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LACS | The National-Popular in Ecuador: Popular Republicanism, Indigenismo, and the Left in the Quest for Hegemony (1896-1950)

When: Wednesday, March 22, 2023
12:30 PM - 2:00 PM CT

Where: University Hall, 201, 1897 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: free

Contact: Tiffany Williams-Cobleigh   (847) 491-7980

Group: Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Category: Academic, Lectures & Meetings, Multicultural & Diversity, Global & Civic Engagement


Unlike most Latin American countries at the end of the 19th century, Ecuador lacked an "oligarchic bloc" (pact between elites) capable of suppressing the Radical Party among the political organizations of the time, or of repressing popular demands on the road to state building. My paper questions the theory of the inevitability of an "oligarchic state” in this continent, while reconstructing how in Ecuador an interclassist and interethnic political organization, integrating the bourgeoisie and intellectuals, together with peasants, artisans and post-emancipation indigenous communities, became a complex but crucial agent in state-building. Ecuador's interest for comparative studies derives from its paradoxical combination of a democratic path to state-building in the midst of capitalist dependence.

The militias of the Alfarista Revolution articulated in democratic political language their demands for land and citizenship as two constituent elements of popular sovereignty and lasting foundations of the National Republic.  They effectively defeated the conservative parties in 1895, ended the subordination of the state to Rome and re-centralized public power.  State and popular intellectuals contradicted racist ideologies and internal colonial domination.  In the public sphere, in printed debates, literary narratives, the forging and use of law, claims and collective action, they contradicted traditional domination and new violence in the countryside. 

 Subsequently, democratic forces and the left prevailed, conducting the transition of the crisis between 1925 and 1945. The crisis was crossed with a second revolutionary cycle encompassing the horizon of the National Popular.  The influence of Mariategui, of the two Mexican revolutionary cycles,  an unorthodox use of socialism together with the memory of Ecuadorian radicalism, modernism and the avant-garde amalgamated in this Andean country in its way to State reform and  hegemonic struggle. Experiments of welfare state, increasing syndicalism, land redistribution, state regulation of capital, leftist indigenism and the popular front strategy took place between the 1925 Julian revolution and the Glorious Revolution and Constitution of 1945.   

This experiment of  democratic socialism in the Andes set off international alarm bells at the dawn of the Cold War. The functionalist definition of democracy, an internationally orchestrated re-emergence of oligarchy, together with a new Marxist skepticism towards the historical left forged all together the image of Ecuador as an enigma and silenced its history of the National Popular until recent times epistemological and historical critique.

Lunch provided.


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