Every 6 of December Quito commemorates its Spanish independence. Although San Francisco de Quito was founded in the year 1534, it was only in 1960 that a representative newspaper and the major of the city turned this date into a 3-week festivity. The most representative tradition is the famous “Confraternity Parade”, where many colorful floats, schools and institution members as well as art groups march together through the famous Shirys Avenue.
Many decades ago, it was very popular to serenade young ladies during these days. Boys and men courted women with “piropos” or romantic limericks at “La Ronda” street in the old town. Nowadays, these festivities include many traditions like open-air concerts in various neighborhoods, tasting of typical food and the traditional alcoholic beverage “canelazo” a mix of cinnamon and hard liquor, Quito’s table games such as “40” are a must in parties and reunions.
To celebrate Quito, it is also common to remember the city’s legends. You can hear the story of the Almeida Priest, The headless rider, The Snore Box, Mariangula, etc. One of those, specially famed, is the legend of Cantuña.
This narration tells the story of and indigenous contractor -Francisco Cantuña-, who driven by greed, accepted to built the atrium of the San Francisco’s Church to the Franciscan friars. One day before the work was due, Cantuña panicked because he realized he could not finish the atrium. Lucifer took advantage of Cantuña’s despair and appeared that night offering to conclude the atrium before midnight, in exchange of one little thing; his soul.
Cantuña did not think twice and accepted the deal, with the condition that no stone should be missing when the devil finishes. Both agreed to this pact and little devils –disciples of Satan- started to build the atrium. In the end and just as the devil said, the atrium was finished at 12 o´clock at night. Time when he approached Cantuña to claim his soul. However, to his surprise the indigenous contractor took one of the stones from the atrium before the work was done and hid it beneath his clothes. Resolving that because the deal was not complete, Lucifer could not receive his payment, and the atrium was built anyway. The devil cursed him, but there was nothing else he could do; a mortal had tricked him. Lucifer returned where he belongs and the man complied his work with the Catholic Church.
The atrium of San Francisco is today one of the main attractions of the historical center and every citizen always remembers its story. The city festivities are not only used to become nostalgic about the old Quito; they are also time to celebrate our bicultural background and share good times with friends. If you like to discover new traditions, we encourage you to visit the capital of Ecuador during this time of the year.