One of my favorite things about Latin America is the Spanish architecture. I love the colonial buildings, plazas, brick streets, and old churches. Quito has all of that and more with the a breathtaking cathedral in the middle of downtown, Basilica del Voto Nacional.
I’m not going to lie, this cathedral threw me for a loop. My friends and I were taking guesses as to what year it was built and I totally went with the educated guess of the 1600s. It made sense to the nerdy history teacher in me. After all, Spanish explorers came to Quito in the 1530s, give them a little time to get established as a colony and then they start wanting to spread Catholicism so they build a massive cathedral. Boom. Huge gothic cathedral in the middle of downtown. Wrong. They started building this thing in 1884! I was WAY off and it’s all because it’s neogothic style. Neogothic, or new gothic, is a revival of gothic architecture (from the late middle ages 1200s-1500s) that started in England in the 1800s – as seen in the British Parliament building. And apparently this style spread to Latin America, considering how the Basilica del Voto Nacional is the largest example of neogothic architecture in the Americas.
One of the coolest things about this cathedral was that instead of gargoyles, they had indigenous animals guarding the building. One of the locals told me when they made this cathedral that the Ecuadorians didn’t understand why other cathedrals used gargoyles as they weren’t real, so they went with animals that they were known to the people of Quito – from crocodiles and jaguars to monkeys.
We also came back to Colonial Quito to see it all lit up at night. I also had the chance to chat with one of the local students about the Spanish conquest of the Incas that evening. He spoke mostly Spanish, me mostly English, but we still managed to carry on a conversation. Cross culture history nerdiness at its best.