Plaza Grande, Quito
Head to the Heartbeat of Quito
UNESCO got it right when it declared Quito’s historical center the world's first Cultural Heritage site. Hidden among the baroque churches, cobbled streets, and colorful markets lies a square of endless entertainment. If you find yourself in Plaza Grande on Sunday, then cancel your plans for the rest of the day. From morning to night, this square, no bigger than two soccer pitches, chimes with traditional music, vendors peddling their wares, theatrical performances, and religious preachers. On stone benches, gray-bearded men strum the hypnotic sounds of pasillo music. Sprawling up one side of the Catedral de Quito's steps, hundreds of locals watch a group re-enact Ecuador’s fight for independence. Up the other side, howls of laughter bellow against the 16th-century white walls as a face-painted comedian delivers his routine. Then, as the clouds above the Presidential Palace turn a deep red later in the day, suited men divulge the secrets of the Bible in front of studious locals.
By Simon Willis, AFAR Local Expert
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