When the Spanish arrived in Ecuador in 1526, Quito was a flourishing Inca city. But the Inca razed it to the ground rather than allow it to fall into the hands of the advancing conquistadors. The Spanish founded their own city on top of the ruins of the Inca city of which no trace remains. Today the old town, the Centro Historico, or El Centro, is regarded as the finest example in all the Americas of a Spanish colonial city, accorded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO. Since the country’s return to democracy, El Centro – and particularly the presidential residence – has become the focus of Ecuador’s frequent political demonstrations.