Take a Stroll Through Quito’s Independence Square
Located in the heart of Quito’s historic district, Independence Square has as its main feature a monument honoring those who first called for independence from the Royal Audience of Quito in August 1809. The Royal Audience of Quito was created in August 1563 by Philip II of Spain as an administrative unit of the Spanish Empire having political, military and religious power over territories which included modern-day Ecuador, and parts of Peru, Colombia and Brazil. It ended in 1822 when these territories were included in the state of Gran Colombia. Independence Square, also referred to as Big Square, is the central square of Quito with historic buildings flanking the square including the Cathedral of Quito, Carondelet Palace, the Municipal Palace, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Plaza Grande Hotel. The square is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as Quito Plaza de la Independencia.
The square started off as an open area with a water source for the people of the developing city. The ground around the demarcated area for the square was soon bought and built on. The Catholic Church bought land on the north and south sides of the square and constructed the Cathedral of Quito and Archbishop’s Palace – the headquarters of the archdiocese. Captain Juan de Díaz Hidalgo – one of the city’s founders – built his private residence near the Archbishop’s Palace. Today the original building, which was known as Palacio Hidalgo, is the Hotel Plaza Grande. Other founding families built their homes on the western side of the square, but these suffered severe damage in the 1627 earthquake and were demolished, with the Carondelet Palace being built in their place. The original municipal buildings on the eastern side of the square were demolished in the 1970s and replaced by the Quito City Hall which continues to serve as the headquarters for the Municipality of Quito.
It was only in the 18th century that the open space was developed into a city square, with gardens being planted and paving completed. Several changes took place over the years and during the first term of Ecuadorian President Eloy Alfaro (1895 to 1901) he commissioned a monument to commemorate the centenary of what was considered to be the first call for independence. The monument remains the predominant feature of the square, which is an oasis of greenery surrounded almost entirely by historic colonial buildings.