History of Guayaquil

A Little History and Background

Distorted from : M. Chavez Franco, 1944

To understand Guayaquil, you first have to know a little about her history and background. Guayaquil was first founded in 1534 by Moyano de Benalcázar, and then it was moved with the name of "Santiago" the 25th of July, 1535. Then came the Huancavilca indians (PC people would say "Native Guayaquileños", but they weren't native Guayaquileños, Guayaquil isn't a place, it's a state of mind) and gave the first Guayacos "chicharrón" (they killed everyone and burned down the city). After that, the city was rebuilt and burned again 2 times in 1536, and finally on July 25th 1537 (Santiago's day), when Francisco de Orellana (also called one-eyed Orellana) founded for the last time the "Muy Noble y Muy Leal Ciudad de Santiago de Guayaquil" (Very noble and very loyal city of Santiago of Guayaquil) at the site called El Cerrito Verde (today "Las Peñas") beside the Guayas river. Part of the indians where killed, but the other part got tired of fighting these stubborn newcomers and decided to go along with them. This was no "güebada" (joke), since this Huancavilca guys (and other indians from the neighborhood like the Punaes), had resisted invaders like the Incas for years and never surrendered to them.
During her colonial history, Guayaquil had to fight every day with a lot of problems. There was little drinking water (the Guayas river is salty most of the year), Pirates came every couple of years to attack (did you know Robinson Crusoe became a Pirate after he was rescued from Chile's Juan Fernandez Island and attacked Guayaquil?), Plagues, Heavy rains, floods, bugs, and the worst: FIRE (since there was little stone around Guayaquil, all of the houses where made of wood). Except Las Peñas, Guayaquil was lowlands, and is between the River and the "Estero Salado", and since there is little stone around here, they couldn't make the land any higher, right?, WRONG. People started eating a lot of black clam (concha prieta) and mangrove oyster, and used the shells to fill the land. Since both mollusks are highly aphrodisiac, the population grew rapidly. In 1537 there where 150 people, in 1600: 2,000; in 1693 : 5,000; in 1734: 11,000; in 1765: 13,000; in 1805:14,000; in 1814: 15,000; in 1820: 20,000; 1842: 23,000; 1857: 25,000; 1880: 36,000; 1890: 44,792; 1899: 80,000, 1920: 100,000,1930: 150,000; 1944: 200,000 and so on......, Today, Guayaquil has about 3.5 million people.

Guayaquil was a prosperous city, based on commerce, building ships and agriculture. In the early 1800's, all over Latin America people started to get tired of the Spanish rule. On October 9 1820, The Guayaquileños decided to declare independence, so the Guayaquilian People  ALL BY THEMSELVES (1,500 Ecuadorian soldiers and the civilian people) declared "Guayaquil Independiente", (Independent Guayaquil), that included all the coastal Ecuador from El Oro to Esmeraldas. It was the very first independent state in what now is Ecuador. Every thing was fine, and the Guayaquil army went to fight with the rest of Ecuador.Guayaquil Independiente

When all of South America was free, San Martin (Liberator of the southern part of South America) and Simon Bolivar (Liberator of the Northern part of South America, but NOT OF GUAYAQUIL), decided to meet in Guayaquil (in the middle of S.A.) to decide the politics after liberation. Guayaquil was Independent (with Manabi Esmeraldas, Los Rios, and El Oro), but they had to decide if they wanted to stay that way, or if they wanted to join Quito and Cuenca, the other 2 states of Real Audiencia de Quito (today Ecuador), or if they wanted to join the people from the North (Bolivar's "grancolombia") or  the South. In 1822 that RAT, Bolivar came before San Martin, with 5,000 soldiers (remember there were only 1,500 Guayaquil soldiers in 1820 and many died fighting in those years). When he arrived at Guayaquil, he lowered the Guayaquil Flag to lift his "grancolombia" flag, the Guayaquileños didn't allow that and threw his rag into the river and lifted again the Pabellón de Octubre (Guayaquil's Flag). It was decided that Guayaquil should vote to see what they wanted to do. And when the Guayaquileños were going to vote, that RAT made all his soldiers vote also. That is how Guayaquil (and all of Ecuador) got screwed over and became part of the "grancolombia". The problem wasn't that we didn't want to fight, if we knew they were just another pirate invasion, we would have fought them as we always had. But no, we thought of them as brothers. and the problem of us is that we are very up front on doing things... so that coward of Bolivar screwed us over.
When Ecuador became a Free country at last, Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca joined together as Ecuador (today these 3 states are divided into several provincias that make up Ecuador).

Although not the capital, Guayaquil has always been the main city and commercial/financial center of  Ecuador. In this century, Cocoa, Coffee, Banana and Shrimp has given her prosperity. Also as a port, it handles most of Ecuador's imports and exports.
Guayaquil has received a lot of people from outside (both from other places of Ecuador and from other countries), but unlike other places where they come and stay separated, here they came, mixed, and stayed on as Guayaquileños. A curious thing to give an example, is that here on the coast, (unlike in the sierra or mountains) no one thinks of the native people as indians (not even themselves), indians are usually referred to the natives from the sierra. This is because most of them had mingled both culturally (they have their own new culture rich in traditions of their own (or of Our Own), and call themselves montubios or cholos) as racially (some more some less but almost all Costeños and Guayaquileños have some degree of racial mixture).
The Spanish and Italians where the first ones to come, and in the 1st half of the XXth century Lebanese and Orientals came as well. In the 2nd half, more people from other parts of Ecuador came to Guayaquil and contributed with their culture to building her. Who will come in the XXIst century?, who knows, but surely they will come and contribute to making  Guayaquil a living city, always changing and always the same.

If you want to know more on Guayaquil's History, read "Cronicas de Guayaquil Antiguo" by Modesto Chavez Franco. He is more polite and political correct, but tells things the way they happened.

A good description of Guayaquil and Ecuador's coast way of live in the 1st halve of the century is given by Jose Antonio Campos, Read some of the stories available on-line. (sorry only in Spanish).