At an altitude of nearly 9,000 feet, this bustling capital of Ecuador has a population of over a million people. High mountains ring the city to the west and east. It is a place of great food, friendly people, wonderful Andean music, colorful shops and buses belching diesel fumes that make main streets almost intolerably polluted during rush hour.
This beautiful city dates back to the time of the Incas and has been settled by Europeans for about 500 years. Its colorful heritage is evident everywhere, from vividly hued craft objects such as masks and textiles to several impressive cathedrals situated in what is known a Quito's Old City.
San Francisco Cathedral, built on the site of an Inca temple, is one of the oldest churches in Quito. Children beg for money in the plaza in front of the church. This plaza is a few blocks from the president's home; while we were visiting here, tear gas fumes from a demonstration at the president's home drifted into the plaza, forcing us to run for the shelter of the cathedral.
Masks and artwork at a craft stall frame rugged hills and an old monastary near downtown Quito.
At a craft stall, a vendor shows his infant son some of the intricacies of Andean music.
Live music seems to be on every street corner. Traditional Andean music often melds with karaoke-style accompaniments. Sometimes non-traditional instruments such as saxophones accompany the haunting Andean pipes and flutes.
Tablecloths are bright and festive. Other textiles include cotton hammocks, llama rugs and wall hangings, alpaca shawls and ponchos, finely woven scarves, and knit goods such as alpaca and wool sweaters and hats.
Left: From the front of the president's home, it is possible to peer up a crowded street in old Quito. Traffic is routinely bottlenecked in these narrow streets, adding to the air pollution.
Colorful wooden parrots fill a wall in an upscale Quito shop.
Above: Our Lady of Quito ( Virgen de Quito) is a massive statue that overlooks Quito Old City.
Below: The quiet courtyard of the monastary San Agustin is in contrast to the busy streets of Old Quito outside. Here, the first act of independence from Spain was signed on August 10, 1809.
Housing standards are dubious in some parts of Quito. Given the proclivity for earthquakes and active volcanoes in the region, this is a concern. Poverty is in evidence; on the streets busy professionals in contemporary business attire mix with people in traditional Andean clothing.
At one of many local craft booths in Quito, a dog inspects a visitor.