Ecuador: Quito

Quito (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈkito]) (Quechua: Kitu; Aymara: Kitu), formally San Francisco de Quito, is the capital city of Ecuador, and at an elevation of 2,850 metres (9,350 ft) above sea level, it is the second-highest official capital city in the world, after La Paz, and the one which is closest to the equator. It is located in the Guayllabamba river basin, on the eastern slopes of Pichincha, [verification needed] an active stratovolcano in the Andes mountains. With a population of 2,671,191 according to the last census (2014), Quito is the second most populous city in Ecuador, after Guayaquil. It is also the capital of the Pichincha province and the seat of the Metropolitan District of Quito. The canton recorded a population of 2,239,191 residents in the 2010 national census. In 2008, the city was designated as the headquarters of the Union of South American Nations.

The historic center of Quito has one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centers in the Americas. Quito and Kraków, Poland, were among the first World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO, in 1978. The central square of Quito is located about 25 kilometres (16 mi) south of the equator; the city itself extends to within about 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) of zero latitude. A monument and museum marking the general location of the equator is known locally as la mitad del mundo (the middle of the world), to avoid confusion, as the word ecuador is Spanish for equator.

Indigenous resistance to the Spanish invasion continued during 1534, with the conquistador Diego de Almagro founding Santiago de Quito (in present-day Colta, near Riobamba) on August 15, 1534, later to be renamed San Francisco de Quito on August 28, 1534. The city was later moved to its present location and was refounded on 6 December 1534 by 204 settlers led by Sebastián de Benalcázar, who captured Rumiñahui and effectively ended any organized resistance. Rumiñahui was then executed on January 10, 1535.

On March 28, 1541, Quito was declared a city and on February 23, 1556, was given the title Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de San Francisco de Quito ("Very Noble and Loyal City of San Francisco of Quito"), starting at this point its urban evolution. In 1563, Quito became the seat of a Real Audiencia (administrative district) of Spain and became part of the Viceroyalty of Peru, until 1717 after the Audiencia was part of a newly created Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada. Its administration on both Viceroyalties remained to Quito. (see Real Audiencia de Quito)

Under the Köppen climate classification, Quito has a subtropical highland climate (Cfb). Because of its elevation and proximity to the equator, Quito has a fairly constant cool climate. The average afternoon high temperature is 21.4 °C (70.5 °F) with an average night-time low of 9.8 °C (49.6 °F). The annual average temperature is 15.6 °C (60.1 °F). The city has only two seasons: dry and wet. The dry season, June through September (4 months), is referred to as summer; the wet season, October through May (8 months), is referred to as winter. Annual precipitation, depending on location, is about 1,000 mm (39 in).

Because of its elevation, Quito receives some of the greatest solar radiation in the world, sometimes reaching a UV Index of 24 by solar noon.

The fact that Quito lies almost on the equator means that high pressure systems are extremely rare. Pressure is stable, so very low pressure systems are also rare. From July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2011, the lowest pressure recorded was 998.2 hPa (29.48 inHg), and the highest was 1,015.2 hPa (29.98 inHg). Despite the absence of high pressure, Quito can still experience settled weather. Generally, the highest pressure is around midnight and the lowest in the mid-afternoon.

In Ecuador, cantons are subdivided into parishes, so called because they were originally used by the Catholic Church, but with the secularization and liberalization of the Ecuadorian state, the political parishes were spun off the ones used by the church. Parishes are called urban if they are within the boundaries of the seat (capital) of their corresponding canton, and rural if outside those boundaries. Inside Quito (the city proper), subdivision into urban parishes depends on the organizations that use these parishes (e.g., the municipality, the electoral tribunals, the postal service, the Ecuadorian statistics institute). The urban parishes of different types are not necessarily coterminous nor the same in number or name.

Quito has the largest, least-altered, and best-preserved historic center in the Americas. This center was, together with the historic centre of Kraków in Poland, the first to be declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO on 18 September 1978. The Historic Centre of Quito is located in the center south of the capital on an area of 320 hectares (790 acres), and is considered one of the most important historic areas in Latin America.There are about 130 monumental buildings (which host a variety of pictorial art and sculpture, mostly religion inspired, in a multi-faceted range of schools and styles) and 5,000 properties registered in the municipal inventory of heritage properties.

Although they arrived in Quito in 1541, in 1580 the Dominicans started to build their temple, using the plans and direction of Francisco Becerra. The work was completed in the first half of the 17th century. Inside the church are valuable structures, such as the neo-Gothic main altar. This was placed in the late 19th century by Italian Dominicans. The roof of the Mudéjar style church features paintings of martyrs of the Order of Saint Dominic. The roof of the nave is composed of a pair and knuckle frame, coated inside by pieces of tracery. In the museum located on the north side of the lower cloister are wonderful pieces of great Quito sculptors such as the Saint Dominic de Guzmán by Father Carlos, the Saint John of God by Caspicara, and the Saint Thomas Aquinas by Legarda. Another Baroque piece that stands is the Chapel of Nuestra Señora del Rosario, which is a recognizable feature of the architecture of Quito. This chapel was built beside the church, in the gospel side. In this was founded the largest fraternity in the city of Quito.

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