The year is 1599 in Quito, a Spanish colony, only a tiny part of which is the modern-day Republic of Ecuador. Quito is an enormous city with a great diversity of ethnicities. The people of the city are dealing with circumstances such as shipwrecks, attacks by pirates, unsuccessful efforts of missionaries, civil problems, changes facing the economy, decadence of the rich, and resistance to transformation. But, there is a boom in the gold trade as well, which is one of the main reasons why Quito has been colonized. And, of course, there are ordinary people in the city trying their best to stay clear of disturbances in order to lead their simple lives as traders, slaves and merchants.
This is the story of Lane’s (2002) Quito 1599: City and Colony in Transition. Most people would not know anything about Quito until they have read this book. The author has spent a significant amount of time conducting research on the Spanish colony. His book is not only credible but also a very important piece of research for historians, economists, in addition to sociologists. Although Lane describes the various cultural groups in Quito, his focus on individuals makes it an incredible read for laymen, too, who may relate to the people of the Spanish colony facing their individual circumstances as best as they could. After all, 1599 was an interesting time of change for them.
Lane’s book also contains illustrations adding to the richness of its contents. What is more, the author’s focus on a single year, that is, 1599, makes Quito come to life, as though it is a living, breathing city today. Indeed, Quito 1599 is an extraordinary contribution to studies of Latin American history.