On this page:Gran Colombia and Independent Ecuador | Gabriel García Moreno and the Era of Conservatism |

Gran Colombia and Independent Ecuador

Less than two months after independence forces defeated the Spanish royalist army, Ecuador joined Simon Bolivar’s Republic of Gran Colombia, which also included present-day Venezuela and Colombia. Ecuador remained part of Gran Colombia for eight years. After Venezuela withdrew from Gran Colombia, Ecuador followed suit, drafted the first of its many constitutions to come, and formally dissolved its association with Gran Colombia.


General Juan José Flores took charge of the nascent Ecuadorian State and lead without interlude for Ecuador’s first fifteen years of independence. Flores reign was distinguished by its ruthlessness, which ultimately lead to the popular discontent that forced him into exile in 1845. The period (1845-1860) following Flores’ rule was characterized by political instability, as the marcistas – as those who were responsible for Flores removal were known – fractured and struggled amongst themselves for control of the government.

Gabriel García Moreno and the Era of Conservatism

Moreno gave the Catholic Church more power during his tenure than any other post-colonial Ecuadorian president.

In the decade and a half following his rise to power in 1860, Gabriel García Moreno, with the help of the Catholic Church and the former dictator Flores, once again unified Ecuador. García Moreno was the founder of Ecuadorian conservatism and possibly the most controversial dictator in the nation’s history. García Moreno is condemned by Liberal historians as a ruthless tyrant and recognized by conservative historians as a great “nation-builder” that saved Ecuador from falling into chaos.

García Moreno saw Roman Catholicism, and the order it emphasized, as the only hope for avoiding the chaos that nearly ruined Ecuador in the first half of the nineteenth century. He even went so far as to make citizenship dependent on one’s association with the Roman Catholic Church. Moreno’s third presidential term was cut short by his assassination; he was hacked to death with a machete on the steps of the presidential palace. Whether or not he saved Ecuador from disintegrating is a question to be left to the historians but it is true that he governed the nation with an iron, and fanatically religious fist, for its first fifteen years of independence.