The Importance of Being Ecuador, 3

1. Ecuador’s “national revolution” began as a reaction against Bonaparte’s extension of French capitalism to Spain, cannonading the tricolor and imperial crown onto the Bourbon throne. In this, its origins in reaction, the Ecuadorean “revolution” is not so far removed from the beginnings of the French Revolution itself– brought forward first by the reaction of the aristocracy against the “progressive,” national measures of the crown.

But that’s where the parallel ends. While the peninsulares pretended to be an aristocracy, the criollos couldn’t quite make it as the bourgeoisie.

In a rebellion against usurped colonial rule and for the restoration of the Bourbon king, Quito’s criollos ousted Bonaparte’s agents….but not for long. As soon as “loyalist” troops approached, the criollos abdicated power, hoping to avoid reprisal and retribution. They had no such luck.

The criollos had initiated a revolt against colonial rule in loyalty to colonial rule. Tripping over their own feet, the criollos make their entrance onto the stage of history with their pratfall nationalism, providing overture and coda to the development of bourgeois rule in developing Ecuador. Confusion, misstep, cowardice in everything save exploitation and oppression of the indigenous people was the singular contribution of the criollos to liberation from Spain.

2. The criollos of Quito emerge as attendants to an economy of forced labor, of compulsory exports, of the repressed and depressed domestic market. As such they inherit servility; they exhibit equivocation. They are, by the terms of historical origin, inadequate to the tasks of emancipation. They are detached from the organization of property and labor that could transform them from agents into owners; that would propel them into leadership. Only the merchant, trading bourgeoisie of Guayaquil have the attachment to bourgeois property that permits them to proclaim the indentity of patriotism, freedom, and commerce.

In October 1820, independence is proclaimed in Guayaquil by a junta under the leadership of the poet, Jose Joaquin Olmedo. But the criollos of Quito are silent. They lack a voice, even the voice of the second-rate bourgeoisie of Guayaquil which is strong enough, at least, to appeal to foreign allies, in Venezuela, in Argentina for the armies they themselves are to weak to raise, organize, lead.

Bolivar dispatches Antonio Jose de Sucre Alcala at the head of a detachment from his army of continental liberation. Sucre achieves a number of successes only to be defeated at Ambato at which point, he appeals to a foreign ally, Jose de San Martin of Argentina with his southern army of liberation. San Martin sends Andres de Santa Cruz Calahumana and 1400 troops to aid the “patriotic” army of foreigners, the international army of national liberation. And finally, on May 24, 1822, after the Battle of Pichincha, on the slopes of a volcano outside Quito, the Audencia of Quito is overturned. Ecuador is freed from the formality of Spanish rule; from Spanish administration. But the legacy of Spain, of conquistadore, of encomienda, of mita, of obrajes, of hacienda, and of course of peninsulares, criollos, and indigenas, remains and informs the future.

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