What Happened on August 10, 1809 in Quito, Ecuador?:
In 1808 Napoleon’s France invaded Spain and took over, forcing King Charles IV to abdicate. Although news traveled slowly, by 1809 it was well known across Spain’s American holdings what had happened. An independence movement had been brewing across Latin America for years, led by Venezuela and Argentina, where the first steps towards independence had already been taken. With the king deposed, many who were once against independence changed their minds. In Quito, Ecuador, a group of prominent citizens petitioned for independence in August, 1809, with bloody results.
On the night of August 9, 1809, a group of prominent citizens of Quito met at the home of Manuela Cañizares. These included Juan Pío Montúfar, Marquis of Selva Alegre, Juan de Dios Morales and others. There had been discussions for some time about how to react to Napoleon’s takeover, and these citizens had decided that the Royal Audience of Quito (an administrative division answerable to the Viceroy of Peru in Lima) no longer held valid power and that the citizens would rule until such time as the King of Spain was restored.
Capture of the Conspirators:
On the morning of August 10, they sent a delegation to Count Ruiz de Castilla, President of the Royal Audience, informing him that he was no longer needed. The new government lasted until October, when a royalist army approached from Lima. The ruling junta surrendered peaceably but all of the conspirators were tossed in the dungeons of the military barracks located not far from the Presidential Palace. Some escaped, and others, like the Marquis, were important enough to escape retaliation from the colonial government. In all, some 100 people were arrested.
Incarceration and Massacre:
The conspirators rotted in the dank dungeon for almost a year. The colonial government did not know what to do with them: many were important citizens, their “revolution” was undertaken in the name of the deposed King of Spain, and in any event Spain itself was in far too chaotic a situation to send word on what to do with conspirators on the other side of the world. On August 2, 1810, an attempt was made to liberate the captives. Incensed, the guards in charge of them butchered them in the dungeons after fighting off the attack.
Legacy of the August 10 Movement:
Ask anyone from Quito, and they’ll tell you that the August 10 movement was the spark that kicked off the Independence movement in Latin America and that the brief government of the citizens of Quito was the first republic in the New World. This is an exaggeration, as Venezuela, Upper Peru (Bolivia) and Argentina had already taken significant steps towards independence by the middle of 1809. Still, it was a decisive action, taken very early, and the brave Quiteños who participated deserve much credit.
After the incident, Quito became a hotbed of revolutionary action. Simón Bolívar recognized the movement in speeches he gave in Quito. Quito produced some important figures in the independence movement, most notably Manuela Saenz, Bolívar’s lover and a heroine in her own right. Quito’s struggle for independence would successfully come to an end on May 24, 1822, when Mariscal Antonio José de Sucre defeated royalist forces at the Battle of Pichincha.