The Founding of Guayaquil

Guayaquil, also known as “the Pearl of the Pacific”, is Ecuador’s most important coastal city. With more than 3 million inhabitants, it also happens to be Ecuador’s most populated city. It’s vibrant, hectic, hot, humid, tropical and its people are known for their warmth, expressiveness and extroversion. This city will surprise any visitor with its captivating personality and interesting history. To celebrate its founding date that is this 25th of July, we invite you to get more acquainted with its past via this blog, as it will help you connect to its present.

Malecon 2000. Visited during the celebration of the founding of Guayaquil

Malecon 2000. Visited during the celebration of the founding of Guayaquil

Before the Arrival of the Conquistadors

Several indigenous groups inhabited the area from the years 4200 B.C. to 500. A.C. However, only two pre-Columbian groups dominated the region before the arrival of the Spanish: the Huancavilcas occupying most of the southern coastal territory, and the Chonos to the north and interior of the territory. Smaller groups like the punaris, punaes and jambelies in the Guayaquil Gulf had a smaller and less relevant presence. Both the Huancavilcas and Chonos, known mostly as traders, would eventually pose a threat to the Spanish conquistadors and their new establishments.

Back in 1534

Even though Guayaquil’s founding is celebrated on the 25 of July, there is no exact day written in the colonial chronicles. This is due to the fact that the city was actually moved on several occasions before finally establishing itself by the Guayas River, its current location. Sebastian de Benalcazar, a Spanish military and conquistador, who was on his way back from San Miguel de Piura in Peru, was appointed for the conquest of the northern territories. On his first expedition, he founded the city of San Francisco de Quito over what used to be the northern capital of the Inca Empire.

Sebastian Benalcazar

Sebastian Benalcazar

A little before Benalcazar got to what is now Ecuadorian territory, Diego de Almagro, another conquistador, founded the city of Santiago de Quito. This city was very close to the actual city of Riobamba, where he thought the northern Inca capital was located. After founding the city of Quito, Benalcazar decided to move Santiago to the Guayas River and named it Santiago de Guayaquil. No less than a year after, the city got burned down by the Chonos indigenous group. They were consistently met with resistance from native groups and the city had to be moved several times. In 1542, Francisco de Orellana, governor of the region, ordered the city to be moved once again to Benalcazar’s old settlement after an attack by the Huancavilca people. Because the Spanish started quarrelling amongst them, the city moved one last time to its current location, on the western side of the Guayas basin. After much discussion amongst historians, it was determined that the founding of Guayaquil took place the 25th of July of the year 1535.

Spanish Independence

During the Spanish occupation, Guayaquil became one of South America’s main ports. It grew considerably, both demographically and commercially. It would not be until the 9th of October 1820, that an emancipation movement led by the criollo José Joaquín de Olmedo finally freed the city of its Spanish rulers.

Port of Guayaquil. Photo by Ernest Charton

Port of Guayaquil. Photo by Ernest Charton

Celebrating the Founding of Guayaquil

The city of Guayaquil celebrates its roots and you can join in the festivities. If you are on your way to the beautiful Galapagos Islands to board  an amazing Galapagos cruise, make sure you stop in Guayaquil. If you do, here’s a list of things you can do in a day that will give you a nice perspective of “the Pearl of the Pacific”.

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Nathalie Moeller is of Ecuadorian and German descent. As a child she spent her summers in the Galapagos Islands, where her mother grew up, and from a very young age learned to love the beauty and uniqueness of the archipelago. She studied Journalism and Humanities in Barcelona, after living in Madrid and Germany for a couple of years. This gave her a culturally broader view of the world, which is reflected in everything she does. Blogging gives her the opportunity to combine her passion for travelling and writing.

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