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Gabriel Garcia Moreno

Gabriel Gregorio Fernando Jose Maria Garcia y Moreno y Moran de Buitron was an Ecuadorian statesman who twice served as President of his country (1859-1865 and 1869-1875) and was assassinated during his second term. He is noted for his conservatism, Roman Catholic religious perspective, and rivalry with liberal strongman Eloy Alfaro. Under his administration, Ecuador became the leader in the fields of science and higher education within Latin America.


Part of the animosity Garcia Moreno generated was his friendship toward the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). During a period of exile, he helped a group of displaced Jesuits find refuge in Ecuador. He had also advocated legislation which would outlaw secret societies. This action and many similar ones encouraged the anti-Catholic parties of Ecuador, especially the Masons, to see in him an inveterate enemy.

While the politics of his age were extremely convoluted and murky, the fact that he was elected to a second term of office clearly indicates his popular appeal, both with the Catholic Church and with the masses. His vigorous support of universal literacy and education based on the French model was both controversial and bold.

Through both his parents, Garcia Moreno was descended from noble Spanish families. His father, Gabriel Garcia y Gomez de Tama was a Spaniard from Soria, descended from the house of the Dukes of Osuna, and an official of the Spanish Royal Navy. Garcia Moreno's mother was a member of a wealthy and prominent Spanish-Criollo aristocratic family. Her father (his grandfather) was Count of Moreno and Governor-General of Guatemala, before moving to Guayaquil, where he was the Perpetual Military Governor. Among his other relatives were Jose de la Cruz Ignacio Moreno y Maisonave, Archbishop of Toledo and Cardinal Primate of Spain, and his brothers Teodoro Moreno y Maisonave, count of Moreno and justice of the Spanish Supreme Court and Joaquin Moreno y Maisonave, military historian and Chief Justice of the Royal Tribunal of the Miitary Orders of the Kingdom of Spain.

Garcia Moreno founded the Conservative Party in 1869. He was killed in office by a machete-wielding ecuadorianized Colombian citizen called Faustino Rayo. After his death, his memory has continued to be celebrated in Ecuador, both as a great patriot and educator while also being a friend of the Church.

Ecuador after Independence

The coming of independence to Latin America saw the formation of two parties in every country there: Liberal and Conservative. Conservatives looked toward Europe, and particularly Spain, for social and political inspiration. They wished to retain the Catholic Church in the position which she had from the first settlement; furthermore, they wanted the great estates to remain like those of Europeself-contained communities which, despite failing to make a great deal of money for their owners, did build social stability. The Liberals looked to the United States as a guide, wanted separation of Church and State, and wished to turn the great estates into money-making concerns, like factories. These two groups had clashed since independence. The Conservatives had indeed produced some great leaders, like Mexico's Agustn I and Guatemala's Rafael Carrera. As the 19th century progressed, both parties were faced with the impact such inventions as the railroad would make on their countries.


Gabriel Garcia Moreno was born in 1821, the son of Gabriel Garcia y Gomez, a Spanish merchant, and Maria de las Mercedes Moreno y Moran de Buitron, a member of a wealthy aristocratic family in Ecuador's main port, Guayaquil. Garcia Moreno studied theology and law in the university of Quito. Thinking he had a vocation to the priesthood, he received minor orders and the tonsure; but his closest friends and his own interests convinced him to pursue a more worldly career. Graduating in 1844, he was admitted to the bar. Starting his career as both lawyer and journalist (opposed to the Liberal government in power) he made little headway. In 1849 he embarked on a two year visit to Europe to see first hand the effects of the 1848 revolution. He made a second trip in 1854-56.

He returned home in 1856 to find his country in the grip of strident anti-clericals; he was elected a senator and joined the opposition. Although himself a Monarchist (he would have liked to have seen a Spanish prince on the throne) he bowed to circumstances and allowed himself to be made president after a civil war the year after his return---so great had his stint in the country's Senate made his reputation. In 1861 this was confirmed in a popular election for a four year term. Unhappily, his successor was deposed by the Liberals in 1867. But two years later he was reelected, and then again in 1875. During his period in office, he propelled his nation forward, all the while uniting her more closely to Catholicism.

Personally pious , he believed that the first duty of the State was to promote and support Catholicism. Church and State were united, but by the terms of the new concordat, the State's power over appointments of bishops inherited from Spain was done away withat Garcia Moreno's insistence. The 1869 constitution made Catholicism the religion of the State and required that both candidates and voters for office be Catholic. He was the only ruler in the world to protest the Pope's loss of the Papal States, and two years later had the legislature consecrate Ecuador to the Sacred Heart. One of his biographers writes that after the public consecration, he was condemned to die by German Freemasonry.Maxwell-Scott, Mary Monica, Gabriel Garcia Moreno, Regenerator of Ecuador, p. 152. London 1914

Economic Climate of Ecuador

In more worldly things, he came to office with an empty treasury and an enormous debt. To overcome this, he placed the government on stringent economy and abolished useless positions, as well as cutting out the corruption which siphoned off tax dollars. As a result he was able to provide Ecuadoreans with more for less. Slavery was abolished, but there was full compensation for the owners; (thus neither former slaves nor masters suffered economically). The army was reformed, with officers being sent to Prussia to study, and illiterate recruits taught basic skills. Houses of prostitution were closed, and hospitals opened in all the major towns. Railroads and national highways were built, telegraph extended, and the postal and water systems improved. City streets were paved, and local bandits suppressed. Garcia Moreno further reformed the universities, established two polytechnic and agricultural colleges and a military school, and increased the number of primary schools to 500 from 200. The number of students in them grew from 8000 to 32,000. To staff the enormously expanded health-care and educational facilities, foreign religious were brought in. All of this was done while expanding the franchise and guaranteeing equal rights under the law to every Ecuadorean.

Political Climate and Assassination

But the Liberals hated Garcia Moreno; when he was elected a third time in 1875, it was considered to be his death warrant. He wrote immediately to Pope Pius IX asking for his blessing before inauguration day on August 30:

I wish to obtain your blessing before that day, so that I may have the strength and light which I need so much in order to be unto the end a faithful son of our Redeemer, and a loyal and obedient servant of His Infallible Vicar. Now that the Masonic Lodges of the neighboring countries, instigated by Germany, are vomiting against me all sorts of atrocious insults and horrible calumnies, now that the Lodges are secretly arranging for my assassination, I have more need than ever of the divine protection so that I may live and die in defense of our holy religion and the beloved republic which I am called once more to rule.

Garcia Moreno's prediction was correct; he was assassinated exiting the Cathedral in Quito, struck down with knives and revolvers, his last words being: "Dios no muere!" ("God does not die!") Faustino Rayo, the leader of the assassins, had assaulted him with six or seven blows of a machete, while his three conspirators fired their revolvers. .

On August 5, shortly before his assassination, a priest visited Garcia Moreno and warned him, ''"You have been warned that your death was decreed by the Freemasons; but you have not been told when. I have just heard that the assassins are going to try and carry out their plot at once. For God's sake, take your measures accordingly!" Garcia Moreno replied that he had already received similar warnings and after calm reflection concluded that the only measure he could take was to prepare himself to appear before God.

"It appears he was assassinated by members of a secret society,"observed a contemporary review of public events.

Gabriel Garcia Moreno received his Last Rites just before he died and among his personal possessions he was carrying a copy of the Imitation of Christ. Pope Pius IX, declared that Gabriel Garcia Moreno "died a victim of the Faith and Christian Charity for his beloved country."''

External links

Official Website of the Ecuadorian Government about the history of the country's presidents

Catholic Encyclopedia: Gabriel Garcia Moreno

Christian Order: ''The Prophecy of Garcia Moreno's Presidency & Death''

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Gabriel Garcia Moreno

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