Flores, Juan José (c. 1800–1864)

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Flores, Juan José (c. 1800–1864)

Juan José Flores (b. ca. 1800; d. 1 October 1864), president of Ecuador (1830–1835, 1839–1845). Born in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, Flores received little formal education before he was swept into the Wars of Independence, first in a royalist army and then in the patriot forces of Bolívar. He received rapid promotions: to colonel in 1821 and to general in 1826.

Assignment to the command of the difficult royalist region of Pasto (southern Colombia) prevented Flores from fighting in the campaigns to liberate Ecuador and Peru. In 1826 he assumed authority over the department of Ecuador and soon exercised authority over most of the territory later to comprise the Republic of Ecuador. Marriage to the aristocratic Mercedes Jijón y Vivanco facilitated his rise to regional prominence. Flores, who came to favor monarchism, urged Bolívar to convert Gran Colombia (Venezuela, New Granada, and Ecuador) into a monarchy.

In May 1830 an extraordinary assembly of officials and citizens in Quito decided to separate Ecuador from Gran Colombia and named General Flores supreme civil and military commander. He was elected president soon after the assassination of General Antonio José de Sucre, which removed his only serious competitor for leadership.

Though endowed with a lively intelligence, Flores was poorly prepared intellectually to provide wise leadership. He attempted to make up for his shortcomings by engaging tutors, such as the poet José Joaquín Olmedo, but his basic inclinations remained those of a military man. As president he tried unsuccessfully to incorporate the Cauca region into Ecuador, but he defended Ecuadorian independence from New Granada and helped establish the Carchi River as the northern border. In domestic matters Flores pursued liberal policies by restricting the privileges of the clergy, creating a public education system with special schools for Indians, and reforming tax laws.

These reforms, along with treasury deficits and other financial problems, aroused opposition to the foreign-born president. Publishers of the anti-administration newspaper El Quiteño Libre organized a violent uprising that Flores quelled only after agreeing to allow Vicente Rocafuerte, a rebel leader, to succeed him to the presidency in 1835.

During Rocafuerte's administration (1835–1839), Flores exerted much influence as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and he arranged his own reelection to the presidency in 1839. When his policy of cordiality toward opponents failed, Flores secretly decided to convert Ecuador into a monarchy. In league with Andrés Santa Cruz of Peru, he sought to monarchize Peru and Bolivia, too. He had himself reelected president in 1843 under the new, authoritarian constitution. He secured the backing of Spain to erect a throne in Quito, but an uprising in 1845 sent him into exile.

In Spain, Flores received official but secret support for an armed expedition to seize power and, presumably, to erect a monarchy in Ecuador. Public reports of the expedition, however, forced its abandonment before it could depart Spanish shores.

General Flores returned to Spanish America in 1847 and spent the next thirteen years conspiring in various countries to regain power. His plots seriously undermined the Ecuadorian government but did not topple it. Finally, in 1860, with Ecuador in near anarchy, the struggling regime of Gabriel García Moreno invited Flores to return to the country, to take command of the army, and to put down the opposition to the government.

Playing the role of senior statesman thereafter, Flores was elected president of a constituent congress in 1860 and helped draft the conservative Constitution of 1861. He supported a fruitless effort by the president to secure French backing for yet another monarchical scheme. As general in chief of the armed forces, Flores was a mainstay of the administration and was expected by many to succeed to the presidency in 1865.

When New Granada threatened Ecuador's independence in 1863, General Flores, though in poor health, led a poorly equipped army to defend the northern border. Subsequently he helped crush a rebel invasion near Guayaquil but fell ill and died aboard a warship invoking the "Supreme God of Battles."

See alsoEcuador: Since 1830; Gran Colombia.


Pedro Fermín Ceballos, Resumen de la historia del Ecuador desde su origen hasta 1845, vols. 4-5 (1870).

Elías Laso, Biografía del General Juan José Flores (1924).

Luis Robalino Dávila, Nacimiento y primeros años de la República (1967).

Gustavo Vásconez Hurtado, El General Juan José Flores: La República, 1830–1845 (1984).

Mark J. Van Aken, King of the Night: Juan José Flores and Ecuador, 1824–1864 (1989). Revised and published in Spanish in 1995 as El rey de la noche: Juan José Flores y el Ecuador, 1824–1864. Quito: Banco Central del Ecuador, 1995.

Additional Bibliography

Aristizábal, Armando. Juan José Flores en Berruecos: Síntesis de una infamia. Quito: Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana, 1995.

Romero Mendoza, Serápio Eduardo. General Juan José Flores, fundador del Ecuador. Caracas: s.n., 1994.

Villalba F., Jorge. El general Juan José Flores: Fundador de la República del Ecuador. Puerto Cabello, Venezuela: s.n., 1995. First edition, Ecuador: Centro de Estudios Históricos del Ejército, 1994.

                                        Mark J. Van Aken

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Flores, Juan José (c. 1800–1864)

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