit college, an astronomical observatory, and eleven large monastic institutions, six of which are for nuns. One of the convents, that of San Francisco, covers a whole block, and ranks among the largest institutions of its kind in the world. A part of it is in ruins, and another part has been for some time used as military barracks by the government. The university has faculties of theology, law and medicine, and has 200 to 250 students, but it is antiquated in character and poorly supported. The eminent botanist and chemist, Dr William Jameson (1796-1872), was a member of its faculty for many years. The city has no large commercial houses, and only an insignificant export trade, chiefly hides and forest products from the wooded mountain slopes near by. Religious paintings of a medieval type are produced in large numbers and exported. The native manufactures include tanned leather, saddles, shoes, ponchos, woollen. and cotton cloth, fibre sandals and sacking, blankets, coarse matting and coarse woollen carpets. Superior hand-made carpets are also made, and Quito artisans show much skill in wood carvings and in gold and silver works; the women excel in fine needlework and lace-making.
Quito derives its name from the Quitus, who inhabited the locality a long time before the Spanish conquest. In 1533 Sebastian Benalcazar took peaceable possession of the native town (which had been successively a capital of the Seyris and Incas), and in 1541 it was elevated to the rank of a Spanish city. Its full title was San Francisco del Quito, and it was capital of the province or presidency of Quito down to the end of Spanish colonial rule. It has suffered repeatedly from earthquakes, the greatest damage occurring from those of 1797 and 1859.