González Suárez, Federico
GONZÁLEZ SUÁREZ, FEDERICO
Ecuadorian bishop and historian; b. Quito, April 12, 1844; d. Quito, Dec. 1, 1917. González, grew up during the upheaval of civil war that followed the Wars of Independence. As a young man he witnessed the power struggles between García Moreno and his opponents, Julio Arboleda and Tomás Cipriano Mosquera. González left the army and joined the Society of Jesus. By temperament he was unsuited for community life; he left the society after ten years and was later ordained by the bishop
of Cuenca. Thereafter, he devoted himself to historical studies and to preaching, distinguishing himself not only by his eloquence but also by his strict judgments, which at times occasioned violent reaction from opponents.
His years in Cuenca were marked also by an interest in the prehistory of the aborigines of the region. His Estudio sobre los Cañaris was the fountainhead of new research into the past of America. Before publishing his study, González had been elected to Congress. He moved to Quito and became a well-known and respected figure in public life. He planned to write the history of the Church in Ecuador and published the first volume in 1881. Then he became interested in a general history of the nation. The archeological study in volume one (1890) failed again to attract readers. Only when volume four appeared did González's work gain attention, because of the scandal created by his description of the bad conditions prevalent in convents during the colonial period. The Roman Curia, to which the matter had to be referred, required no changes. Even before the decision, Pope Leo XIII had, in 1894, designated him bishop of Ibarra. González wrote his response in the work, published posthumously in 1937, Defensa de mi criterio histórico.
As bishop of Ibarra, he was forced to the political upheavals of the time. The ousted Ecuadorean party tried to regain power with the aid of Colombians who fought the war in the name of religion. When required by the goverment to take part in a patriotic celebration, the bishop left his vicar instructions for action in case of emergency, saying, "We eccclesiastics must never sacrifice the Fatherland in order to save religion." He opposed a bishop of a neighboring diocese who had tried to interfere in a school in Tulcán and had threatened its members with excommunication. González made it clear that he and he alone would dictate policy in the diocese and that all other orders were void. His position was upheld by Rome.
Seven volumes of his history, covering the whole colonial era, were published. Later he published Estudios literarios on well-known figures whose lives somewhat resembled his own.
[i. j. barrera]