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City at the Center of the World

Space, History, and Modernity in Quito

Ernesto Capello

Publication Year: 2011

In the seventeenth century, local Jesuits and Franciscans imagined Quito as the "new Rome." It was the origin of crusades into the wilderness and the purveyor of civilization to the entire region. By the early twentieth century, elites envisioned the city as the heart of a modern, advanced society—poised at the physical and metaphysical centers of the world. In this original cultural history, Ernesto Capello analyzes the formation of memory, myth, and modernity through the eyes of Quito's diverse populations. By employing Mikhail Bakhtin's concept of chronotopes, Capello views the configuration of time and space in narratives that defined Quito's identity and its place in the world. He explores the proliferation of these imaginings in architecture, museums, monuments, tourism, art, urban planning, literature, religion, indigenous rights, and politics. To Capello, these tropes began to crystallize at the end of the nineteenth century, serving as a tool for distinct groups who laid claim to history for economic or political gain during the upheavals of modernism. In the process of both destroying and renewing elements of the past, modern Quito thus emerged at the crux of Hispanism and Liberalism, as an independent global society struggling to keep the memory of its colonial and indigenous roots alive.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Pitt Latin American Series


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

This book owes much to the suggestions, advice, and support of numerous people, each of whom deserves recognition. I have been fortunate to have been mentored by extraordinary teachers, beginning at Academia Cotopaxi in Quito, where Arthur Pontes and Eric Little first awoke my interest in history ...

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pp. xiii-xx

On the afternoon of Friday, December 6, 2002, at the Plaza de Toros on Quito’s upper-class north side, approximately eighty people gathered to protest bullfights celebrating the anniversary of the Spanish founding of the city. 1 The carnivalesque spectacle, dubbed “Kito Anti-Taurino,” ...

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1. The Politics and Poetics of Regionalism

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pp. 1-23

In 1935, as part of an early attempt to develop a tourist economy in Ecuador, the Dirección General de Propaganda y Turismo issued a series of picture postcards designed to advertise the country’s charms to the world at large. Printed in Italy by the Instituto Geográfico de Agostini, the series was available in sepia, blue, or green and sold as sets as well as individually. ...

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2. Mapping the Center of the World

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pp. 24-60

Between 1903 and 1909, four new maps of Quito appeared, a small number, to be sure, but one that equaled the number of city plans drawn over the course of the previous century. This period marked the onset of a pronounced expansion in local cartographic projections designed to facilitate urban planning, conduct censuses, or promote tourist vistas. ...

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3. Hispanismo: Site, Heritage, Memory

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pp. 61-84

Visitors to Quito in the 1920s and 1930s increasingly commented on the city’s majestic colonial architecture. This represented a marked change from nineteenth-century accounts, which often decried the city’s insularity or stressed the physical prowess of its indigenous population or the lack of basic services.1 ...

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4. Governance and the Sovereign Cabildo

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pp. 85-114

In September 1895, the day after his victorious entry into Quito, the new president, Eloy Alfaro, penned a letter to Carlos Freile, the newly appointed governor of Pichincha, bemoaning the capital’s lack of basic services. Bristling at the city’s underdevelopment, he declared his immediate intention to authorize up to fifty thousand sucres for the construction of a central market. ...

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5. The Durini Cosmopolis: Crafting a Hyphenated Vernacular Architecture

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pp. 115-146

In an undated photograph, attributed only to “Pazmiño” (fig. 5.1), a mustachioed man attired in a dark suit and straw boater, brandishing a cane, poses in profile, gazing past two similarly clad figures deep in conversation a few feet ahead of him. In his hands is a small parcel, wrapped in white paper, which suggests that he has just emerged from the great arcade beyond. ,,,

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6. A Phantasmagoric Dystopia

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pp. 147-178

Eloy Alfaro’s 1895 arrival in Quito as leader of the triumphant Liberal Revolution inspired the relocation of scores of partisan journalists, intellectuals, and politicians clamoring to build a new society. The migrants included a young satirist from Cuenca named Manuel J. Calle, known for his lampooning portraits of conservative ideologues.1 ...

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7. Santa Clara de San Millán: The Politics of Indigenous Genealogy

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pp. 179-210

In July 1940, a group of indigenous comuneros from the town of Santa Clara de San Millán on Quito’s outskirts petitioned Ecuador’s minister of social welfare to form an alternate cabildo. This communiqué criticized the current leadership, charging that the body constituted an elite oligarchy, or gamonal, ...


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pp. 211-218


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pp. 219-262

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 263-282


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pp. 283-290

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780822977438
E-ISBN-10: 0822977435
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822961666
Print-ISBN-10: 822961660

Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Pitt Latin American Series
Series Editor Byline: John Charles Chasteen and Catherine M. Conaghan, Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 867785880
MUSE Marc Record: Download for City at the Center of the World

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Historic preservation -- Ecuador -- Quito -- History.
  • Collective memory -- Ecuador -- Quito.
  • Quito (Ecuador) -- Historiography -- Social aspects.
  • Quito (Ecuador) -- Population.
  • Quito (Ecuador) -- History.
  • Place (Philosophy).
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