Gentrification? Not in Quito

by Jordi Sánchez-Cuenca

Quito is one of the most important historical cities in the American continent. In fact it holds the largest, best preserved historical center in South America. In the past two decades the historical center has been benefitting from large amounts of public resources for its conservation and beautification. It is widely understood that the local and central governments intended to stimulate a gentrification process, however, it has not happened. Quito's center has also conserved it's popular character, with most housing options and commerce targeting middle-low income citizens (some 60 percent of its population).

Visiting Quito's center is a cultural experience, understanding culture as the expression of societies' identity, creativity and livelihoods. Despite that this city area has the largest concentration of museums, cultural centers and other cultural spaces targeting wealthier, higher educated citizens, most people living and visiting the center during the weekends are truly representative of the country's social spectrum, mostly from the middle-low income groups.

The interesting thing is that wealthier, higher educated citizens generally find the city center dangerous and inconvenient for car parking. Somehow, the large real estate businesses and their clients have not seen enough interest in the city center, which has prevented an informal economic eviction of the lower-income residents, because of increased rents, house prices, and property taxes. In addition, businesses are still catering to middle-lower income consumers, preventing a further decrease in the accessibility to less wealthy natives.

Credits: Image of Quito's Espejo street from Image of Quito's La Ronda from


  1. Thanks for the comment. Crime in Quito's centre is not worse than in other parts of the city. What happens, as in other Latin American cities, is that the better-off citizens have prejudices against lower-income neighbourhoods. This situation is related to unjust social relations rather than to crime statistics. Poverty distribution in Latin American cities is not geometrically concentric. Income distribution patterns respond to social and political factors determining land policy rather than to physical factors.

  2. Have you ever seen that Onion article "Sometimes I Feel Like I'm the Only One Trying to Gentrify This Neighborhood"?,11249/
    That is sort of how I feel living in the Centro Historico, haha. I feel waaaaay safer there than in the Mariscal, you won't catch me down there. We are glad they can't seem to convince rich people to move to our neighborhood.

  3. hey- I just found your article- I am in Quito right now and I'm finding the city very interesting for the fact that I was thinking that there would be a lot more homelessness- street poverty- visceral signs of poverty- thus far, I haven't really seen that. Or maybe coming from North America, I have a very different concept of what poverty looks like. Quito is VERY poor.
    I have been told that in the last 5 years the city was very different- very dangerous. Can you let me know your update thoughts on this?
    I'm not so interested in the upgrading/redevelopment of buildings- old colonial Quito will likely always be protected. I'm more talking about the fact that the average person in Quito looks rather middle class. I was also considering that there is the tendency for a middle to upper class aesthetic since S. Americans tend to take a little more care into dressing nicer than many middle class north americans.