La Ronda Calle: A Charming Reminder of Old Town Quito

If you want to capture the feeling of Quito in the 1800’s, take a walk down La Ronda.  This quaint, cobblestone street covers just a couple of city blocks, easing its way up a hill edged with remembrances of Quito’s Spanish heritage—old wood doors that open to reveal a plant-filled patio, burbling fountains and thick plastered walls.

Solid stone entryways and wide stone steps contrast with delicate ironwork.  Baskets of flowers and colorful flags hang from the walls and balconies.

La Ronda was first a footpath that led to the Pichincha River where people washed their clothes or bathed in pre-Incan times.  Later, its ideal location near the river made it a sought-after address by the city’s wealthier citizens.

For a time those needing treatment at Hospital San Juan de Dios were brought by way of  La Ronda.  During the 1900’s the street became a bohemian hangout where artists and artisans, poets, singers, painters, well-known writers, intellectuals and musicians lived and worked. The street was famous for its bars and cabarets, some subterranean.

This article contains several stories about La Ronda in the 1930’s-

One such underground establishment in the mid-‘30’s was a bar in the basement of a grocery store.  It was called “El Murcielagario,” which meant “bat place.” You could only gain entrance if you knew the password, which was "comandante.”  Singers, poets and musicians entertained there and performed their compositions, which were called “pasillos.”

A legend on La Ronda was Don Eliseo Sandoval, who lived in a house on the street and ran a store that sold used items.  Parents would threaten naughty children by telling them they would be sold to Taita Pendejadas, as he was called.

La Ronda means, “small alleyway.” Even though it was renamed Juan de Dios Morales after a hero of the 1809 revolution, the name La Ronda stuck and is still used to this day.

At least one old-timer who lived in La Ronda claimed that the area’s demise was partly the result of the construction of the bus terminal, Terminal Terrestre Cumanda, which attracted unsavory types to the neighborhood. Delinquent behavior rapidly increased.

By the late 1900’s the street was in terrible shape and a very dangerous place to find yourself.  It was the trolling area for prostitutes and drug dealers.  Following careful restoration in 2006 it is now quite safe, patrolled by friendly, helpful policemen day and night instead of ladies of the evening.

The cobblestone streets contain the original stones and today it's one of the most charming and nostalgic areas in Old Town Quito.

These days the street is alive with art, music and creativity.

You’ll find tiny restaurants, specialty shops, art galleries and a museum.

Food vendors sell traditional food such as humitas (steamed corn cakes), and empanadas de vientos filled with cheese. Sometimes there are bands, theater groups and musical events performing along the street.

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