Category Archives: Quito

Guayasamin’s Chapel of Man

Whenever I am in Quito, I make a point to visit the Guayasamin museum. Oswaldo Guayasamin was an Ecuadorian expressionist painter, sculptor and designer, who lived from 1919-1999. In February 2007, I wrote a general overview of the museum with a focus on the Guayasamin Foundation. During my visit this past July, I concentrated on the museum’s most recent addition, Guayasamin’s Chapel of Man, La Capilla del Hombre in Spanish.

After presenting the Chapel project to UNESCO, in 1989, Guayasamin received support and funding to construct the Chapel of Man next to the Guayasamin Foundation in the Bellavista neighborhood of Quito. Construction began in 1996 and the Chapel was inaugurated in 2002, three years after Oswaldo Guayasamin passed away. The Chapel of Man is an attractive structure dedicated to the men and women of the Americas and the eternal flame inside the Chapel represents peace and human rights. A quote by Guayasamin reads, “Mantengan encendida una luz que siempre voy a volver,” which means, “Keep a light burning for I will always return.”

The Chapel of Man takes one on an unsettling journey through Ecuador’s turbulent history. Guayasamin’s paintings illustrate the pain and sadness of having lost friends and colleagues in insurrections and political upheavals throughout South America. The Chapel’s contemplative environment and Guayasamin’s impressive larger-than-life paintings are emotionally moving and stir an inquisitive mind. A quiet afternoon walking through the Chapel refreshes my memory of Latin American history, the root of Ecuador’s continuous struggles and challenges.

I cried because I didn't have any shoes until I saw a child without feet.

I cried because I did not have shoes until I saw a child that did not have feet. -Oswaldo Guayasamin

Guayasamin: Ecuador’s Renowned Painter, Sculptor and Designer

Mother and child

Recently, a friend and I visited Oswaldo Guayasamin’s collection of art in the Bellavista section of Quito. My first visit to the museum was in 2005 with my Spanish teacher. The museum offers so much to see and comprehend that it is impossible to assimilate everything even after one or two visits. I would recommmend taking the guided tours offered in each building and then walking around on your own.

Oswaldo Guayasamin was born on 6 July 1919 and passed away in 1999. He was the oldest of ten children and the son of a mestizo (mixed race) mother and an indigenous father. Guayasamin’s family was poor, but his mother always encouraged his interest in art. He went on to study at the School of Fine Arts in Quito and became famous during his lifetime. Guayasamin’s art is truly moving and illustrates the social injustices of the world, particularly in the Americas.

clay designs and beadsThere are three parts to the museum. All are located in close proximity of each other. First, is the Guayasamin Foundation, which houses a variety of his paintings, sculptures and jewelry designs along with his Pre-Colombian archaeological and Colonial Art collection. The second is The Chapel of Man, where most of his larger paintings are exhibited. Finally, his last home, which is not always open to the public, offers spectacular views of Quito from the garden.

The Pre-Colombian artifacts collected by Guayasamin over a fifty-year period are nicely exhibited at the Guayasamin Foundation. There are a variety of archaeological pieces including ancient musical wind instruments made of clay, figures depicting sexual positions and giving birth, jewelry, kitchen tools, bowls and funerary urns.

Guayasamin’s Colonial Art collection includes wooden statues of saints, the Virgin Mary and Christ created by artists of the Quitenian School (17th and 18th centuries). Many of the artists were indigenous people originally trained by Franciscan and Dominican monks. It is amazing how the shiny paint used to decorate the statues makes the wooden figures appear to be made out of ceramic. The graphic depictions of Christ suffering is another characteristic particular to the Quitenian style. Many of the statues show Christ’s skin torn away and profuse bleeding. Some of the figures of Christ even have small windows on his body, so you can see parts of his skeleton.

This time around we did not make it to The Chapel of Man, but I remember it vividly from my first visit. Guayasamin’s large paintings are displayed in an impressive manner and are often accompanied by his own comments written in large typeface on the walls of the Chapel. The history of human suffering and the social injustices committed against the indigenous population are clearly reflected in Guayasamin’s paintings. His thought-provoking paintings are an excellent introduction to Ecuadorian history.

Oswaldo Guayasamin

Quito’s Hotel Los Alpes

the picture hanging above the bed in my favorite room

Hotel Los Alpes is my favorite hotel in Quito. A friend always jokingly says I stay there because it is close to the United States Embassy. Really, the service is excellent, it is centrally located, in a fairly safe area, and it is in the same neighborhood as the school where I took Spanish lessons two years ago. In January 2005, I attended the Simon Bolivar Spanish School for three and half weeks and lived with an Ecuadorian family nearby, so I am familiar with the Mariscal neighborhood. Two blocks away from the hotel is the Escovia bus system. For 25 cents you can travel almost anywhere in the city.

The hotel is owned by the Facchinei family. Most of the people working at the hotel have been employed there for many years. The other day one of the housekeepers told me she started working at the hotel when it opened twenty-six years ago. Everyone is always welcoming, helpful and friendly. When I arrived in July 2006, I was unable to collect one of my suitcases. Due to an unannounced American Airlines embargo, I had to ship one suitcase via a UPS Store cargo service. For some reason, the UPS Store filled out a new form and put a different name on my luggage, so I was not able to pick it up in Quito in time for my Galapagos flight. The hotel arranged for one of their taxi drivers to complete the paperwork I had begun at the airport and then he shipped the suitcase to Galapagos. Needless to say, I greatly appreciated their concerted effort.

Hotel Los Alpes is located several blocks from a variety of restaurants, galleries and my favorite bookstore, Libri Mundi. This bookstore has a large selection of books in a number of languages. There are many restaurants in the Mariscal area that cater to North Americans and Europeans. Some of the more delicious and authentic food can be found only a block or two away at the small cafes, where you can get almuerzo for just $1.50 or $2.50. Almuerzo is a fixed lunch, which means there is generally no choice. It includes a glass of juice, soup as an appetizer, the main course (usually rice, potatoes, a small salad and meat or fish) and a dessert. Most of the time it is just right. There is always the choice of ordering a la carte for a higher price.

The South American Explorers Club office is a couple blocks away from the hotel. This organization is an excellent South American travel resource. There are many advantages to becoming a member, including having mail delivered to their office and being able to leave luggage with them while you visit other parts of the country.

There are many parks, museums and cultural activities within a fifteen minute walk or bus ride from Hotel Los Alpes. On weekends, Elijido Park always has artists displaying their work and artisans selling their crafts. Near the Park is the Central Bank Museum, which is known for its archaeological collection. Both are just a five minute walk from my favorite hotel in Quito.

View when I lean out my favorite room’s window