La Ronda Street in Old Town Quito

View of La Ronda - Quito, EcuadorWalking down La Ronda is like walking into eighteenth century Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. The narrow, pedestrian-only road is lined by remnants of the citys Spanish influence - narrow wooden doors opening into homes built around interior stone patios, wrought-iron balconies where geraniums hang from window baskets and whitewashed walls.Historic Importance

La Ronda began as no more than a small footpath leading from the city's first dwellings down to the river Pichincha. Pre-inca and Pre-hispanic residents used this path to make their way to the river to wash clothes or soak chochos. In colonial days, because of its proximity to the river, it became a place of privilege, home to some of the most influential people in Quito. Once the most southern point of Quito, the street gained importance by being the road through which patients were brought to Hospital San Juan de Dios, located on the western side of the street. In the 20th century it was home to Quitos bohemian community, housing painters, artists, musicians, poets, and artisans. Some of the countrys most influential thinkers lived on this street.

Origin of its Name

The Spanish called it La Ronda, meaning a small alleyway that lined the inside of the city walls (although Quito was never surrounded by a wall). Around 1880, the street was renamed Juan de Dios Morales, in honor of one of the most prevalent heroes of the 1809 revolution. Old habits die hard, however, and today Quiteos continue to refer to the street as La Ronda.

La Ronda Today

In the 1970s, the street suffered from serious disrepair, and was considered one of the most dangerous streets in the Old Town district. It was restored in 2006, with the help of the City of Quito, FONSAL (Fondo de Salvamento) and the inhabitants of the street. Much has been done to restore the neighborhood and maintain its original charm. For instance, when the street was torn up to modernize the sewage system, each of the cobblestones (placed in the eighteenth century to help horses and carriages get up the streets incline) was numbered and re-placed in its original position at the project's finish.

Thanks to this project, as well as to increased efforts on the part of the Municipal Office to raise security in the whole of Old Town, tourists and locals can now safely explore La Ronda, and experience a taste of what Quito was like in the eighteenth century.

What to Do There

Some of the past glory of La Ronda has been recuperated as some of the homes have been converted to art galleries, restaurants and small corner stores selling traditional items. Signs along the street tell the stories of the people who once lived there. There are also a number of quaint restaurants serving traditional Quiteo foods, from humitas (sweet and savory cornbread-like cakes steamed in the corn husk) to empanadas de viento (cheese-filled turnovers with a flaky crust that puffs up and fills with air during the frying process). During holidays such as Fiestas de Quito (the celebration of the citys foundation) and All Souls Day there are events such as concerts, marching bands, and street theater.

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