Finding Independence | Galapagos Unbound

Forming the Republic of Ecuador 

The turn of the century saw the first attempts to liberate Ecuador from Spanish sovereignty. A partisan group, predominately of Creole origin, first attempted to revolt against the crown in August 1809. Led by Juan Pío Montúfor, the group was able to overtake Quito, depose the president of the Audiencia of Quito, and form a Board of Governors that stood for 24 days before falling to Spain’s royalist troops.

Venezuelan Símon Bolívar had more success liberating South America from Spanish rule. A Creole like Montúfor, Bolívar also began his campaign for independence in 1808 when Spain was involved in the Peninsular War. After liberating Venezuela, he continued his military campaign and continued to liberate Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru. The liberation of Quito ultimately came about on May 24th, 1822, after the battle of Pichincha. While the battle was not a major clash between the liberators and royalists, it was significant in that it allowed the province to become part of the Republic of Columbia, with Guayaquil following soon after. By 1830, Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca seceded from Columbia and became the Republic of Ecuador.


Border Disputes and Political Divisions 

Ecuador’s independence from Columbia served as a catalyst for ongoing border disputes with their neighbor, Peru, however. While much of the world was gearing up for World War II, Peru and Ecuador were attempted to negotiate their dispute over some Amazon territory. The negotiations lasted from 1936-1938, after which the Peruvians abjured further negotiations. Border clashes continued until 1941, when war broke up. Ultimately, the Ecuadorian-Peruvian War reached a ceasefire in 1942 when Ecuador signed the Protocolo de Río de Janeiro. However, the issue was not resolved and war erupted between the two countries in 1981 and again in 1995. A more definitive agreement was finally reached in 1998.

Although Ecuador became a consolidated republic, rivalry between liberal and conservative factions continued to keep Ecuador in political tumult. The contention often led to violence, political changeovers, and split beliefs. While a conservative dictator found himself hacked to death by a machete outside his own palace in Quito in 1875, a liberal president found his end by a murderous mob outside of Quito in 1921. The rivalries continue to this day, although leaders meet much less violent ends.

A geographical split remains, and conservatives, backed by the church, are centered around Quito whereas Guayaquil tends to be more liberal with surviving socialist beliefs. With such a deep divide, it perhaps comes as little surprise that much of Ecuador’s history was tumultuous with transitions between military and civilian rule. Between 1930 and 1940, Ecuador was led by 17 different presidents—none of whom completed a term. It took until the latter half of the 20th century for Ecuador to start finding a steadier footing.