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Quito's history is a long one. During the pre-Columbian era, the contemporary Quito area was occupied by several tribes, including the Quitus, from whom the city took its name. While the Inca controlled Ecuador in the beginning of the 16th century, Quito was the capital of the northern half of the Incan empire. But in 1533, the Inca general Rumiñahui, destroyed Quito to keep it from being captured by the advancing Spanish conquistadors. A year later, however, the Spanish conquered the Inca and the Spanish lieutenant Sebastián de Benalcázar began rebuilding Quito from the ruins left behind by Rumiñahui.
From 1544 to 1720, Ecuador was a part of the Viceroyalty of Peru until it joined the newly-created Viveroyalty of Nueva Granada. Quito became a Royal Audienca of Spain in 1563, which allowed it to deal directly with Madrid instead of going through Lima for certain political matters. Antonio José de Sucre liberated the city in 1822 during South American troops' revolt against Spanish rule. Several memorable events occured in the 20th century, including the people dragging the dead body of President Eloy Alfaro, leader of the Liberal Revolution assassinated in the city's prison, through the streets, and the coup d'état attempt on September 1, 1975, when the army attacked the presidential house during the government of General Guillermo Rodriguez Lara.
Three years later, Quito was deemed a UNESCO Cultural Heritage of Humanity, and the city started expanding in the 80s. Though not the economic center anymore, Quito still retains its enterprising spirit and position as political center of the country. Its enormous effort to restore itself after many natural disasters (earthquakes, particularly in the 19th century) has made it one of the most pleasant places to visit in South America.