The present church in El Quinche, Santuario de la Virgen de El Quinche, was constructed in 1927 and it has a capacity for 966 seated persons and 3556 standing persons.
Many pilgrims come to El Quinche throughout the year to get blessings from La Virgen de El Quinche and to thank her for miracles. Many miracles have been assigned to her and she is said to have saved people from serious accidents and illnesses. She is very popular among taxi and truck drivers. In November, and especially for the procession on November 21, big crowds of pilgrims come here. For this day many pilgrims walk all the way from Quito (about 60 km away).
The sculpture of La Virgen de El Quinche is a small wooden statue, only 62 cm high, and it is standing above the main altar in the sanctuary. It was made by the artist Diego de Robles in 1588 and in 1604 it was brought from Oyacachi to El Quinche.
It is said that whoever ordered the sculpture didn’t pay for it so Diego de Robles traded it for cedar wood with the Oyacachi people. They put it in a cave and sang songs to the virgin. It is said the virgin protected their children from being eaten by bears and she did miracles, like bringing a dead child back to life and harvesting a field of grains without any help of humans.
Another story says that the artist himself was saved from falling down into a deep ravine when his clothes got caught by a thorn. And since then many more miracles have been attributed to the virgin.
I had arrived too late in El Quinche, but needed to eat something before returning to Quito. There was no time to look around for the nicest place, but I just took a quick look around the square and saw that there was a restaurant on the left side of the square (on your left if you stand facing the church). It was a fast food place and I ordered grilled chicken with French fries and a sprite to drink (a soft drink was included). Unfortunately they had put mayonnaise on the French fries, but there was nothing I could do about it at the moment. On the side I got a small salad which was good. The meal was $2.25 (August 2012).
I had not found any information about how long it would take to go to El Quinche, but I didn’t think it was going to take more than an hour from Rio Coca in Quito. I knew I started too late, but only planned to visit the church in El Quinche. From La Marin I took the Ecovía ($0.25) to Rio Coca, the end station in the north. Only that took about half an hour, but at Rio Coca I easily found the bus to El Quinche and it soon departed. What I had not expected was that the bus stopped everywhere along the way. We passed Cumbaya, Tumbaco and Pifo, and we arrived in El Quinche 1h 40 min after leaving Rio Coca. The ticket was $0.95 (August 2012).
While in El Quinch I asked if there were any other options than the slow bus. I was told there were also buses taking another route, arriving to Ofelia in Quito, but as it was Friday evening there might be much traffic and those buses would probably not be faster. I took a bus leaving for Ofelia. It was also $0.95, it did stop quite often but not as often as the other bus. It was already dark when we approached Quito and there was lots of traffic. From El Quinche to Ofelia it took 1h 25min.
I was very tired when I arrived in Ofelia and decided not to take the metrobus to La Marin, but a taxi, even if it wouldn’t be much quicker. The only taxi I saw didn’t want to go by taximeter and wanted to have $10 for taking me to Centro Histórico. I was too tired to look for another taxi and went inside. I should have taken the metrobus, because it would have been quicker (they have their own lane most of the way through Quito). The taxi took Av Occidental, which is often quick, but now it was much traffic and I think there had been an accident, because it was almost stop in the traffic, also entering Centro Histórico there was much traffic and we drove very slow, standing still a lot. It took 1h to go from Ofelia to Plaza Grande (where I was dropped as the street outside my hotel was closed).
One of the walls outside the church in El Quinche is full of plaques. These plaques are put up by people who have come here to thank the Virgin for her blessings and miracles.