They’re changing the guard at the Presidential Palace
April 27, 2011
In the centre of Quito’s Old Town, the Plaza de la Independencia – also known as Plaza Grande – is an essential part of any city tour and, like nearby Plaza San Francisco, is a beautiful square where we recommend simply taking a seat and watching the world go by. Plaza de la Independencia is home to the Presidential Palace, and it is outside this imposing building that crowds gather every Monday morning to watch the colourful ceremony of the changing of the guard. The President himself participates when he is in town, and we were lucky enough to be there on one of those days.
The event begins promptly at 11 am but the build-up begins before that, with beautifully groomed horses tethered and snorting on the streets and limousines bearing VIPs sweeping into the palace’s side entrance. We picked a spot and watched the excited school children who had been chosen to take the front row as they lined up, cameras at the ready. Bang on time, the lines of guards in their impeccable blue, red and white uniforms appeared, national flags held aloft. The band struck up several rousing marching tunes and the national anthem as drummers joined the beautifully choreographed process around the plaza and the palace’s colonnades.
Meanwhile, up on the balcony, the Vice-President Lenin Moreno appeared to rousing applause, followed by President Rafael Correa himself, who spent a long time waving and smiling at the crowds just below him. There must have been fifteen people alongside him on the balcony, many wearing dark glasses and with visible earpieces, yet the President felt incredibly accessible and appeared entirely relaxed, turning his back on us to salute the raising of the national flag on the top of the palace towards the culmination of the ceremony.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Quito but haven’t ever experienced this before, and really enjoyed the spectacle, the atmosphere, and the chance to take photographs at close quarters of the President himself! Highly recommended if you are in Quito on a Monday morning.