The new Historical Dictionary of Ecuador


The new Historical Dictionary of Ecuador

George M. Lauderbaugh. 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 nation state with such a complex and variegated past as Ecuador’s, all the more so when its predecessor, Albert William Bork and Geroge Maiers’s Historical Dictionary of Ecuador (1973), a slender and far from comprehensive tome, is considerably out-of-date. It is doubtful that however much in the way of royalties Lauderbaugh eventually receives will compensate him for the hundreds, if not thousands of hours he put in to produce what is so obviously a labor of love.

Having said that, I would prefer to be able to recommend Lauderbaugh’s Historical Dictionary of Ecuador to scholars and students, but unfortunately I cannot. It contains multiple and misleading errors of commission, and it is deficient and superficial in coverage, poorly written, given to hubris and hyperbole, and badly copy edited.

To give but a few examples of the multiple problematic entries found in the new Historical Dictionary of Ecuador (more or less selected at random):

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 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.

Lauderbaugh “facts” and “dates” are partially or completely wrong in many instances. Verbi gratia, printing was not “introduced in Ecuador in 1654 when the Jesuits set up a press in Riobamba to publish religious materials” (p. 180). In fact, the first press would not be established by the Jesuits until 1755 and then it was established in Ambato (not Riobamba). And “A second printing press” did not begin “operations in Quito in 1670 …” (ibid.), but in reality the one and only press then in the future country was physically transferred to Quito (where it began operations anew) in 1759.

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 mostly 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 Guayaquil, to mention only several 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, cholera, and other communicable diseases impacted the port” at one time or another but not “well into the 20th century”. 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 continuing 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.

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 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 of course greater in volume at some times than others. Furthermore, regionalism was not a development of post independence (pp. 15 and 94), but has been a major characteristic of and factor in the culture, economy, polity, and society 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 on 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, especially in works of history, inasmuch as generally speaking they are valid only for specific moments in time. Moreover, Ibarra was destroyed by back-to-back earthquakes in Aug. 1868, as Lauderbugh notes on p. 101. Therefore, there are no colonial 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 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 supposedly imparted from one generation of artists to another. As Susan V. Webster, one of the most important historians of painting, sculpture, architecture, and visual culture of the Audiencia of Quito, has so ably demonstrated and documented: although the Franciscan Colegio de San Andrés played a role as a formative institution that fostered some of the indigenous painters of Quito, especially during the second half of the sixteenth century, 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 even Frank Salomon, 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, expanding Velasco’s never existent Reino de Quito throughout almost the entire length and breath of the highlands of modern Ecuador. 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 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 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 standard practice. 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, complete 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 in Ecuador upon being published for the first time 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 century, including some criollas as well as indias/indígenas and mestizas.

Although Matilde Hidalgo de Procel was the first Ecuadorian women to obtain a doctorate in medicine, she was hardly the first to graduate from high school. Secondary education for women (including some mestizas and occasional Indians) dates from the administrations of García Moreno. “High schools” flourished in Cuenca as well as in Guayaquil and Quito and I suspect in other major towns and cities as well. 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 pueblos 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 are 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 a mountain or mountains worshiped as a deity or deities.

Some of Lauderbugh’s definitions are simplistic. He maintains that “Quechua is both a language and a nationality” and for some reason 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 major cities and some towns in Ecuador, the second, a general map of South America, and the third as it reads in the copy that I received, “eru 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).

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 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 three other examples of incorrect and/or incomplete references, Kenneth J. Andrien is misspelled as Kenneth J. Andriean (p. 304); Ann P.. Rowe and Lynn Meisch’s Costumes and History in Highland Ecuador becomes Culture and History in Highland Ecuador (p. 309); and 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 have wasted searching for incorrectly and/or incompletely cited publications?

Before concluding, it should be noted that Lauderaugh’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 slighted my forte in as much as I am not an art historian 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 people and places, events and dates of the two thousand years preceding the present, students and other country or area specialists would be well advised to consult informative and authoritative reference works such as Editorial Oceano’s Enciclopedia del Ecuador (2002), and Ecuatorianists should ignore the new Historical Dictionary of Ecuador.

Michael T. Hamerly, Ph.D.

Editor, Ecuadorian Studies/Estudios Ecuatorianos

Fulbright Scholar