On May 24th in 1822, a battle took place on the slopes of the Guagua Pichincha Volcano above Quito that would end the Spanish occupation of the city after centuries. It marked a turning point in the independence of the country and is celebrated in cities, towns, and villages across Ecuador. Keep reading how a small group of soldiers defeated one of Spain’s biggest strongholds in South America and where to go to celebrate at the end of May.
By 1822, the war for independence against Spain in South America was in full swing on the continent. Simon Bolivar had liberated much of the empire and sent his general, Antonio José de Sucre from the port city of Guayaquil to Quito to upend the Spanish after two failed attempts in the previous years.
Sucre had learned from his mistakes and moved in from the south of the city to outmaneuver the Spanish and take the high ground above the city.
The tactic worked, and the rebels clashed with Spain’s army on the slopes of Pichincha and defeated the occupying forces. In the days and weeks that followed the city was surrendered to the Ecuadorian general and Simon Bolivar entered Quito to a hero’s welcome.
The moment marked the passing of the Spanish rule in the country, and Bolivar went on to finish off Spain’s forces in Peru.
In present-day Ecuador, people across the nation witness great pomp and circumstance as military parades and remembrances flood the street of Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca and citizens and tourist alike enjoy this multitudinary event.
In the capital, during May 24th the president gives his annual State of the Union address, comemorating the Battle of Pichincha, and the historic center is full-its normally sleepy streets alive with color, sound, and movement.
It’s not just the country’s history that is on display, it is its spirit. Fireworks explode in the sky, jubilant faces greet you at every turn, and music and performances take place in plazas and theaters in the big cities.
For an authentic experience that captures the spirit of the holiday, head to the Cima de la Libertad, a monument built on the site of the historic battle. The complex includes a military museum where the battle is explained, and you can see the intricacies of the tactics used. Each May 24th, the military holds a ceremony on the grounds where bands, parades, and music pay tribute to the heroes of the revolution.
The museum and monument are located above the historic center of Quito and is easiest to reach via taxi from Plaza Grande.