City fragments: space and nostalgia in modernizing Quito, 1885-1942

Date
2005
Authors
Capello, Ernesto Boland
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Quito radically altered during the fin-de-siècle, growing from a small Andean hamlet into a burgeoning metropolis. This process increasingly took on a spatial dimension after 1908, when the completion of a railroad between the Ecuadorian capital and the port of Guayaquil accelerated the development of an industrial sector on the southern edge. Quito’s elite abandoned the colonial center for mansions on the northern environs in ensuing years, propelling a clear socio-racial segregation. A master plan developed in 1942 codified this situation while incorporating the wide avenues and parks typical of the City Beautiful movement ever since Haussmann drove his boulevards through the slums of old Paris. Nevertheless, the plan avoided demolishing the old city, giving the city’s segregation a temporal cast. This dissertation examines how perceptions of space, modernity, and memory influenced the production of the shifting – yet static – cityscape that developed between 1885 and 1942. It begins with a discussion of the panoramic gazes of cartographers and municipal planners, whose attempts to reorder the city according to the molds of science and progress disguised the perpetuation of traditional social inequalities. It next moves to urban dwelling with a discussion of everyday life across three city districts and a review of the architecture and acculturation of a Swiss immigrant family. A review of allegorical imagery follows, beginning with laudatory portraits of Quito as the locus of Ecuador’s Spanish heritage and continuing with the contrasting conceit prevalent in liberal and socialist novels that the city represented a social battleground. Finally, it traces the development of a pastiche among chroniclers using the vignette to overcome a perceived division between modernity and tradition, often incorporating folkloric themes and narrative styles. By juxtaposing these fragments, the dissertation argues that Quiteños from across temporal, spatial, and social boundaries coped with the pressures of modernization by redefining the city as a nostalgic place populated by the ghosts of a fictitious past.

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