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Yaruquí (Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador)

Last modified: 2021-08-26 by klaus-michael schneider
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[Yaruquí] image by Ivan Sache, 24 June 2019

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The rural parish of Yaruquí (20,000 inhabitants in 2010; 31,163 ha), part of the Quito Metropolitan District, is located north-east of Quito.

Yaruquí is named for one of the tribes originally living in the area, which were submitted in the 10th century by the Cara Shyri. In 1460, Túpac Yupanqui (1441-1493), 12th Inca of Peru, conquered the area, in spite of the fierce resistance led by Hualcopo Duchicela (1430-1463), 14th Shyri. The last Shyri princess, María Yaruquí, established in Quito an orphanage; a close friend of St. Mariana of Jesus de Paredes (1618-1645; the first Ecuadorian saint, canonized on 9 July 1950 by Pope Pius XII), she died in sanctity in 1700.

Yaruquí was established on 29 May 1561; the ecclesiastic parish of Yaruquí was established on 8 September 1570 by Friar Pedro de la Peña, second bishop of Quito (1565-1583).
The rural parish of Yaruquí was established on 19 May 1986.
Parish website
Ivan Sache, 24 June 2019

The Flag

The flag of Yaruquí is horizontally divided red-white with the parish's coat of arms in the center.
Parish website

The coat of arms features the pyramid erected in the borough of Oyambaro in 1736 by the French Geodesic Mission.

The mission sent to the Presidency of Quito (Spanish Peru) to measure a meridian arc was composed of three astronomers, members of the French Academy: Louis Godin (1704-1760), Pierre Bouguer (1698-1758), and Charles Marie de La Condamine (1701-1774); they were joined by two geographers, also officers of the Spanish Navy: Jorge Juan (1713-1773) and Antonio de Ulloa (1716-1795). The French scientists left Paris in May 1735 and would come back to France, by different routes, only in 1744 and 1745.
The mission's report was published in 1751 by La Condamine as "Journal du voyage fait par ordre du roi, à l'Équateur, servant d'Introduction historique à la mesure des trois premiers degrés du méridien". The report is followed by a report specifically dedicated to the pyramids, "Histoire des Pyramides de Quito, elevées par les Académiciens envoyés sous l'Équateur par ordre di Roi",.

In September 1736, the French scientists set up the baseline used for further measurements on the Yaruquí plateau, overloooked by the Pambamarca mountain, still known locally as Frances Urcu (the French's Mountain). Concerned with re-use of the baseline in potential, subsequent campaigns, La Condamine decided to mark the two ends of the base with a millstone and a silver blade enclosed in a pyramide. The building of the pyramids was initiated in May 1740.
Before the expedition's departure from France, La Condamine obtained from the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres a proposal of Latin writing to be engraved on a plaque applied to the pyramids. A slightly modified writing was validated on 2 December 1740 by the Real Audiencia of Quito. Back to Quito in September 1741 after having repelled in Lima an English fleet commanded by Admiral Anson, the two Spanish officers sued La Condamine at the Royal Audiencia, accusing him to have forgotten to add to the writing their names and their contribution to the measurement of the meridian arc, thus showing disrespect for the Spanish nation, and to have erected a stone fleur-de-lis atop each pyramide, omitting the Spanish crown. On 19 July 1742, the Royal Audiency rejected the appeal and ordered to keep unchanged the pyramids and their writings, with the addition of a bronze crown above the fleurs-de-lis. Bouguer and La Condamine visited the pyramids for the last time on 27 August 1742.

La Condamine left Quito on 4 September 1742 for his famous return voyage on the Amazon, coming back to Paris only on 25 February 1745. Still concerened with "his" pyramide, he could obtained only partial information from second-hand sources. In late 1747, his voyage mate, Pedro Maldonado, incidentally told him in Paris that the Spanish Court had ordered to destroy the pyramids. Following protest by Jorge Juan, the order was cancelled. In a letter sent in 1748, Antonio de Ulloa informed La Condamine that an order was given to substitute a new writing to the original one. The name of to French ministers was removed and the two Spanish officers were presented in a "tricky and slightly ambiguous manner", La Condamine pointed out. He concluded his report with the sad news that the cancellation of the destruction order had arrived too late.

The Spanish traduction of "Histoire des Pyramides", published in Boletin del Instituto nacional Meija, May-June 1936, by José Paret includes additional information about the subsequebnt history of the pyramids.
The Royal Order prescribing the desctruction of the pyramids was issued on 25 August 1746, stating that "nothing should remain" of them. The cancellation Order, limiting the destruction to the writings and the fleurs-de-lis, was issed on 17 October 1746. The two Orders arrived, together, in Quito on 2 September 1747. Francisco Javier de Piedrahita, commissioned by the Royal Audiencia, visite the site on 28 October 1747; he ordered to destroy the still legible writings and to remove the fleur-de-lis. from both pyramids. The crowns had been for long removed by the natives. Piedrahita also established that the pyramids had been vandalized and the millstones and baldes removed. As anticipated by La Condamine, the scientific value of the pyramids was definitively lost.
In the next decades, the rumor of treasures hidden by the French academicians in the pyramids speeded to their destruction. Fragments of the pyramids were identified by travellers in different farms of the region. The abandon of the pyramids and the destruction of a scientific design by the Royal Audiencia stirred a strong reaction among scientists all over the world, and, especially, in those involved in the independence wars. The wised Caidas, who would be shot by the Spaniards, denounced in 1801 that the pyramids "were gone, killed by mad vanity, fanatism, and barbary". Humboldt planned in 1802 an expedition to restore the pyramids, but lacked funds to complete it. The "libertaodores" Sucre, Bolívar and Flores expressed their concern for the pyramids but could find the time to restore them.
Jean-Baptiste Washington de Mondeville, appointed by King Louis-Philippe as "French Consul in the State of Ecuador" in 1836, convinced President Vicente Rocafuerte (1835-1838) to restore the pyramids. The new pyramids were inaugurated on 25 November 1836 by Rocafuerte but the works lasted until 17 July 1837. Captain Jean-Hippolyte Soulin submitted on 24 July 1837 a detailed report of the restoration.

Not used by the French Ecuador Mission (1899-1905), the pyramids fell into oblivion until 1936, when the government of Ecuador decided to celebrate the bicentenary of the arrival of the French scientists in Quito. A special train brought on 31 May 1936 officials from Quito to Yaruquí, where the Oyambaro pyrmaide was decorated with several French and Ecuadorian flags. - C. La Condamine. Histoire des Pyramides de Quito - G. Perrier. 1943. Histoire des pyramids de Quito. Journal de la Société des Américanistes 35, 91-122. - Photo
Ivan Sache, 24 June 2019