Photo by Christopher Herwig
In 1978 Quito became Unesco’s very first World Heritage City, but back then you would not have found Calle de la Ronda in any tourist brochure.
Today La Ronda is a jewel in Quito’s crown, thanks to an extensive rejuvenation programme. Once notorious for narcotics and illicit sex, the cobbled street is the heart of the Centro Historico and now throngs with local families, international visitors and police officers who make sure old elements do not return. Now pedestrianised, it’s lined with lively bars, restaurants and shops where eccentric craftsmen keep ancient traditions alive.
“The government has spent a lot of effort trying to recover traditional trades,” says Patricio Velásquez of Quito Tourismo. “We have a piano doctor, a milliner and makers of traditional chocolate.” Before it became rundown at the end of last century, La Ronda had been part of an affluent neighbourhood and was home to poets, politicians and musicians, some of whom are commemorated today by wall plaques.
The street is also alive with children playing games such as hopscotch and whipping top as part of a project called Let’s Play. “It’s about the traditional games which our parents played,” says Velásquez.
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