By Karen Betancourt
The first cry of Independence in Ecuador would not have been possible without the vigor, intrepidity, and insight of men and women with great desires for freedom. This event, which occurred on August 10, 1809, was the starting point of a series of rebellions that arose around Ecuador, mainly in Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca. After 13 years of conflict with the Spanish empire, which consisted of many confrontational moments such as on August 2, 1810, October 9, 1820, and November 3, 1820, the final battle for independence was on May 24, 1822. When thinking about the fight for independence in Latin America I am sure that a series of heroic names come to mind, one of them probably being Simón Bolívar. Known as The Liberator, he was the leader of many revolts that led to the independence of not only Ecuador but also to other nations such as Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Panama, and Bolivia. He is widely remembered as an important figure in the emancipation of Latin America from the Spanish throne. Additionally, one cannot forget the child hero, Abdón Calderón, who participated in almost all the battles for independence. He is commonly remembered for staying in combat despite having been shot four times. He continues to be remembered in schools with a legacy of civility, patriotism, and love of freedom that was instilled in him by his father before he died.
Likewise, the renowned Antonio José de Sucre, the Grand Marshal of Ayacucho, can never be forgotten. Credited for having won the Battle of Ayacucho, which meant the end of Spanish rule, he stood out for his great diplomatic and strategic work in forming the Liberation Army of the South which defeated the Spanish army in 1821. He is remembered for doing his job with loyalty and discipline throughout the fight for independence. In addition, he also participated in the creation of Ecuador as a nation. It is said that Sucre could have been the innate successor of Bolívar due to his strong conviction, morality, and sense of justice. As well as due to his constant fight in the defense of indigenous rights and the freedom of slaves.
When we think about the heroes of independence, surely we imagine hundreds of strong knights dressed as soldiers. However, in the fight for independence in Ecuador, we must also recognize the courageous actions of women heroines who fulfilled many important roles. The first to come to mind is the free-spirited Manuela Cañizares. She played an important part in the fight for independence by meeting discreetly in her house with the patriots to encourage them to carry out the revolutionary coup during the early hours of August 10, 1809, which installed an Autonomous Government in the country. Her fight against injustice and her support was always decisive. This is despite the fact that years later she had to hide when a criminal proceeding was carried out for all those involved in the rebellion and she was sentenced to death if found. Another significant woman is known as the Liberator of the Liberator, Manuela Sáenz. Remembered today not only for her love of Bolívar but especially for her courageous intervention in having orchestrated an attack against him. She was undoubtedly a heroine who showed no fear while dressed in a military uniform, using weapons and espionage tactics against the Spanish empire during the war.
We must also recognize the heroic intervention of other silent protagonists such as Rosa de Montúfar. An aristocrat from Quito, she helped hide the libertarian leaders, including her father and uncle, in her hacienda in the Valley of Los Chillos after they fled from the dungeons of the city of Quito. She also helped Antonio José de Sucre and his troops before the Battle of Pichincha. Montúfar was the only member of her family who did not have a prison order. At the young age of 25, she had to defend herself legally to ensure her freedom and claim her assets that had been confiscated by the state. In addition, she contributed money to hire soldiers, buy food, and offered slaves from her own farms to work as soldiers. These actions could have cost Rosa her life, but her ingenuity and strength helped drive the course of the long-awaited autonomy of the country.
Lastly, we cannot deny the brave role played by the princesses or “guarichas,” as said in Kichwa. A term that was later made synonyms to “liberal woman” by the Spanish. These women are those who joined the fight for independence together with their husbands or boyfriends and participated in logistical and even military activities. The guarichas were rebellious Andean warriors, and mestizo women who used their clothing to store food and take it to the soldiers. They were strong but compassionate, providing first aid and care to the wounded. They were wise women committed to revolutionary principles, who even helped send and receive correspondence. They did not fear anything, nor did they mind being cold and hungry, which allowed them to act as spies and combatants on the battlefield. They commonly used bayonets and machetes, carried weapons and ammunition, and many even did so while carrying the weight of their children on their back. It was thanks to these resilient, creative, strong, confident, and faithful women that the country was able to defeat the Spanish throne.
This is how these heroes and heroines left a legacy of determination, audacity, strength, resistance, and courage. Their notorious but often stealthy and discreet work leaves us with a great lesson on how our patriotic fervor can be capable of promoting change in our nation. As well as teach us how to persevere in the face of those who try to diminish what we feel is right. It is with the courage of these heroes that we should try and fight against injustice everyday. We must continue to fight for and defend our freedom while also honoring the heroes of our independence who gave their souls and lives for the country.
Author: Karen Lisbeth Betancourt Ludeña