Continuing with our exploration of some of those “little known corners” of Quito, particularly at the south end of the Historic Center, not far from the legendary Train Station of Chimbacalle, now beautifully restored and back to work as one of the two main terminals of Ecuador’s historic Trans-Andean Railway; we find another city jewel, semi-hidden on a popular neighborhood, surrounded by multi-colored houses: The Mexico Theater (locally, “Teatro Mexico”).  This is another icon of Southern Quito, built in 1945 as the first cinema of those neighborhoods that were starting to expand towards the south of the city, in the days when there was only some incipient black and white TV and no digital technology such as cell phones or even Internet.  Thus, the theater, with its neo-colonial architecture, dark red curtains and those grandiose Hollywood movie productions of the “Glory Days” of cinema provided the best entertainment for entire families, young couples and groups of friends.

With the fading of the railway and the disappearance of the activity at the Train Station, plus the advent of color-TV and other electronic entertainment alternatives, Teatro Mexico also closed its doors and fell into dust and oblivion, just a memory of “good old times” for the elder population. However, in 2008, as part of a massive restoration of the city’s patrimonial spaces, the Municipality of Quito decided to intervene and rescue this city heritage space.  Now we enter the theater, with a special permit to visit off-hours, to find with pleasant surprise that it has been turned around and converted into a totally modern Theater and Cultural Center, equipped with the most advanced audiovisual technology, laser illumination and frequent venue to some important city events, concerts, Miss Ecuador pageants and other special occasions. My friends and I comment how positive it is to have rehabilitated and modernized one such space for theater and culture, in an area without those elements.  With the Train Station back to work, the entire neighborhood and the city’s southern districts have woken up to a new reality and become integrated within the city’s patrimonial circuits.

A few blocks away we arrive at the MIC (Spanish initials for Interactive Museum of Sciences of Quito), a new and interesting proposal with a focus on education, where we find the largest scale-model of the city with its unique topography clinging around the foothills of the Pichincha Volcano to the west, and “crawling” over the eastern hills of Monjas, Itchimbia and Bellavista. The Museum offers students and visitors in general a fascinating encounter with the basics of Science, in an entertaining and practical way.  Being an Interactive space, also equipped with up-to-date technology, it allows the guests to conduct simple yet admirable experiments and to recreate the privileged position that Ecuador (and Quito, its capital) have by being at the Earth’s “waist”, the Equator.  Different and fun, the Interactive Museum of Sciences also proves to be well worth a visit, which we share with several groups of secondary students, some on organized classroom outings, others checking on their own, the basic facts of Science.

As the afternoon is coming to an end, we make our way back to “modern Quito” and its northern districts, not without making a brief passage by the charming colonial neighborhood of San Marcos, quietly tucked to the east of the Historic Center, yet just a few blocks away from its very heart, the Independence Square. The fascinating Junin Street is lined with neatly restored colonial and post-colonial houses, their balconies and flower-pots being a city trademark. The small square and adjoining pretty Church of San Marcos are real beauties, which call for post-card pictures, even in the later afternoon’s dimming light.  Small artists and artisans ateliers offer additional spaces of interest to explore and look for something new.  A lovely 8-room boutique hotel provides unexpected luxury to the area and, while chatting with the owner, we finalize our journey of exploration of some more of Quito’s “unknown” (or at least little known) corners, sipping a warm cup of coffee, a delicious brew, accompanied by a decades old “tea-time Quito sytle” delicacy: the “humitas”, soft and buttery, cheese-filled corn patties wrapped on the actual corn leaf. Just a few more “magic touches” of a magical city: Quito, the historic capital of Ecuador……

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