As Ecuadorians began a three-day holiday weekend, Vice President Otto Sonnenholzner marked the 197th anniversary of the Battle of Pichincha in a military ceremony in Quito on Friday. Known officially as the Day of the Ecuadorian Armed Forces, May 24 is widely considered Ecuador’s independence day.
In his comments before military brass, including Minister of Defense, Oswaldo Jarrín, Sonnenholzner noted that the battle for freedom is ongoing. “Today, we continue the work of building a better democracy, to show respect for freedoms and to seek equality for all our people.”
Although the victory of the revolutionaries over Spanish loyalists at Pichincha in 1822 appeared to have minor significance at the time, it later proved to be decisive in ending Spanish rule in what today is Ecuador. Led by General Antonio José de Sucre, the rebel army marched east from Guayaquil, liberating Cuenca and cutting supply and communication routes to the Spanish stronghold of Peru, before heading north to Quito.
The actual Battle of Pichincha is considered a comedy of errors by military historians. Sucre’s plan to send his troops up the Pichincha volcano in a flanking action of Spanish positions in Quito almost turned into a disaster. Many of forces, numbering less than 3,000, succumbed to altitude sickness at heights of as much as 14,000 feet while others lost their footing on the steep terrain and rolled down the mountain. The day was saved, however, when Spanish generals ordered their forces to charge up the volcano to challenge the rebels. Sucre’s men prevailed in the ensuing melee.
Although the Spanish were expelled from Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, Ecuador did not become an independent country until 1830.