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City at the Center of the World

City at the Center of the World: Space, History, and Modernity in Quito

Ernesto Capello
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    City at the Center of the World
    Book Description:

    In the seventeenth century, local Jesuits and Franciscans imagined Quito as the "new Rome." It was the site of miracles and home of saintly inhabitants, the origin of crusades into the surrounding 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.As Capello reveals, Quito's society and its stories mutually constituted each other. In the process of both destroying and renewing elements of the past, each chronotope fed and perpetuated itself. 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7743-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Prelude
    (pp. xiii-xxii)

    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,” wove among a reveling crowd that was rife with Iberian textures—flat-brimmed sombreros, gaily patterned ponchos, and wineskins brought out for the holiday. The protesters unfurled banners challenging the Eurocentric festivities by proclaiming the pre-Columbian origin of the city with a banner on which a broad black line slashed through “1534,” the year when conquistador Sebastián de Benalcázar first...

  2. Chapter 1 The Politics and Poetics of Regionalism
    (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.

    The pictures on the fifty postcards are equally divided among images of the coastal and Andean regions of the country, with two landscapes from each area and twenty-three shots of each of the country’s two...

  3. Chapter 2 Mapping the Center of the World
    (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. The authors of these charts included a motley assortment of amateur geographers, architects, foreign commercial hires, and military personnel. Over the course of the first decades of the new century, normative tropes slowly emerged in their works, dominated by a symbolic lexicon considering...

  4. Chapter 3 Hispanismo: Site, Heritage, Memory
    (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 This shifting discourse stemmed from a variety of causes. To begin with, activist municipal authorities vastly improved the city’s services and infrastructure during the early twentieth century, making it easier for tourists to look beyond the dusty streets and poncho-clad Indians to note the buildings and plazas through which they walked. Another crucial factor was...

  5. Chapter 4 Governance and the Sovereign Cabildo
    (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. The Viejo Luchador also pledged future funding for other badly needed public works, arguing that “this capital has been quite badly maintained.”¹ The bluster of this communiqué, intended to discredit the Progressive governments of the previous decade, obscured Alfaro’s equally important...

  6. Chapter 5 The Durini Cosmopolis: Crafting a Hyphenated Vernacular Architecture
    (pp. 115-146)

    In an undated photograph, attributed only to “Pazmino” (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. The majestic arch rising above him provides a window into this grand commercial space filled with bustling shoppers illuminated by the sunshine streaming through the vaulted glass-and-iron roof. A police officer and his daughter animatedly...

  7. Chapter 6 A Phantasmagoric Dystopia
    (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 Upon the appearance of Calle’s magazine,Revista de Quito, in the Andean citadel, however, the publication turned its attention to the banal provinciality of Calle’s adopted home. His chronicles challenged the cherished notion of Quito’s traditionalist image by describing it as a veneer for an outmoded way of life at...

  8. Chapter 7 Santa Clara de San Millán: The Politics of Indigenous Genealogy
    (pp. 179-210)

    In July 1940, a group of indigenouscomunerosfrom 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, orgamonal, a term usually reserved for landed and agroexport oligarchy. The petition claimed further that the cabildo members had grown wealthy through their manipulation of the community’s common lands. Of particular concern to the petitioners were urban properties that lay in the town’s northern environs, which they charged the cabildo had distributed among themselves....

  9. Postscript
    (pp. 211-218)

    In 1935, a minor bureaucrat named Alfonso García Muñoz began publishing a column in the Quito dailyEl Comerciotitled “Estampas de mi ciudad.” These affectionate chronicles featured a wily figure known as Don Evaristo Corral y Chancleta. Don Evaristo was achulla, or prototypical urban mestizo, who combined the detachment and critical gaze of a Baudelarianflâneurwith the tragicomic sensibility of Chaplin’s Little Tramp. Over the next nine years, García Muñoz collaborated with comic actor Ernesto Albán on dramatic adaptations of theestampas, until the Glorious Revolution of 1944 sent him into exile along with several other members...