The new Historical Dictionary of Ecuador

The new Historical Dictionary of Ecuador

Lauderbaugh, George M. Historical Dictionary of Ecuador. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019. xlviii, 323 pp. $95.00.

Compiling an historical dictionary of any country is a formidable task, especially of a country with such a complex and variegated past as Ecuador, all the more so when its predecessor, Albert William Bork and Geroge Maiers’s Historical Dictionary of Ecuador (1973), was far from comprehensive and is considerably out-of-date. It is doubtful that whatever amount of royalties Lauderbaugh receives for his Historical Dictionary of Ecuador will compensate him for the many hours he put in to produce what is so obviously a labor of love, however misguided.

I would prefer to be able to recommend Lauderbaugh’s Historical Dictionary of Ecuador to scholars and students, but unfortunately I cannot. It is error riddled, deficient and superficial in coverage, poorly written, given to hubris and hyperbole, and badly copy edited.

To give but a few examples of the erroneous entries in Lauderbaugh’s Historical Dictionary of Ecuador:

Regarding Cuenca, Lauderbaugh informs us that “In 1577 Spanish conquistadores, led by Gil Ramírez Dávalos, finally arrived and found Tomebamba destroyed and abandoned by its former inhabitants. That same year Friar Vicente Solano founded the city …” (p. 94). In fact, Santa Ana de Cuenca was founded in 1557 (not 1577) by Ramírez Dávalos (not by Solano). There were already a number of Spaniards in the area, including in the immediate vicinity of the not completely destroyed Tomebamba, which had not been abandoned by all of its former inhabitants (Cañaris, “Incas”, and mitmaqkuna). Furthermore, the Franciscan Vicente Solano, a major personage in the nineteenth-century history of Ecuador, would not be born until 234 years later. Surprisingly, there is no entry on Solano in Lauderbaugh’s Historical Dictionary of Ecuador although there is in Bork and Maier’s.

Printing was not “introduced in Ecuador in 1654 when the Jesuits set up a press in Riobamba to publish religious materials” (p. 180). The first press would not be established by the Jesuits until 1755 and it was established in Ambato (not Riobamba). And “A second printing press” did not begin “operations in Quito in 1670 …” (ibid.), but in 1759, the one and only press then in the future republic having been physically transferred to Quito, where it began operations anew.

It was not “primarily Jesuits and Dominicans” who “introduced the new faith to the indigenous populations” (p. 249). The evangelization of the indigenous populations of the highlands and the coast and therefore the overwhelming majority of the native peoples of the future Ecuador was undertaken by Dominicans, Franciscans, Mercedarians, and Augustinians. The Jesuits were latecomers to the Audiencia of Quito and their missionary endeavors were limited to the Oriente.

Regarding the entry on Guayaquil, to mention only a few of Lauderbaugh’s mistakes, the port city did not have “a population of around 12,000” in 1734 (it had no more than half that many at that time) and it did not suffer “its first yellow fever epidemic” in 1742 (p. 139), but 100 years later in 1842. Yes, “yellow fever, bubonic plague, and other communicable diseases, impacted the port” at one time or another but not “well into the 20th century”, except for cholera which did not “hit” Ecuador until 1991 and resulted in minimal fatalities. See S.S. Malavade et al., “Cholera in Ecuador: Current Relevance of Past Lessons Learnt,” Journal of Global Infectious Diseases 3:2 (Apr.-Jun. 2011), pp. 189–194. Yellow fever (which did not become endemic until circa 1880) was completely eradicated by 1919, and bubonic plague did not arrive until the early twentieth century and had relatively little impact on the growth of the city and its population. Furthermore, the first phase of the demographic transition (marked and continuing decline in mortality) began in the case of Guayaquil in the second quarter of the twentieth century in no small part because of the preceding and continuous bringing under control and/or eradication of contagious and infectious diseases (not always one and the same) and the more or less simultaneous, more or less successful efforts to sanitize the port city. See Lois F. Parks and Gustave A. Nuermberger, “The Sanitation of Guayaquil”, Hispanic American Historical Review 23:2 (May 1943), pp. 197–221.

Leaving aside the fantasy of Guayaquil having been named after the fictional indigenous lovers of Guayas and Quil, Lauderbaugh maintains that the economic motors of the port city during the colonial period were shipbuilding and commerce, completely overlooking the first cacao boom of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Regarding his one and only cacao boom of “1885–1922” and banana boom of the late 1940s and the 1950s, supposedly resulting in “a migration from the highlands to the coast” during both booms, migration from the highlands to the coast has been a constant in the history of Ecuador from the sixteenth century through the present albeit greater in volume at some times than others. Furthermore, regionalism was not a development of post independence (pp. 15 and 94), but has played a major role in the cultures, economies, mentalities, politics, and social structures of the country since the early colonial period. In this regard, the lack of entries on regions and regionalism are puzzling. Before leaving the port city, also puzzling is the lack of an entry on the major literary “Grupo de Guayaquil” and/or its individual members, including the world renown novelist and historian Alfredo Pareja Diezcanseco.

Returning to the highlands, this what Lauderbaugh has to say about Ibarra, “The capital of Imbabura Province with a population of 132,000 is located 76 km (47 mi) north of Quito. The city has many colonial churches and homes that are whitewashed; thus Ibarra is often called the white city” (p. 153).

Lauderbaugh does not indicate when San Miguel de Ibarra was founded (1606), provides no information whatsoever regarding its history, and gives an erroneous population figure. Ibarra has never had as many as 132,000 inhabitants. The current population of the city is 87,786 according to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos. Parenthetically but not incidentally, all statistics should be dated inasmuch as generally speaking they are valid only for specific moments in time. Moreover, Ibarra was destroyed by earthquakes in Aug. 1868, as Lauderbugh notes on p. 101. Therefore, there are no colonial period churches and homes anywhere in the city.

Originally I had intended to remark on Lauderbaugh’s entry on Quito, but after rereading it, I realized I would have to write an even longer entry of my own to correct his multiple mistakes. Instead I decided to quote and discourse on his entry on the “Quitu”, but before doing so I would be remiss in not correcting one of his faux pas. According to Lauderbaugh, “Another important aspect of colonial Quito was the establishment of the Quito School of Art in 1552. The school trained indigenous and mestizos in painting, manuscript illustration, and sculpture” (p. 234).

Apparently Lauderbaugh has confused the Franciscan Colegio de San Andrés with the Quito School of painting, the latter nominally having been a more or less standardized style purportedly transmitted from one generation of artists to the next. As Susan V. Webster, a major historian of painting, sculpture, architecture, and visual culture of the Audiencia of Quito, has so ably demonstrated and exceptionally well documented: although the Franciscan Colegio de San Andrés played a formative role in developing and fostering some of the early indigenous painters of Quito, the Franciscans were not responsible for the training of the majority of native painters of the colonial period, many of whom were independent agents and developed their own styles. Also it was not a question of Europeans teaching Andeans how to sculpt but what to sculpt. Andeans had long since mastered sculpture and mastered it exceptionally well on their own.

Not incidentally, Lauderbaugh does not appear to be familiar with the publications (based on years of archival research) of Webster, two of which I recommend highly: Lettered Artists and the Languages of Empire: Painters and the Profession in Early Colonial Quito (2017) and Quito, ciudad de maestros: arquitectos, edificios y urbanismo en el largo siglo XVII (2012).

QUITU. They were one of the oldest pre-Colombian groups in Ecuador, dating to 2000 BCE. They were the founders of Quito, today the capital of Ecuador. The Quitu were conquered and absorbed by the Caras around 900 CE. Juan de Velasco, a Jesuit priest and colonial historian who wrote the Kingdom of Quito in 1767, asserted that the Quitu, Cara, and Cañari united to form a kingdom that stretched from Quito to north of Ibarra, governed by the shyris, the noble and royal classes of the Caras. Velasco’s history was later disputed by the historian and bishop Federico González Suárez, who claimed that there was no evidence of a Kingdom of Quito. After the Inca conquest around 1463, the Quitu were absorbed by the Highland Quechua. Some groups of Highland Quechua in Pichincha Province consider themselves to be descendants from the Quitu (p. 235).

Unfortunately Lauderbaugh preferred Velasco over González Suárez and for that matter also over Jacinto Jijón y Caamaño and Frank Salomon, among other archaeologists and ethnohistorians, not that Lauderbaugh is the only scholar to have been seduced by myths with little or no basis in reality. Furthermore, Lauderbaugh has augmented Velasco’s fantasy by throwing in the Cañari, a loose confederation of culturally similar chiefdoms of the southern Andes of the future Ecuador, unwittingly expanding Velasco’s never existent Reino de Quito throughout almost the entire length and breath of the highlands of modern Ecuador, unknowingly contradicting himself. Moreover, Lauderbaugh’s “Highland Quechua” did not exist at the time of the Inca conquest.

Salomon ably summarizes and laments the inexcusable continuing prevalence of fiction over fact regarding Velasco’s and now also Lauderbaugh’s mythical Kingdom of Quito in the prologue to the 2011 edition of his Los señores étnicos de Quito en la época de los incas:

Se me avivó el impulso de reeditarlo al observar en 2010 que la etnohistoria quiteña estaba representada en la enciclopedia digital Wikipedia solamente por un resumen del supuesto Reino de los Shiris, sueño o quimera del extrañamiento jesuítico a fines del siglo XVIII. Si las investigaciones posteriores—no solo las mías sino los [sic] del arzobispo Federico González Suárez o de Jacinto Jijón y Caamaño, entre otros—una vez más se habían sumergido en la fantasía velasquiana, era hora de resaltar nuevamente la existencia de una alternativa fundada en testimonios de personas que realmente conocieron el Quito de la época prehispánico (p. 13).

Regarding the Jesuit scholar Juan de Velasco (1774–1792), Lauderbaugh refers only to Velasco’s “The History of the Kingdom of Quito and a Chronicle of the Society of Jesus of the Same Kingdom” which he characterizes as “an outstanding history of the colonial period” (p. 280). Lauderbaugh translation of the title of this work and its italicization implies that an English version thereof exists, which is not the case. He should have cited it as Historia moderna del Reino de Quito y Crónica de la Compañía de Jesús del mismo reino (The History of the Kingdom of Quito and a Chronicle of the Society of Jesus of the Same Kingdom) in accordance with long since standardized bibliographic norms. Furthermore, Lauderbaugh should not have referenced this work at all (only portions of which have been published: in 1944 in an incomplete edition, almost impossible to locate outside of Ecuador; and additional sections in 1960 in the more readily available Los Jesuitas quiteños del extrañamiento) but instead Velasco’s much more important Historia del Reino de Quito en la América Meridional. At the same time Lauderbaugh should have cautioned readers that the only scholarly acceptable editions thereof are Aurelio Espinosa Pólit’s in the “Biblioteca ecuatoriana mínima” (1960) and that of the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana (1979). Moreover, Velasco’s 1789 (not 1767, the year of the Jesuits’ expulsion from Spain’s colonies) Historia del Reino de Quito (not Kingdom of Quito) is significant because it was the first history (as opposed to chronicle) of the Audiencia of Quito undertaken by anyone, not because it was all that outstanding a piece of work. Its real importance lies with the role it played in establishing origin mythos and bolstering national ethos upon being published for the first time in Ecuador between 1841 and 1844 (in a adulterated version).

Although Lauderbaugh’s entry on women (pp. 284–286) is not phantasmagorical in its treatment, it is anachronistic, stereotyped, and misleading. Not all women, not even all elite and “middle class” women were dutiful, subservient daughters, wives, and mothers who stayed at home except to go to church or for social visits. There were many female artisans, peddlers, publicans, rentiers, and shopkeepers during the colonial period and throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including some criollas as well as indígenas and mestizas. Furthermore, some criollas owned large estates, which they managed quite well on their own. And from the sixteenth century onward, many households in the highlands and on the coast have had female heads.

Although Matilde Hidalgo de Procel was the first Ecuadorian woman to obtain a doctorate in medicine, she was hardly the first woman to graduate from high school. Secondary education for women (including some mestizas and occasional Indians) dates from the administrations of García Moreno, if not earlier. Colegios for women flourished in Cuenca as well as in Guayaquil and Quito and in several other major cities and towns as well during the second half of the nineteenth century, and there appears to have been a colegio for girls in Quito as early as 1835.

Moreover, there were primary schools for boys and girls of all “races” throughout the country by the late colonial period (and considerably earlier than that I suspect), attended by mestizos/as and considerable numbers of indios/as (and not just the sons and daughters of caciques and principales) as well as blancos/as. In 1823, for example, 424 white and mestizo boys, 127 white and mestizo girls, 681 Indian boys, and 232 Indian girls attended primary schools in what are now the Provinces of Cañar and Azuay. Interestingly enough, there were no Indian boys and girls in school in the city of Cuenca, but there were in all of the secondary townships of the former Province of Cuenca, including Azogues.

Apparently Lauderbaugh’s command of Spanish and Quichua are limited. It is agua de remedio not “agua de remidio” (p. 27), and Eloy Alfaro’s assassination is known as the Hoguera bárbara, not the Huaguera bárbara (p. 149), to give but two examples. Although high level ethnic lords (e.g., those in charge of the suyu or four quarters) were sometimes known as apu (p. 38), post Spanish conquest ethnic lords were usually referred to as caciques and occasionally more correctly as kurakas in the sources. (Of course, I am aware that Indian authorities included gobernadores de indios, principales, and cabildos de indios, etc.) Since the Spanish conquest, apu has almost always been used to designate mountains venerated as spirits and/or deities.

Some of Lauderbaugh’s definitions are simplistic. He maintains that “Quechua is both a language and a nationality” and prefers Cuzco Quechua over Quito Quichua, claiming “unknown reasons” as to why the difference in spelling (p. 231). It would take me too far afield to explain why, but it cannot be over stressed that there are multiple dialects of Quichua/Quechua (not all of which are mutually intelligible) and some linguists now maintain that Quichua/Quechua was and is a language family, but most decidedly what Quichua/Quechua never has been is “a nationality.” See my Artes, Vocabularios, and Related Ecclesiastical Materials of Quichua/Quechua, Aymara, Puquina, and Mochica Published during the Colonial Period: A History and Bibliography (2011).

The only three maps (pp. xxiii, xxiv, and xxv), the first two from “The CIA World Fact Book” and the third supposedly from “The Area Handbook for Ecuador” in the new Historical Dictionary of Ecuador are all but worthless, the first being a place name map of cities and some major towns in Ecuador, the second, a general map of South America, and the third as it reads in the copy that I received, “eru [sic] and Ecuador resolved in 1998.” Not only is the third map bound upside down in my copy but it is incomplete, apparently having been a foldout guillotined in the binding process. Furthermore, the Area Handbook for Ecuador stopped being published in 1973, and was replaced by Ecuador, a Country Study in 1991, not that I have been able to locate any edition of the latter containing the map in question.

Why are there no maps of the topography and political geography of the country? For that matter, why is there no chronology of the provinces or chart indicating their previous designates and the districts to which they originally pertained?

Turning to the bibliography, although I understand why it consists almost entirely of articles and books in English, Lauderbaugh’s Historical Dictionary of Ecuador being intended as a reference work for English language students and scholars (not that this disclaimer appears), but some of the general and monographic works in English cited by Lauderbaugh have been superseded by more recent research, the majority of which findings appear in Spanish. Therefore, the most critical studies should have been referenced, regardless of language. Furthermore, several essential English language works are lacking in Lauderbaugh’s bibliography, including but hardly limited to The Cambridge History of the Native peoples of the Americas, vol. 3, South America (2 parts), edited by Frank Salomon and Stuart B. Schwartz (1999), and the three vol. Guide to Documentary Sources for Andean Studies, 1530–1900, edited by Joanne Pillsbury (2008).

Many of Lauderbaugh’s evaluations of the works he cites in his “Introduction” to his bibliography are not just misleading but as wrong as wrong can be. For example, he characterizes Frank MacDonald Spindler’s 1987 “Nineteenth-Century Ecuador: A [sic] Historical Introduction” as “a comprehensive and scholarly study of the period 1808–1912” (p. 304), when in reality Spindler’s Nineteenth-Century Ecuador is a political and therefore not a comprehensive history of the years 1808–1912.

Lauderbaugh lauds my Bibliografía histórica del Ecuador and my Bibliografía de bibliografías ecuatorianas, 1885–2010, coauthored with Miguel Díaz Cueva (who recently celebrated his one hundred birthday) as “excellent guides to sources,” (p. 304) for which I thank him, but two pages later, our Bibliografía de bibliografías ecuatorianas appears as coauthored by George C.A. Hart and Miguel Díaz Cueva. Not mentioned is that Bibliografía histórica del Ecuador is an online publication. Its IP address is:

To cite just four other examples of incorrect and/or incomplete references: (1) the 1981 Research Guide to Andean History is cited incorrectly as Guide to Andean Research, misdated as a 1974 publication, and attributed solely to “John TePaske” (p. 303), who was its general editor, and not only not its author but not even a contributor thereto except for its two and a half page preface; (2) Kenneth J. Andrien is misspelled “Kenneth J. Andriean” (p. 304); (3) Ann P. Rowe and Lynn Meisch’s Costumes and History in Highland Ecuador becomes Culture and History in Highland Ecuador (p. 309); and (4) the publisher of Robert E. Norris’ Guía bibliográfica para el estudio de la historia ecuatoriana is reduced to “Institute of Latin American Studies” (p. 306). Missing is linkage to the University of Texas at Austin.

These may seem like petty points, but how much time have how many of us wasted searching for incorrectly and/or incompletely cited publications?

Before concluding, it should be noted that Lauderbaugh’s bibliography is almost totally lacking in inclusion of works on the history of the arts and architecture, literature, and music of Ecuador. Also why are no entries on major artists such as Miguel de Santiago and no mention of Quito as a major producer and exporter of art during the colonial period?, on which see Arte quiteño más alla de Quito (2010), and The Art of Painting in Colonial Quito, edited by Suzanne L. Stratton-Pruitt (2012). In this regard, it should be noted that I am not criticizing Lauderbaugh because he has slighted my forte in as much as I am not an art historian or historian of literature but do demographic, economic, and social history.

Inasmuch as Lauderbaugh specializes in the political history and the recent past of Ecuador, some, perhaps much, of what he has to say about late twentieth and early twentieth-first century internal political and international developments, political parties and persons is valid, but given the misinformation and misinterpretations in his Historical Dictionary of Ecuador on entities, people, places, events, and dates of the three and a half millennia preceding the present, and his slipshod bibliography, students and other country or area specialists would be well advised to consult authoritative reference works such as Editorial Oceano’s Enciclopedia del Ecuador (2002) instead of Lauderbaugh’s Historical Dictionary of Ecuador, and Ecuatorianists should relegate the new Historical Dictionary of Ecuador to the recycle bin.

Michael T. Hamerly, Ph.D.
Editor, Ecuadorian Studies/Estudios Ecuatorianos
Fulbright Scholar