Ecuador National Day – the “Grito” of Quito

August 10


Today is Ecuador’s National Day, and the event it celebrates is considered the first cry for independence in Latin America. It took place in Quito, Ecuador, on August 10, 1809.

South America’s “Primer Grito de la Independencia” (first shout for independence) was ironically a show of fidelity to Spain. On the other side of the Atlantic, Napoleon of France had invaded Spain and installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne in 1808.

When the news spread to South America, the criollos (Spanish descendants born in the New World) initially called for independence as a show of support. On August 10, 1809, they declared their unity behind the former King Ferdinand of Spain and they refused to recognize the legitimacy of officials appointed by the Bonaparte government. Over the next several years, several similar “gritos” would be issued by Latin American assemblies all the way from Mexico to Argentina.

But when the Spanish regained control of their own country, and turned their attention back to South America, the criollos who had been fighting for their freedom had no intention of turning back.

Independence however would be a long time coming. The Wars of Independence from Spain raged throughout South America for over a decade.

With support from the armies of Simón Bolivar and José de San Martín, Ecuador’s national hero Antonio José de Sucre eventually liberated the Quito region from Spanish forces in 1822. The final Battle of Pichincha, fought atop the slopes of a towering volcano overlooking Quito, took place on May 24 of that year.

Antonio José de Sucre

In the end, the long struggle worked out, and all told, the Ecuadorians would get not just one, but four annual holidays out of the War of Independence: today’s holiday, Independence of Guayaquil (October 9, 1820), Independence of Cuenca (November 3, 1820), and the Battle of Pichincha (May 24, 1822).

Even though the region was liberated, Ecuador’s own independence as a sovereign nation wouldn’t come for another eight years, during which Quito and the surrounding provinces were considered part of Bolivar’s “Gran Colombia.” The three southern provinces of Gran Colombia became “Ecuador”—so named because it straddles the equator—in 1830.

Birthday of Simón Bolivar

July 24

Today citizens of Venezuela, Colombia and Bolivia celebrate the birth of the Libertador of northern South America: Simón Bolivar. He was born on this day in 1783 in Caracas, Venezuela.

Simón Bolivar

Bolivar is one of the few people to have a country permanently named after him, and is the only person born in the New World to have been so honored.

Countries named directly after individuals

Belize – possibly from the Spanish pronunciation of “Wallace”. Captain Peter Wallace was a pirate commissioned by King James I to pillage Spanish ships in the region. He built his base at the mouth of what is now the Belize River. May also be from the Mayan “belix” meaning “muddy water”.

Bermuda – after explorer Juan de Bermudez, who arrived there in 1503.

Colombia – Christopher Columbus

Dominican Republic – after St. Domingo de Guzman, founder of the Dominican Order.

El Salvador – literally, “the Savior”, after Jesus of Nazareth.

Kiribati – from the Gilbert Islands, for Captain Thomas Gilbert.

Mozambique – possibly from sheik Mussa Ben Mbiki.

Philippines – King Philip II of Spain

San Marino – from St Marinus, an ancient stonemason who fled to the area to escape Roman persecution

Sao Tome and Principe – from St. Thomas. Portuguese explorers encountered the land on St. Thomas’s Day. (December 21)

Seychelles – for Jean Moreau de Sechelles, King Louis XV’s Finance Minister.

Amerigo Vespucci is the only person to have a continent named after him, and he got two! The explorer helped prove that the lands Christopher Columbus encountered were not in Asia, but were entirely new continents. In 1507 cartographer Martin Waldseemuller labeled the new continents after the Italian explorer when he printed 1000 copies of his famous globe of the world.

Waldseemuller's Wall Map of the World

Waldseemuller’s 1507 Globe Map

Waldseemuller’s 1507 Wall Map