QUITO – The founding documents of the city of Quito are being displayed in a temporary exhibition that coincides with the 39th anniversary of the declaration of the Ecuadorian capital’s historical center as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
The nine documents, which date back to 1534 and include the names of Spanish conquistadors such as Francisco Pizarro, Diego de Almagro and Sebastian de Belalcazar, are displayed behind glass and allow visitors to appreciate in detail the writing and fine linen paper and even a hand-shaped watermark that can be viewed with a flashlight.
The documents include the Aug. 15, 1534, municipal charter for Santiago de Quito.
That settlement, the first to be founded by the Spanish in what now is Ecuador, was located 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of the current site of the Ecuadorian capital, a historical quirk that is due to a race between Pizarro and fellow conquistador Pedro de Alvarado to establish that new urban center.
That name, however, lasted just 13 days, after which a document was drafted renaming the city San Francisco de Quito on Aug. 28, 1534.
As the culmination of this process, yet another document – this time signed on Dec. 6, 1534, by De Belalcazar, who had put down the final indigenous resistance – certified the establishment of the new city at its current site.
It was founded on the ruins of an Inca city that had been razed by a warrior named Rumiñahui shortly before it fell to the Spanish conquerors.
Historian Patricio Guerra, in commenting on the documents’ historical importance, said that in founding Quito the conquistadors were “creating a Spanish city, a mestizo city” with an initial population of 204 inhabitants.
The areas surrounding what today is Quito had been occupied for thousands of years, for the most part by nomadic peoples and later – and up until the Spanish conquest – by the Inca civilization, he recalled.
“This city was born with a written culture. The founding documents reveal a new system of social, administrative and spatial organization,” Guerra said.