Carpe Diem, Quito Style: Exploring the emblematic figure of the “Chulla” over on La Ronda Street

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Quito Like a Chulla 

Nestled in the vibrant capital city of Ecuador, Quito’s La Ronda Street (“Calle La Ronda,” in Spanish) is not just a street but a living, breathing testament to the city’s rich history and culture. This quaint cobblestone alleyway, flanked by centuries-old houses and artisan shops, encapsulates the essence of Quito’s historic charm. Forming a part of this charm is the cultural icon known as the “Chulla Quiteño”—a figure that carries a deep sense of identity and tradition within the local Quiteño community. 

And it just so happens that La Ronda Street is the home of this folkloric figure of the “Chulla”: a sort of a witty bon vivant or socialite that’s often caught living beyond his means. A great way to learn more about this iconic figure in Quito’s history is by walking around La Ronda. In this blog, we’ll explore the unique features of La Ronda Street and how it ties into the cultural icon of the “Chulla Quiteño.” 

The Cultural Tapestry of La Ronda 

La Ronda has long been the crown jewel of Quiteño culture. A stroll down this beautiful street is like a journey back in time. The street, which has witnessed the passage of centuries, tells numerous stories of Quito’s colonial past and its evolution into a bustling modern city. It was here, in Spanish colonial times, that La Ronda took on its current-day significance—a place where culture, history, and nightly enchantments converge. 

Picturesque La Ronda street near Casa Gangotena, a renowned boutique hotel in Quito.
The Chulla over on La Ronda Street

By day, one can enjoy the simple charms of the many artisan shops and eateries, where little has changed over the last hundred years. The traditional trades of Quito are still practiced, and typical dishes are served.  

By night, La Ronda transforms into an enchanting scene, with lights illuminating the path and music filling the air. Visitors are treated to an array of enticing experiences, from traditional food stalls offering local delicacies to live music performances that resonate with the soulful melodies of Ecuador. It’s a place where every corner offers a new discovery, along with a new story to be told. 

What is a Chulla? 

While there is no direct translation in English for this unique term, it essentially means “unique” or “singular.” The phrase “Chulla Quiteño” specifically refers to a man from Quito who lives by himself and is self-sufficient, often highlighting his individuality and distinctiveness. In sum, he is a singular, bohemian individual who is proud of his Quiteño heritage. 

The song “Chulla Quiteño” (sometimes referred to, using the diminutive form, as “Chullita Quiteño”) is considered an anthem in Quito that captures the spirit of its people. It narrates the pride of being from Quito, highlighting the city’s social and cultural idiosyncrasies, its beautiful landscapes, and its historical significance. During the first week of December, you’ll often hear it being played throughout the city during Quito’s weeklong celebration of the capital’s foundation known as “Fiestas de Quito.” While opinions may vary on whether it defines the whole city in its current state, there’s no denying that it holds a special place in the hearts of Quiteños from virtually every part of the city, many of whom will often chime in on the lyrics if they hear the song come on. 

Ultimately, the Chulla Quiteño is a figure that signifies a blend of heritage, resilience, and a distinct flair for celebrating life. This notion is perfectly encapsulated in the vibrant atmosphere of La Ronda Street, where the essence of Quito’s heritage comes alive each night, and the anthem of “El Chulla Quiteño” echoes throughout the alley, particularly during “Fiestas de Quito.” 

A Journey Through Time 

Every aspect of La Ronda is a tribute to the city’s cultural legacy. A visit here is more than just a leisurely stroll —it’s an immersive experience that plunges you into the heart of Quito’s cultural heritage. The street serves as a bridge connecting the past with the present, inviting visitors to explore its historic buildings, engage with local artisans, and indulge in traditional Ecuadorian cuisine. Whether it’s savoring a warm canelazo (an alcoholic beverage made with strong spirits, sugar cane, and cinnamon) on a chilly evening or exploring the art galleries that line the street, La Ronda offers a slice of Quiteño life that is both timeless and vibrant.  

La Ronda and the Chulla Quiteño are not merely attractions—they are symbols of Quito’s enduring spirit and cultural richness. For those seeking to understand the essence of Quito, a visit to La Ronda is vital. It’s a place where history, culture, and community come together, offering a glimpse into the soul of Ecuador. Through its cobblestone paths, vibrant nightlife, and the proud anthem of the Chulla Quiteño, La Ronda stands as a testament to the beauty and diversity of Quiteño culture. 

Discovering the Time-Honored Trades of La Ronda 

Embellishing La Ronda’s cobblestone alleys, colonial-era buildings, and spectacular vibes are its ancient trades and crafts, many of which have been preserved and are continuously practiced throughout the alley. Small wonder that the Chullas are also often referred to as men of “14 trades and 16 wants.”  

Tinsmith: The Art of Tin 

The craft of tinsmithing, or “hojalateria,” is an age-old trade that involves cutting, shaping, and joining tinplate to create a variety of items ranging from utensils to decorative pieces. In La Ronda, tinsmiths work with precision and creativity, transforming sheets of tin into intricate works of art. The tinsmith’s ability to mold metal into functional and ornamental objects showcases an extraordinary blend of technical skill and artistic vision, making their workshops a fascinating stop for visitors. 

Goldsmith: A Legacy of Luster 

La Ronda’s goldsmiths are guardians of a glittering tradition, crafting exquisite jewelry and ornaments that reflect Ecuador’s rich cultural heritage. Working with delicate tools and techniques passed down through generations, these artisans meticulously shape gold into breathtaking designs. Their work not only embodies the beauty and craftsmanship of Ecuadorian jewelry but also tells stories of the country’s past, making each piece a timeless treasure. 

Cabinet Maker: Masters of Wood 

Cabinet making, or “Bargueños” as they are called in Quito, is another esteemed craft found in La Ronda. Here, cabinet makers are revered for their skill in working with wood, creating furniture and decorative items that marry functionality with beauty. Through their hands, wood is transformed into masterpieces, each with its own unique character and elegance. These cabinet makers take pride in their work, ensuring that the tradition of fine woodworking continues to be a hallmark of La Ronda. 

Toymaker: Creators of Joy 

In the realm of traditional trades, the toymakers of La Ronda hold a special place for their role in bringing joy and wonder to both young and old. Using methods that have been cherished for centuries, these artisans craft toys that are not only fun but also imbued with cultural significance. From wooden figurines to spinning tops, the toys made in La Ronda are a testament to the artisans’ creativity and dedication to their craft. 

Travel Through Time and Visit La Ronda! 

The traditional trades of La Ronda, paired with the vestiges of the iconic Chulla Quiteño, are a vivid reminder of the importance of preserving craftsmanship and cultural traditions in the modern world. Visitors who take a stroll down this historic street in Quito’s Old Town will be treated to an authentic experience, witnessing firsthand the skills, passions, and traditions that illuminate these ancient corners of the city. Whether you’re marveling at the delicate jewelry of a goldsmith, basking in the rhythms and ambiance of the nightlife, or cherishing the nourishing charm of traditional dishes, a visit to La Ronda is a journey into the heart of Ecuador’s cultural legacy. 

In exploring La Ronda and embracing the concept of the Chulla Quiteño, visitors and locals alike participate in a tradition that transcends time, celebrating the enduring wonder and heritage of Quito. 

Travelers exploring the unique landscape near Finch Bay, showcasing the luxury experiences offered by the Gangotena Boutique Hotel network in the golden triangle.
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