Before our adventures into the Amazon, our trip began with a tour of the capital of Ecuador- Quito. Our tour took place in the Old City of Quito which is an absolutely beautiful place containing gorgeous Baroque architecture. Baroque is a “visually overwhelming” style of architecture that was used to show God’s magnificence through art as a push back against the reformation movement. Our first stop was La Basilica- a Catholic cathedral. This building has extremely unique gargoyles– they represent the species found in the Galapagos Islands! We then went to the Grande Plaza, or la plaza de la independencia. This square is not only beautiful, but it contains the Ecuadorian version of the white house (the political power), as well as the religious power (the cathedral where the arch bishop lives). It is a popular area for socializing and protesting. Our group was able to walk right up to the President’s house– something you couldn’t imagine doing in the US.
Next we visited Quito’s version of the MET to see an exhibition on indigenous art. The art created by indigenous people is typically brightly colored and lacking perspective, and is often referred to as “naive art”. Most of the work featured in the exhibition showed the struggle of the indigenous and oppressed people in Ecuador, where much discrimination still exists. The exhibition also included photographs of indigenous tribes, which I found to be the most interesting as they portrayed a rare peek into a different world.
After the MET we visited the gold church, or la Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus. This is a Jesuit church. The Jesuits were pushing back against the reformation at this time and wanted to teach religion through art. Using baroque style and tons of gold, they created a church that would portray the magnificence of God and enhance the admiration of the Virgin Mary and the saints. The church is a work of art inside and out, from top to bottom. It absolutely glimmers with gold and ornate designs. The creation of this church launched Quito to become an important school of religious art.
For lunch we got to have a unique Ecuadorian cuisine– Cuy (Guinea pig)! The meat was quite good although seeing the whole guinea pig on the plate– head, legs, and all, turned a few people off. Finally, we visited the Equator Monument in the “City in the Middle of the World”. We got to take pictures standing in the center of the world, and had a fun time bonding with our group.