Monday, December 4, 2017

The Legend about El Panecillo in Quito, Ecuador

“Leer, es otra forma de vivir; en realidad, una hermosa forma de vivir muchas vidas en una.”
“Reading is another way of living; actually, a beautiful way to live many lives in one.”
-- Édgar Allen García, Ecuadorian author who writes about this legend

Hill shaped like Spanish bread

This is a legend about El Panecillo, a famous hill in Quito, Ecuador. It apparently got its name because the shape reminded the Spanish conquistadors of the bread baked in Andalusia, Spain.

El Panecillo from Old Town Quito, Ecuador

El Panecillo in Inca times

Before the conquistadors arrived, the hill was known as Yavirac. The Incas celebrated Inti Raymi, the Festival to the Sun there. During the solstice, people from various regions gathered to sing, dance and drink.

According to the legend, the last Inca emperor, Atahualpa, built a sun temple of pure gold there. After they executed Atahualpa, the Spaniards quickly marched to Quito to find the golden sun temple. Not a single nugget was found on Panecillo.

Photo of El Panecillo in CPlaza Hotel, Quito, Ecuador

Where was the gold?

What the Spaniards did not know is that the gold was inside the heart of the hill. There, hundreds of beautiful maidens who never grow old care for the sun temple. It's said Atahualpa's mother is also there.

If you go looking for the gold

If you ever manage to find the secret entrance, many dangers await you. Eventually you will come to the home of an old woman. She will get off her throne of solid gold and ask you to select from one of two tables: a table with a huge gold stone plus pearls, rubies and emeralds, or, a table with a corn tortilla, a cob of tender corn and mote.

If you choose the first table, you will likely end up with a piece of brick and common stones. If you choose the second table, the tortilla suddenly becomes a huge piece of solid gold. The tender corn turns into nuggets of silver, and the mote becomes bright beads.

The person who narrated this tale lived in a mansion on one side of Panecillo. He won't tell you whether he visited the sun temple, but he loved to eat tortillas, tender corn and mote.

Thank you to Ecuador resident David Sasaki for sharing this legend with me. You can read more legends in the Spanish language book "Leyendas del Ecuador" by Edgar Allan García.

Have you ever gone in search of treasure?


  1. What a fun story. As a child, I always wanted to go on a treasure hunt. Now, I know I've god the most precious treasure in my own home: The love of Christ and my family. Have a wonderful Christmas!

    1. Thanks so much Heather! Have a wonderful Christmas, too.

  2. H Emily - what a great tale ... remembrances of Ecuador's cultural history and folklore - love it ... cheers Hilary

    1. Thank you, Hilary! I enjoy learning these stories and will share them from time to time.