Increasing interest in Latin American labor history in recent years has brought growth to this still largely underdeveloped field. For some time, only a few U.S. scholars covered the subject, most notably Robert J. Alexander.1 But as unions established a larger role in the political process, many institutional studies began to appear in English, especially in the 1960s, covering single nations and Latin America as a whole.2 In 1977, Hobart Spalding, riding a tide of rising U.S. academic interest in dependency theory, offered a forceful new synthesis, arguing that Latin America’s ties to the world economy played the critical role in shaping labor’s development. Spalding’s work sparked a lively debate and generated increased interest.3 Over the last few years, several studies have appeared which combine a concern for broader national political and economic trends with attention to ordinary people in everyday life. Scholars such as Peter DeShazo and June Hahner have provided in-depth observations of workers’ lives, labor, and struggles to organize, set against the context of larger national economic and political changes.4

Despite this activity, many topics in Latin American labor remain neither adequately explored nor well understood.5 Indeed, in some fields we have not yet moved beyond the general assumptions found in the earlier overviews written in the 1960s. Ecuador is a nation that often seems to have been excluded in the general advance of progress, and this is also true of the study of its labor history. Beyond synthetic overviews that scarcely mention Ecuador, the nation’s workers receive attention in only a few foreign dissertations and some extended essays written in Ecuador.6 This body of work is of uneven quality.

There is much to do in Ecuadorian labor history. Indeed, the historiography is so underdeveloped that the literature provides confusing answers to even simple informational questions, such as, what was the name of the radical nascent labor federation in the 1920s? Alexander calls them the Federación Obrera Regional Ecuatoriana (FORE), while Richard Lee Milk, in his dissertation, “Growth and Development of Ecuador’s Worker Organizations, 1895–1944,” sometimes uses the names Federación Regional Obrera Ecuatoriana (FROE) and Sociedad Regional Ecuatoriana de Trabajadores (SRET). The group actually called itself the Federación de Trabajadores Regional Ecuatoriana (FTRE).7

To some, the study of Ecuadorian workers might appear to be of no interest.8 Why is it important if we know little or nothing of Ecuadorian labor, or if our general assumptions regarding Latin American working- class history do not hold true in this case? What we learn about Ecuadorian workers is important because it can deepen our appreciation of the complexity of labor’s variable patterns of development, could encourage us to continue to revise some of the older general assertions, and may provide useful insights to be applied in other contexts. Patterns in Ecuador thus might highlight and further help us understand trends found in other parts of Latin America.

The focus of the present essay is the November 1922 general strike in Guayaquil, Ecuador. For three days workers brought the city to a halt and held massive downtown rallies at a fever pitch of energy and excitement, only to see their hopes disappear in a hail of police and military gunfire that left at least three hundred dead.9 The slim existing literature, especially the older, synthetic works on Latin American labor, generally interprets Guayaquil’s 1922 general strike by emphasizing the leading role played by anarchists.10 This interpretation sees events as part of the wave of anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist labor militancy in South America during the early decades of this century. Such an explanation may have been patterned after the labor movements of Argentina and Brazil, where some 11,000,000 immigrants arrived from Europe in the years from 1850 to 1950, with most coming from Italy and Spain, in both of which the strength of anarchist influence has long been recognized. Indeed, many labor leaders in Brazil and Argentina were anarchists from Spain or Italy. Brazilian and Argentine anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists formed unions and federations of unions, and published a great quantity of pamphlets, newspapers, and leaflets, all expressly embracing the anarchist philosophy. Previous historians of labor have often concluded that foreign immigration and anarchism may be combined to understand the early twentieth-century era of labor militancy in South America.11

There are serious problems in applying this prevailing wisdom to Ecuador, or in stressing the role of anarchists in the Guayaquil uprising of 1922. There was not a high level of immigration to the city, and only a handful of Italians or Spaniards arrived. More importantly, there is little evidence of anarchist influence such as the abundant anarchist literature and avowedly anarchist unions found elsewhere. Simply because anarchists favored general strikes it does not follow that whenever one occurred they caused it, even if they claimed credit for it.

As a rule, historians prefer sources that are well organized, and thus save time. As a result, institutions which kept the best and most orderly records have tended to receive more attention from researchers. In labor history, this has led to much research on left-wing parties, unions, and government labor reforms. However, such an approach overstates the role played by these institutions, at the expense of the spontaneous role played by the mass of unorganized workers. I believe that historians have accordingly tended to exaggerate the role of leaders in labor uprisings. These occurrences, such as the one that took place in Guayaquil, may often be better understood as examples of spontaneous democratic insurgency.

Cacao and the Economy

Guayaquil and its hinterland experienced rapid economic growth in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Blessed with an excellent natural setting for cacao, coastal Ecuador responded strongly to the pull of the expanding world market.12 Guayaquil stands at the end of the Guayas River basin, a 55,000-square-kilometer lowland with near ideal conditions for the production of cacao: rainfall is ample but not excessive, temperatures are warm but not oppressive, and it has a thick blanket of rich Andean alluvium. An outstanding fluvial network flows over the region, with the many rivers providing inexpensive transport. The waterways funnel south into the port of Guayaquil, set on the western bank of the broad, muddy Guayas River, 50 kilometers north from the Pacific Ocean.

Coastal Ecuador had long produced cacao, but in the nineteenth century the world’s appetite for it increased enormously, especially after Swiss confectioners invented milk chocolate candy in the 1860s. The value of Ecuador’s cacao exports rose more than 700 percent from the 1870s to the 1920s. The nation soon relied on cacao to supply the bulk of its export earnings, placing it in a position of dependence on capricious world markets. From the late nineteenth century on, cacao accounted for at least three-fourths of Guayaquil’s total exports.13 New cacao estates spread out all along the rivers above Guayaquil, with wealthy Ecuadorians dominating production. Guayaquil developed an export- and service-related economy; its leading citizens were generally importers, exporters, and retailers. The fortunes of these men rose with cacao shipments abroad.

For a time, especially from the late 1890s until World War I, the price for cacao stayed high, at around 20 sucres per quintal, and the exchange value of the sucre remained solid, at roughly 2 to a dollar. However, trouble loomed even during this era of prosperity, as energetic new competitors began to crowd in and challenge Ecuador s position as the world's principal cacao supplier. After 1912, Great Britain’s African colony of the Gold Coast (Ghana) emerged as the world’s main cacao producer. São Tomé, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad also competed for a share of the world market, and cacao became much more abundant.

During World War I, market conditions worsened. Ecuador could not reach some large buyers, such as Germany and the Netherlands, and other major purchasers reordered their priorities for war and bought far less chocolate. In 1921, world market conditions for cacao took an even more severe turn for the worse as global production levels soared while demand sank.14 Ecuador’s troubles were part of the post-World War I recession in the international economy and a general trend toward overproduction in primary products, coupled with weakening world demand as population growth slowed in North America and Europe.15 Prices for primary products like cacao began a steady downward slide. As export earnings dwindled, foreign currency became scarce in Ecuador, and the sucre fell markedly in value, from a 1920 high of 47 cents (U.S.) to one sucre to a 1923 low of 16 cents (U.S.) to a sucre. The price lor cacao hit bottom in 1923, when the dollar price for cacao dropped to half of what it had been in the prosperous years from 1900 to 1913—and to one-fourth of what it had been during the ephemeral boom that marked the immediate postwar period just three years earlier.16

Local conditions further exacerbated the dilemma of Guayaquil and coastal Ecuador. The spread of virulent plant blights became a serious concern for many growers. Cacao had previously flourished so easily in the Guavas River basin that major producers rarely took care of the trees. This haphazard approach to agriculture proved to be the undoing of some growers, as monilia fungus (in 1916) and then witchbroom disease (in 1922) swept through the untended groves, reducing the healthy green trees to dry sticks. Ecuadorian production of cacao fell off markedly in 1923 and 1924.17

The cacao crisis rocked government finances. This was a critical blow, for Ecuador was not in good fiscal position to begin with, laboring under an amazingly complex and highly inefficient budgetary system, A nation deeply divided by regionalism, Ecuador had decentralized taxing and spending authority as a political expedient. Autonomous juntas handled much of the revenues and expenditures, and jealously guarded their domains. The national government in Quito often had no idea how much money was coming in or going out, and had no way of finding out. Strapped for funds, Ecuador borrowed against the future during the cacao boom years, launching ambitious public works projects, paying the military, and even spending for ordinary operations of government with borrowed money. As Linda Alexander Rodriguez has shown in her recent study of Ecuadorian government finances, these “unorthodox fiscal arrangements” could work only “as long as cacao exports remained high.”18 In the 1920s, as the economic crisis broadened, the national government continued to rely heavily on loans from the banks of Guayaquil, especially the Banco Comercial y Agrícola. But the banks no longer had the resources to support high levels of official borrowing. The government therefore decided to allow banks to issue currency in proportion to the amount of government debt and gold reserves held. This policy quickly proved inflationary, further eroding the value of the sucre.

The Ecuadorian government attempted to respond to the crisis by experimenting with fixed official rates of exchange, which actually began with the Ley Moratoria (inconvertibility) in 1914. A crisis atmosphere developed, as people who had previously displayed little interest in monetary policy now expressed concern. Alarm spread among workers and in the small middle class. Government control over currency exchange and its efforts to prop the sagging value of the sucre became one of the most important political issues of the day.

Even large nations faced great difficulties as they attempted to mitigate the impact of adverse changes in the world economy. A small nation like Ecuador could do little when a global economic storm passed over. As Ecuadorian Minister of Foreign Relations N. Clemente Ponce recognized, the country’s economic collapse was caused by “the universal commercial and financial crisis,” which hurt “even the governments of wealthy nations.19

Workers and Guayaquil

The growth of Ecuador’s cacao export economy had triggered important social changes in Guayaquil and the coast. As cacao estates increased in size, waves of workers flooded down from the impoverished sierra, with more and more people drawn to Guayaquil in the hope oí finding a better life. The city grew nearly fivefold in population, increasing from 26,000 in 1877 to 120,000 by 1925, a rate faster than most other South American cities during this era of increasing urbanization.20

Abundant employment opportunities did not await the migrants to the coast. Cacao production required very few workers, and then chiefly for the December and June harvests. Furthermore, the cacao wealth of coastal Ecuador created only a limited economic spin-off effect. Although the coastal elite controlled the bulk of cacao earnings, the domestically retained profits were not reinvested productively. Industry was a poor bet, for Guayaquil had a relatively small market, a thin hinterland population, and little access to possible sierra customers, who were isolated by the towering Andes. (Even the completion of a railway to the highlands in 1908—a remarkable, if extremely expensive, engineering feat—did not lower transportation costs enough to open up the sierra.) Instead, the elite diversified its economic holdings in traditional ways, investing in rural and urban real estate, imports, and retail sales. Mostly, wealthy Guayaquileños spent their money on personal consumption: they purchased summer homes at the beach; imported elaborate home furnishings, automobiles, race horses, yachts, liquor, and the latest European fashions; and took extended trips abroad, especially to Paris.

Most of the factories that developed in Guayaquil supplied things that could not be conveniently imported, such as electricity, paving stones, or ice. Guayaquil offered few jobs in industry. For artisans and skilled construction workers there were some jobs in the small manufacturing and the building trade sectors, but most migrants to Guayaquil could only find loosely arranged sporadic employment in low-paid, usually service- related jobs. When men found work it was usually as jornaleros, or day laborers, carrying out various manual chores, such as sorting, drying, or bagging cacao, or hauling ship cargo. When women found employment it was typically as seamstresses, cooks, laundresses, maids, or, judging by police reports, as prostitutes. Many people tried to make a living in itinerant retail sales, hawking small imports, fruit, or lottery tickets on the streets of Guayaquil. Some workers turned to begging, others to crime. Working-class living conditions could be grim. The city grew into a tangle of unnamed streets and unnumbered houses. Often little more than hovels of cane and thatch, houses spread into the salt marshes to the west, up the steep Santa Ana and Carmen Hills to the north, and squeezed onto vacant lots in the city center.

The city’s growing population created an increased demand for services, but Guayaquil could not keep up. There was not enough money. While the commerce of the cacao region generated the main part of the nation’s cash wealth, the tax revenues from this economic activity had to be shared with all of Ecuador. As a result, street paving, sewer lines, and potable water seldom reached into Guayaquil working-class districts. People disposed of raw sewage, garbage, and offal in ditches, courtyards, or wherever they could. Heavy rains would flush out the waste and distribute it throughout the city.

Providing adequate public health facilities was particularly difficult. A tropical port city swamped by a flood of unacclimated newcomers from the sierra, Guayaquil faced special challenges. Working-class poverty further exacerbated conditions. The dirt floor dwellings of the poor provided ideal circumstances for the spread of tuberculosis, the leading killer in the city. Fouled drinking water and the lack of sewage disposal meant that many children died of diarrhea caused by gastrointestinal illnesses. Most people suffered from intestinal worms. Epidemic diseases like yellow fever and bubonic plague haunted Guayaquil, claiming hundreds of lives in some years. The city’s death rate reached as high as about 144 per 1,000 in 1879—an exceptional case—although it slowly declined to average in the high 40s after the turn of the century. Death rates in most other Latin American cities of this era were usually quite a bit lower.21

To give voice to their needs and concerns, working people had long employed irregular methods, for ordinary politics were closed to them. Ecuador restricted the franchise to literate males, 21 years or older. In 1894, for example, this meant that in Guayaquil, then with a population of over 50,000, it took only 2,000 votes to win a seat on the city council.22 Only 3.0 percent of the population voted in 1888, and the figure grew to only 3.1 percent by 1933.23 Elections were generally so brazenly corrupt that even the few potential voters saw little point in bothering. As U.S. officials commented, “Soldiers … [did] the voting in Ecuador,” and they were most “industrious voters.”24

Successive national governments usually ignored workers and directed attention to other concerns. In Ecuador, militarism, personalism, and regionalism dominated politics. Clear ideologies and strong parties were all but unknown as rival local strongmen vied over the spoils of office and the right to pass pork barrel legislation to benefit friends. Ecuador suffered from a nearly ceaseless and largely pointless cycle of civil wars. The often enormous task of just trying to stay on in office totally preoccupied most administrations.25

Ecuador had neither democracy nor an abiding respect for civil rights. Therefore, people sometimes selected violent means to express their political views. Workers in Guayaquil had a long tradition of rural and urban confrontation from which to draw. Rural peasants brought with them a history of sporadic mass protest when they moved to the coast. And while the urban poor had tended to ignore (or be ignored by) conventional politics, at times they would take advantage of political unrest to join popular protests and punctuate them with acts of extreme violence.26 Some workers sought to expand their political role and improve their economic situation by organizing labor unions. However, the union movement that developed in Ecuador was both very small and closely associated with the government.

Government support helped in the early formation of artisan and worker organizations in the late nineteenth century. For example, the national government gave the Sociedad Hijos del Trabajo, an association of Guayaquil artisans, a parcel of land at the society’s foundation in 1896, and the Confederación Obrera (CO) and other Guayaquil artisan associations received cash grants from the government to support workers' night schools. Nurtured by government aid, Ecuadorian artisans and workers held their first congress in 1909.27

The link between organized labor and the government had some practical advantages for both. Observing events elsewhere in South America, Ecuadorian political leaders knew of the explosive potential of organized labor. Likewise, they understood the advantages of having the emerging labor organizations closely tied to the government. For their part, politically conscious workers and artisans decided that they were too lew in number and too disorganized to be worried about whether their unions were to be independent or not. At the time, government help appeared to be a blessing.28

In 1916, Congress passed several reforms, including a law establishing an eight-hour workday. In 1921, Ecuador approved assistance for those who suffered work-related accidents.29 Although employers honored these statutes mostly in their breech, the laws represented at least a first step forward for labor. In 1920, groups of artisans and workers held Ecuador’s Second Workers’ Congress, with government financial support helping to make the meeting possible. Because of its close ties with the government and its traditional artisan membership, the congress proved to be a rather conservative body. At the close of its deliberations it asked modestly for greater government support for education and consideration of a minimum wage law.30

As more nonartisan workers began to appear in Guayaquil, a very small workers’ federation, the Asociación Gremial del Astillero, formed in the early 1920s. At about the same time, a socialist newsletter, the Bandera Roja, appeared and attacked the moderate workers’ congress. In 1922, independent worker groups created a new federation of their own, the FTRE, with 36 member groups.31 This gave Guayaquil’s tiny organized labor movement an independent and radical arm.

Given the minor role of workers in the political system, the ineffectiveness of previous outbreaks of undirected sporadic violence, and the weakness or dependency of the few labor unions, Guayaquil workers had yet to find an effective method of voicing their concerns. When economic crisis came to Guayaquil after World War I, the anxieties and frustrations of working-class families multiplied. The decline in cacao exports brought an acute contraction in earnings that Guayaquil relied on to purchase imports. Imports declined to well below pre-World War I levels, and in 1921 were about a third of what they had been just the year before.32 To ordinary people in Guayaquil this was a serious blow, for the city had developed a pattern of extreme dependence on imports to supply food and other necessities. Now that foreign exchange had become costly and scarce, food stocks dwindled and prices rose, with currency inflation aggravating the latter phenomenon. The prices of basic supplies such as flour, lard, lentils, onions, sugar, rice, beans, and coffee rose steeply.33 Rents quadrupled. The Guayaquil newspaper El Guante reported that “every article tripled in price.”34 A British observer commented that “the prices of all prime necessities of life have been triplicated and quadruplicated within the last few years.”35 And while prices rose, employment opportunities disappeared. To most of those who lived in Guayaquil, this meant an increase in suffering.

Railwaymen took action. On October 17, 1922 they drew up a list of demands and presented them to the U.S. company that owned and managed the railroad.36 The workers had serious complaints. In addition to presenting basic economic demands (such as wages paid on time), workers also felt that U.S. employees in management received special advantages denied the Ecuadorian and Jamaican work crews. The men charged that North Americans received better care from the company physician, Dr. Max Meitzner. Workmen helped pay Meitzner’s salary, but received little medical care in return. When one Ecuadorian worker lost a hand in a dynamite accident, Meitzner refused to travel to his assistance. This episode and others like it earned the deep resentment of many workers. They demanded the hiring of an Ecuadorian doctor and the establishment of auxiliary medical posts. Workers further sought payment in gold or in dollars like U.S. employees. Pride in the national currency aside, these men knew how the sucre was slipping in value. Finally, workers called for 15 days’ notice before all future layoffs and the rehiring of dismissed union organizers. On October 19th, the railroad men struck.

General Manager J. C. Dobbie refused to negotiate and brought in strikebreakers to run the railroad. But the workers stood firm. Grouped together in the town of Durán (the railroad terminus on the other side of the river from Guayaquil), they held meetings and painted anti-U.S. slogans on the walls. Ecuador’s small organized labor movement threw its support behind the strikers. The newly formed and independent FTRE issued a manifesto backing the strikers. The older, government-backed CO sent a supportive telegram and one thousand sucres. In Guayaquil, hundreds of workers held a rally to show their solidarity with the strikers. Students and workers led similar demonstrations in Riobamba.

After a tense few days, Dobbie at last agreed to negotiate and accepted the railway men’s demands. Dobbie planned to offset pay raises with a fare hike and apparently thought that President Luis Tamayo had agreed to this plan. Dobbie reasoned that he had staved oft a possible revolt by settling the strike on the workers’ terms. But President Tamavo did not see this matter in the same light, and canceled the rate increase. The fact that foreigners owned the railway no doubt made it easier for President Tamayo to stand aside during the strike, for the government took no steps to repress the workers. To have done so would have looked like unpatriotic pandering to foreign interests. Given the severity of Ecuador’s crisis, Tamayo prudently sought to avoid being cast in the role of supporting foreign exploiters against Ecuadorians.

The strike was an unmitigated victory for the workers. Dobbie had promised better medical care at company expense and agreed to strict adherence to the eight-hour workday law. The company reinstated fired workers, agreed to build better housing for employees, and granted substantial pay increases. Across the river in Guayaquil, workers paid careful attention. To them, the railroad strike was a clear example of how people could better their lot if they held firm and acted together.37

General Strike

Long-suffering workers in Guayaquil shared in the euphoria if not the material benefits of the railroad workers’ victory. If workers in Durán could win pay increases and make fools of management, Guayaquileños believed that they might do the same thing. On November 6, 7, and 8, 1922, workers from the trolley companies (electric and mule-drawn), the electric company, and the gas and water works met in an ad hoc Grand Assembly. After all-day sessions they issued a set of demands. They had wasted little time in following the example of the railroad workers.38

Workers in Guayaquil had been hard pressed by the economic crisis. Trolley workers were especially poor, living on bare subsistence wages. Gonductors received 1.20 sucres a day and drivers got only slightly more, 1.50. The men left home for work around 4:30 a.m., and ended their shifts at 11:00 p.m. On top of the long hours, drivers had the added obligation of keeping an eye on the trolley cars on Sundays, their only day off. If anything happened to the trolley, it came out of their wages. Finally, employees complained, they lived in constant dread of being fired.

Although they had obvious reasons for hostility, the trolley workers drew up fairly mild demands. They wanted more money, shorter hours, greater job security, safer working conditions, and to be treated with greater respect. Specifically, they asked for a pay raise of 80 centavos for conductors and 1.60 sucres more daily pay for drivers. They sought an eight-hour day with extra money for overtime. Workmen agreed to continue making their own uniforms (no doubt the wife's or mother's job), but asked that the company provide the cloth. Workers wanted to be freed of the obligation of guarding the trolleys on weekends and asked that it become the company’s financial responsibility if the vehicle incurred damage. In addition, the men requested that suspensions from work never run longer than five days. Finally, they demanded strict compliance with already existing safety regulations and an end to all verbal abuse. There were 28 demands in all, but all were rather modest.39 However, managers did not share this view, and when they rejected the demands, the workers struck.

Employees and management agreed to talk. The employees selected Dr. J. José Vicente Trujillo, a noted young labor lawyer from the CO, and Dr. Carlos Puig, who had been the striking railroad workers’ attorney, to represent them at the contract negotiations with the light, power, and trolley companies. Also attending the meetings were Jorge Pareja, the governor of Guayas Province, General Enrique Barriga, regional military commander, and Alejo Mateus, chief of police. These government officials saw the preservation of law and order as their primary responsibility. Workers had shut down city transport, and rumors circulated that the drivers planned to park the trolley cars across busy downtown intersections. The officials’ strongest fear was that the city would be without light during the night, and that under darkness Guayaquil would erupt into worker violence. The military transferred troops into the city.40

Over the next few days, the strike gathered momentum. Men employed in manufacturing shops or factories could not work, for there was no power. The walkout became the talk of the city. Newspapers centered their editions around the strike, with editorial opinion in the major dailies stressing the reasonableness of workers’ demands.41

But in other quarters, tempers grew short. When the railroad workers decided to move to Guayaquil and join the Grand Assembly (and brought with them over five hundred sucres for the strike fund), General Manager Dobbie raged. He believed that he had given in to the railwaymen’s whims, and now expected his employees to get back to work. Dobbie angrily fired off a sharply worded note to the managers of the transit companies in Guayaquil, assuring them that if his men walked out in support of the strike, he would hold the companies directly responsible for any losses be incurred.42

As the strike gathered force, the workers’ spokesmen, especially Assembly President Adolfo Villacres, recognized that their power to restrain the emboldened strikers was very limited. The Society of Printers, acting without direct approval from Villacres or the assembly, ran off thousands of leaflets inviting union and nonunion workers from all over the city to join in the strike. Not all who accepted the printers’ invitation were well behaved. A drunken band of men wandered toward the power plant, firing off their guns and otherwise causing trouble. These men apparently intended to force their way into the building to shut off the city’s lights. The assembly had to dispatch a crew to round up these troublemakers and pack them off to jail. Still, it was clearly becoming more difficult to maintain order, especially as increasing popular support developed for the strike. The assembly of workers soon grew to some three thousand members, and it began to stage large outdoor rallies.

After extended negotiations, and just when a settlement seemed imminent, the workers’ assembly began to raise a different and more serious issue. There was not to be a quick end to the strike. From the beginning, many workmen had believed that pay raises would be of little help so long as the value of the sucre continued to deteriorate. They were right, for inflation would quickly wipe out whatever pay gains they secured. What many workers and others desired was a return to the foreign exchange law of June to September 1922, the last in the series of futile attempts to artificially prop up the declining value of the sucre. Undeterred by the repeated failure of such measures, the strikers helped to resurrect this old idea.

Artificial exchange rate control was a notion that would not go away. Indeed, it remained a very popular idea throughout Ecuador. Supporters of the measure seized on President Tamayo’s frequently voiced but dubious assertion that unscrupulous speculators had driven down the value of the sucre, and that strict regulation of specie would easily remedy the problem. This was a major misunderstanding. The value of the sucre fell because the value of cacao exports had hit bottom. “Speculators had little to do with it. Countries which export one primary product routinely suffer economic depression and a decline in currency value when the price of their export falls sharply. This experience was hardly unique to Ecuador. Nonetheless, artificial exchange control offered a simple, if totally unrealistic, solution to the nation’s economic dilemma.

El Universo, one of the two major Guayaquil dailies, called for "attacking the problem at its origin."43 In a front page editorial, the paper noted the close-at-hand strike settlement, and called for resolution of what it saw as the real cause of labor unrest, the exchange rate problem. El Universo held that a renewal of the exchange moratorium would slowly iron out currency fluctuations that were at present completely unregulated “and controlled by a few planters without heart or conscience.” Blaming speculators, the paper called on President Tamayo to end “monopoly control over foreign exchange.44El Universo demanded that precious foreign currency not be squandered on the decadent opulence of the rich, but instead be used to build import substitution industries in Ecuador.

Alert to the trouble in Guayaquil, President Tamayo and his secretary of interior departed for the coast, with reconsideration of an exchange rate moratorium ranking high on their agenda. Moreover, when white- collar workers from Guayaquil’s financial district joined the walkout, they brought with them a desire to make the exchange rate issue one of the assembly’s demands. The assembly soon began to consider how to obtain a reduction in the exchange rate.45

The more conservative CO, acting on its own initiative outside of the Grand Assembly, further propelled the exchange rate question to the forefront of discussion. It drafted a petition calling for a halt to specie speculation, and asked for a moratorium on the exchange of all foreign currency. It circulated the petition and appealed to President Tamayo, arguing that the previous June to September 1922 exchange rate law had been the only effective measure in controlling specie speculation abuses. The CO petition claimed that Ecuador had to take protective measures due to its overreliance on cacao exports, and called for government control over all foreign monev.46

The fourth day of the strike proved to be the turning point. Workers and management seemed to have a contract settlement at hand, while the president was on his way from Quito to discuss and no doubt approve another specie exchange moratorium. Representatives Dr. Carlos Puig and Dr. J. José Vicente Trujillo returned to the assembly to gain the workers’ approval of the settlement and to end the strike. However, management had added a new stipulation for settlement. The trolley companies planned to go before the city council to get formal approval of a doubling in fares to offset the workers’ pay increase. When Puig and Trujillo told the assembly of this new condition the men moaned with disapproval.47

A CO delegation also went before the assembly carrying that group’s petition they had been circulating for a moratorium on foreign specie exchange. It argued that the workers’ assembly should adopt the exchange moratorium issue as one of its main demands. Emboldened by the enthusiastic show of worker solidarity evidenced in the swelling size of the assembly, moratorium advocates urged the workers to press their advantage by demanding action on this issue. Since government and management had already given in to most of the other demands, why not insist on one more? Workers were already aroused and authorities seemed to be in a reasonably agreeable mood; the time seemed propitious. The assembly leadership did not agree; Dr. Puig urged the rank and file to approve the strike settlement, fare hikes and all. He pleaded for an end to the strike, which, he declared, the workers had already won. But the workers remained unswayed.48

Drs. Trujillo and Puig had no choice but to relate to the authorities that the assembly had rejected management’s settlement proposal and that instead the strike now included a new demand: an exchange moratorium. To the officials the moratorium proposal came as no surprise. Also concerned about the exchange rate issue, Governor Pareja promised to send along the workers’ moratorium demand to President Tamayo.49

The assembly formally presented its exchange moratorium demand to Governor Pareja and suspended discussion of pay raises and the rate hikes. It would now focus concern on the moratorium. The strikers broadened the demand to include government control of all foreign currency, a halt on payments made with foreign drafts, and government recognition of a seven-member executive committee, with four of the members selected by the workers, entrusted with solving the economic crisis, lowering the cost of living, and regulating the exchange rate. Workers declared that the general strike would end only after the government accepted all of these demands.50 The strikers had decided to press their advantage.

Tuesday, November 14, 1922 was the sixth day of the walkout and the first full day of general strike. The railroad workers struck again, most businesses closed, transportation halted, and there was no light, electricity, or gas. The strike had all but shut down this city of over 100,000. With the day off, workers roamed the streets enforcing the strike. “The City Trembles,” El Universo's headline blared.51

Strikers marched downtown, and some parceled out leaflets from the FTRE calling for a moratorium on foreign currency exchange, an end to salt and tobacco taxes and the abolition of the government sugar monopoly (forms of regressive taxation), protection for nascent domestic industry, the creation of a program for turning over unused farm land to landless peasants, and opposition to the proposed trolley fare hikes.52 That afternoon’s giant downtown demonstrations seemed to reaffirm to participants the broad support of their cause. Beyond this, the enthusiasm of the rallies served as a profound confirmation of the workers’ commitment.

President Tamayo, as he made his way from Quito, had kept abreast of the situation via telegraph.53 The Council of State granted him extraordinary powers to deal with the crisis which he then delegated to Governor Pareja in Guayaquil, the morning of November 15, 1922. Tamayo also appointed a commission in Guayaquil to draw up the moratorium decree. He had issued such a decree before. He was willing to try again.

Meeting early the morning of the 15th at the governor’s building, the commission included government authorities as well as representatives of the workers’ assembly. By 1:00 p.m. they had drawn up the new moratorium, with the agreement of all parties. They immediately wired the text of the decree to Tamayo and waited for his assent. Meanwhile, the governor, instilled with a pressing sense of urgency, sought to regain control of Guayaquil. In view of the accord now reached, Pareja wanted to end the strike and send workers home. Pareja asked for commission approval to issue a proclamation declaring that the president would soon sign the moratorium decree and forbidding strikers from staging any further marches or rallies.

Worker representatives Trujillo and Puig convinced Governor Pareja to delay issuing his proclamation so that they could hurry back and inform the assembly of the settlement. At 2:00 p.m. the governor received a note from the Grand Assembly. It would neither cancel the rally for that afternoon nor halt the general strike until Tamayo actually signed the new law. Pareja, having heard nothing from President Tamayo, at 4:00 p.m. decided to go ahead and issue his proclamation anyway. By then it was too late, for events had spun completely out of control in the streets of Guayaquil.54

That morning, Wednesday, November 15, 1922, had found a situation primed for explosion. Without light since Monday, the city lacked bread, meat, milk, and most other essentials. Early in the morning, many workers started filtering downtown, anticipating the large rally to be held at 3:00 p.m. On their way into the city center, men checked in at the shops they passed to make sure that no one was breaking the strike. Those found at labor received sharp orders to join the walkout. By 1:00 p.m., about the time the commission finished drawing up the moratorium decree, a sizable crowd had already begun to fill the city s downtown area. This was by far the largest demonstration yet. The crowd of children, women, and men numbered around 20,000.55

The strikers exhibited great energy and excitement. At 3;00 p.m. the crowd jammed up against the governor’s building to see about the exchange decree. As always, they raised spirited shouts. “Long live the strike!” “Lower the exchange rate!” Seeking to restore some semblance of order and control. Dr. Puig spoke to the boisterous, noisy gathering. Puig declared that they had a settlement, but the strikers had heard this from him before. He said that the moratorium decree had been drawn up, and as he read it to them, people responded with cheers. Puig told the crowd that the next morning the government would announce its agreement to their demands. The rally began to take on the air of a victory celebration. When Dr. Trujillo proclaimed that the governor had agreed to free two of the labor leaders who had previously been jailed, the crowd became exuberant. “To the police station!” they cried. And with Dr. Trujillo and the governor leading the way, they set off for the police depot a few blocks away. This was a mistake.

At the police station were army troops, who had been brought to Guayaquil in growing numbers since the beginning of the strike. Some of the troops had become edgy; soldiers watched nervously as the swollen procession approached their post. "To the police station! To the police station!” A jumpy soldier fired his weapon, and then another followed. At first, perhaps, they shot into the air. But as the people screamed and pushed, panicked and tried to flee, the soldiers fired into the crowd.

Once the gunfire began, it generated a momentum of its own. The pent-up tensions, so carefully restrained in the preceding days, now were given full expression. The crowd ran in terror. The troops broke up into packs, pursued, and fired. An eyewitness involved in treating the injured said, “[O]n each block we had to stop and mend wounds” of those who had fallen in the streets. The soldiers “shot at everything they saw.” It was like a “tremendous hunting party."56 The strikers presented clear targets in their work clothes and red bandanas. Of course, some soldiers exercised restraint. Notably, the Montúfar battalion confined its efforts to restoring calm. It rounded up prisoners and escorted them to jail. Unfortunately, Montúfar was an exception. Once the violence began, the soldiers generally behaved in a ruthless and wanton manner.

After the shooting started, a few people began breaking into stores, some seeking a place to hide, some searching for guns, and doubtless some deciding to take advantage of the chaos to steal a few items. Whatever the reason, this activity provided the principal rationale for the massacre of workers that followed. The Cazadores de Los Ríos troop trapped 25 people inside of one store. They shot and killed everyone there. There were numerous similar episodes everywhere. One eyewitness recounted the events at another store, where soldiers had chased a group of people onto the roof “They found iron fences that prevented their descent. … When they struggled to separate the iron bars, the bullets arrived. …"57 To be sure, at another shop some looters escaped. “The store of González Rubio was left full of old shoes that the strikers left in exchange for … new ones.”58

The military killed many innocent people. But others joined in slaving workers. Some wealthy people took part. Watching from their balconies as the strikers went by in the streets, some of the affluent decided to level a few shots at those passing below.59 One individual at the scene told of perhaps the most hideous act of violence that day, which occurred at the malecón. Frightened and horrified people ran and hid behind a wall by the river bank, but “soldiers rushed down with bayonets on their rifles. … I saw a man kneel and put up his hands … [, but] a soldier struck him with a bayonet in the back and … threw him [into the river].” Many people ran into the water to escape, “but they shot them,” until the river literally ran red.60

The gunfire began to thin out around 5:00 p.m. Police and soldiers counseled quiet: “To your houses calmly,” “To sleep ladies, to sleep.”61 At 6:00 p.m., with order largely restored, the troops marched down Avenida 9 de Octubre through the center of Guayaquil. Some of the wealthier families opened the windows of their balconies and began applauding and offering cries of approval. “Long live the saviors of the city.” The soldiers responded, “Long live the country!”62 Police and soldiers patrolled the city through the night. Occasionally, a shot could be heard, but for the most part the bloodletting had ended.

There was a great deal of damage, with several stores reporting near total losses.63 Surprisingly, most of the damage to property came from rifle fire. Although one store claimed it lost 150 revolvers, not one soldier had died. A soldier’s horse had been killed, 10 to 15 officials, soldiers, and policemen suffered injuries, but not one of them lost his life.64

The strikers did not fare as well. No one could calculate exactly how many people had died, for too many factors muddled the body count. There were those who were shot in the river and whose bodies had floated away. There were those who died in out-of-the-way places. Four days later, the police were still turning up bodies of those killed on the 15th. There were cadavers dumped by soldiers into the Guayas River at night.65 And there was the common grave at the cemetery. A witness reported that flat cars pulled up carrying a “mountain of dead." Soldiers stacked the bodies on the street corner like “cord wood,” and “threw this mountain of wounded and dead and half alive into the pit in the cemetery.”66 Later, troops had to guard the common grave to prevent people from trying to identify the nameless buried. At a minimum, soldiers killed three hundred people.67

It is difficult to explain why the military behaved so violently. Most army officers came from the “better” families of the sierra, and the commanders stationed in Guayaquil were among the first cohort to graduate from the new military college in Quito.68 Therefore, it might be argued that the class differences and the regional jealousies of sierra officers contributed to the bloodshed. On the other hand, the first shots appear to have come spontaneously from the lower ranks, whose class background, at least, was quite different. The only thing clear about the soldiers’ reaction is that possible feelings of solidarity with the workers of Guayaquil were overshadowed by the sense of beleaguerment and fear as they faced a crowd that was vastly superior in numbers even if not in arms.

The day after the tragedy, the moratorium committee sent President Tamayo the following cable: “Dr. Tamayo we are in the telegraph office. … The situation in Guayaquil is perfectly clear: if the order for the moratorium arrives immediately we will be able to obtain quiet in the city.” Tamayo did not act. The committee sent another telegram: “Dr. Tamayo: In the name of Guayaquil we ask for the decree today, tomorrow will be too late. Yesterday cost 300 victims. …"69 Finally, Tamayo indicated that he would issue the law, with a few modifications, that evening. At a few minutes before midnight he made the moratorium decree. It now seemed little more than an empty afterthought.70

After the massacre, the workers’ assembly and the general strike broke up. Assembly leaders had never exercised effective control over their diffuse organization, and now that many workers wanted to return to their jobs, there was no stopping them. Some remaining in the assembly bravely vowed to stay on strike until management met the demands of the trolley and power employees, the original strike groups. But the protest had run out of momentum. Except for the electric and mule-drawn trolleys, all of the city’s services began again within a couple of days.71 Even the railroad employees gave up and went back to work. At last, on November 21, 1922, workers and management of the trolley companies settled their strike. The workers got pay raises, shorter hours, and the other principal demands, but the trolley companies enacted the fare increases. Unlike the railroad strike, the Guayaquil general strike was at best a very limited and bittersweet victory. So many had been killed, so little had been accomplished.72

The moratorium, meant to help protect the workers’ pay increases, failed miserably, of course. The Moratorium Commission tried to hold the exchange rate at 3.80 sucres to the dollar, but this plan proved utterly unrealistic. The sucre’s real value was closer to 5.00 to one dollar. Actually, the moratorium only got Ecuador into deeper financial trouble as foreign currency became so unobtainable that most major Guayaquil importers could not pay their bills.73 No British company received payment for exports to Guayaquil after the exchange decree, due to Ecuador’s govemmental control of all foreign currency.74 Claims for payment also flooded in from French and German representatives.75

Whether the government handled all foreign exchange or not, Ecuador still earned too little of it, and its cost remained high.76 Speculators in foreign currency were not, as President Tamayo so frequently claimed, the cause of high foreign exchange prices. The cause was Ecuador's severe trade imbalance, primarily resulting from the collapse of the world cacao market. Hence, the government could not solve the problem by instituting an official exchange rate beneath the price established on the open market, and the currency exchange regulations (enacted November 16, amended December 5 and again on December 9) proved completely insufficient in addressing Ecuador’s foreign exchange dilemma. At last the government gave up on the idea, and even President Tamayo admitted that domestic control of specie was ineffective in stabilizing the price of currency set by world market forces.77 On October 15, 1924, exactly a year and 11 months after the violence in Guayaquil, President Tamayo signed a bill abolishing foreign currency control.78 The exchange rate remained high, inflation continued, prices for imports soared (including the cost of Guayaquil's crucial food imports), and people continued to suffer.79 The strike had failed to bring relief to the hard-pressed workers.

Beyond the failure of the moratorium, the meagerness of the workers' pay raises, and the heavy toll in lives, the strike brought still other costs for the workers. The strike had subjected many people to indiscriminate police violence, caused them great hardships, and later left them with higher trolley fares. For many it was hard to see how they had benefited from the movement.80 Moreover, after the events in Guayaquil, critics attacked the labor movement and the government withdrew its support. The violence had greatly alarmed Ecuador’s political leaders. The government rounded up all the major labor leaders and forced them into exile; Puig and Trujillo did not return for two years.81

Authorities labeled the labor movement as “bolshevik,” and prone to violence.82 Despite clear evidence to the contrary, the government and the military tried to whitewash their own role in the Guayaquil violence. They placed the blame squarely on “bolsheviks” and “anarchist[s].”83 The progovernment version of the massacre pointed vaguely to “certain foreign and pernicious elements,” “agents of revolution” who had led the workers’ movement astray. This view claimed that it was a “Soviet” plot, with ties in Riobamba and Quito, and charged that radical workers had attacked the soldiers with guns, rocks, and knives. Only looters and communists had been killed in the gunfire, the official version maintained.84 “We are sure that the sane and good workers” returned to their homes, and only revolutionaries stayed out in the streets and got shot.85 The military received credit—from Tamayo and others—for saving the nation from a “criminal furor.”86 Previously, the government had bankrolled the unions and wooed worker support. The Guayaquil bloodshed changed that policy: the government now became openly hostile to organized labor.

The nascent labor movement fell apart. FTRE broke up and the Gremial del Astillero disbanded. Organized labor became timid, cowed, and could not serve as an aggressive voice for worker interests.87 The labor movement in Ecuador became one of Latin America’s most feeble.


Previous interpretations, especially those found in older, synthetic labor history overviews, have generally concluded that anarchists (especially European immigrants) played a critical organizing and leadership role in Latin America’s post-World War I general strikes, including that of Guayaquil. But while this interpretation may have some value in other contexts, it does not hold true in Ecuador.

In Guayaquil, most people were internal migrants who had drifted down from the tradition-bound rural sierra. Guayaquil had few immigrants, and almost none from Europe. In 1880, out of Guayaquil’s total population of 26,000, there were but 450 Italian and Spanish immigrants, many of whom were wealthy importers and their families.88 Even 40 years later, immigrants were too few for foreign-born anarchists to have played the role that they may have played elsewhere in South America. To be sure, anarchist leaders did not necessarily have to be imported. In Chile’s case, for example, Peter DeShazo has recently claimed that home-grown anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists led the rise in labor militancy during the early twentieth century. Bucking the prevailing view that the socialists and Chile’s nitrate workers were largely responsible for early Chilean labor militancy, DeShazo in 1983 argued that Chilean-born anarchists from Santiago and Valparaíso led the movement. While some commentators hold that DeShazo oversells his thesis, others admit that he offers in “numbing detail” enough evidence to support his reinterpretation.89 Therefore, if Chile could develop a home-grown, anarchist-led labor movement, why not Ecuador?

Ecuador’s economy and resulting employment structure were quite different from those of Chile. Chile’s successful nitrate economy created many jobs, not only in mining, but also in rounds of new urban construction funded by rising government tax revenues from export sales. Chile also witnessed the development of an important industrial sector and, by the early twentieth century, the emergence of a recognizably modern working class. In Ecuador, however, the export economy generated very little increase in labor demand. Cacao growers had limited labor needs, while in Guayaquil almost no industrialization took place. The bulk of Guayaquil workers found employment in loosely arranged day labor jobs, especially in the service sector. Ecuador’s circumstances seem much too different from Chile’s for us to expect a similar course of labor history. Neighboring Peru and Colombia might well provide more appropriate comparisons; but it still seems best not to explain Guayaquil’s labor development by suggesting that it necessarily followed patterns noticed elsewhere.90

Caution is particularly warranted for Guayaquil because there is so little evidence of anything resembling “anarchist leadership” of the 1922 strike. While Guayaquil workers did form at least one radical labor federation, the FTRE, it was far smaller than the older, government-backed CO. And while the FTRE strongly supported the strike, it did not lead the Grand Assembly of workers. Cautious and moderate assembly leaders and spokesmen did not support the positions taken by the FTRE. Neither did Guayaquil have any unambiguously anarchist unions. A few intellectuals met in an anarchist study group, and perhaps one or two of the city’s nine or so small labor newspapers had anarchist sympathies, but this scarcely demonstrates the existence of an anarchist labor movement.91 Anarchists in Guayaquil amounted to little more than a handful of romantics. Perhaps some future historian will uncover evidence of a central anarchist influence, but until and unless such proof is found, the view that anarchists led the 1922 general strike in Guayaquil can only be supported with assertions and dubious analogies.

A review of the events in Guayaquil in 1922 highlights the need to posit a different interpretation. Printers—not the Grand Assembly or its leaders—decided to issue leaflets calling for all to join the walkout. The assembly leaders repeatedly had to plead with workers to keep the city’s lights on at night. The older and more moderate worker organization, the CO, not the assembly or its leadership, brought forward the exchange rate moratorium proposal, and passed around a petition for it without prior assembly approval. When the trolley companies required a fare hike as part of the final settlement, the strike negotiators accepted it but the workers did not. Even after Dr. Puig begged the workers to accept the settlement, they refused. (Also, while Puig negotiated with officials, workers took it upon themselves to raise noisy cheers from the streets below, and only Puig’s repeated entreaties got them to quiet down.) Later, despite the counsel of the strike leadership, the workers decided to shut off Guayaquil’s lights. The FTRE passed out radical and unauthorized handbills at the downtown rally of the 14th. The workers shifted their demands just when it appeared that their negotiators had gotten them what they had asked for originally. Even after the government accepted the new demands, the assembly chose, again acting against the advice of their leadership, to continue on strike until they received formal written confirmation from the president. Finally, when the strike broke up, nothing the leadership said could stop people from going back to their jobs in defeat. What all of this shows is that the general strike was essentially a leaderless movement—a democratic insurgency.92

This was not a union movement. Few Guayaquil workers belonged to unions. Rather, workers responded spontaneously to the severe downward slide in their standard of living and took their cues from the example of the successful strike in Durán. By viewing the general strike as an example of a spontaneous popular uprising, we can perhaps better understand its strengths and weaknesses. Indeed, the strengths of the movement were its very weaknesses.

In a spontaneous mass movement, if the causes remain in effect and the movement is not quickly crushed by repression, it should gather strength and display some imposing powers. It cannot be ignored. It must either be repressed—and this may not be easy, or the political costs may be too high—or its demands must be addressed. Moreover, if the movement obtains some early concessions, its enthusiasm will surely grow. Emotional zeal is, after all, the key strength of such a movement. However, the power of a spontaneous movement, although threatening for a time, is erratic and short term. The movement can only hope to attack specific and clear-cut grievances and cannot long maintain its fever pitch of emotions. When the level of enthusiasm drops, the movement no longer exists. Hence, vigorous repression may take the spirit out of a spontaneous democratic insurgency, and completely defeat it.

Seeing the Guayaquil uprising in this way allows us to understand both who could be recruited and why, without postulating an exaggerated role for the movement’s leaders. People took to the streets in response to direct and readily comprehensible negative conditions. Workers did not need to be sold on some misty vision of a utopian tomorrow by well-tutored revolutionaries. Instead, they only needed to look around and recognize that their situation had become radically worse, and then begin grumbling about it with other workers. Recruitment for this spontaneous uprising was possible without a vanguard of revolutionary leaders.

The movement’s great popular support meant that it could not be ignored, but its lack of formal organization or permanence meant that it was not able to monitor compliance with the concessions it won. As one political observer noted, when the government abolished the moratorium law in 1924, “not a voice was raised in its defense either in Guayaquil or elsewhere.”93 The uprising ran on passionate energy and enthusiasm—both of which collapsed when police repression took the heart out of the movement.

In Guayaquil, workers responded spontaneously and democratically, if ultimately ineffectively, to the collapse of the cacao export economy. This was not the only South American city to experience popular unrest in the early twentieth century. As study progresses on Latin American labor history, perhaps the Guayaquil example will help to suggest ways to reconsider the experiences and struggles of other ordinary workers.


Robert J. Alexander, Organized Labor in Latin America (New York, 1965); also see Marjorie Ruth Clark, Organized Labor in Mexico (Chapel Hill, 1934).


Moisés Poblete Troncoso and Ben G. Burnett, The Rise of the Latin American Labor Movement (New York, 1960); James L. Payne, Labor and Politics in Peru: The System of Political Bargaining (New Haven, 1965); Joe Ashby, Organized Labor and the Mexican Revolution Under Lázaro Cárdenas (Chapel Hill, 1967); Samuel L. Baily, Labor, Nationalism and Politics in Argentina (New Brunswick, 1967); Victor Alba, Politics and the Labor Movement in Latin America (Stanford, 1968); Miguel Urrutia, The Development of the Colombian Labor Movement (New Haven, 1969).


Hobart A. Spalding, Jr., Organized Labor in Latin America (New York, 1977). In a critique of Spalding, Eugene F. Sofer contended that by pulling back to a global perspective, Spalding had not and could not see how ordinary workers had participated in shaping their world. Sofer, “Recent Trends in Latin American Labor Historiography,” Latin American Research Review, 15:1 (1980), 167-176.


Peter DeShazo, Urban Workers and Labor Unions in Chile 1902-1927 (Madison, 1983); June Hahner, Poverty and Politics: The Urban Poor in Brazil, 1870-1920 (Albuquerque, 1986).


There are several articles which survey the literature on Latin American labor. Alexander, "Organized Labor,” in Latin American Scholarship Since World War II: Trends in History, Political Science, Literature, Geography, and Economics, Roberto Esquenazi-Mayo and Michael C. Meyer, eds. (Lincoln, 1971), 155-171; Kenneth Paul Erickson, Batrick V. Peppe, and Spalding, “Research on the Urban Working Class and Organized Labor in Argentina, Brazil and Chile: What is Left to be Done?," Latin American Research Review, 9:2 (Summer 1974), 115-142; Judith Evans, “Results and Prospects; Some Observations on Latin American Labor Studies,” International Labor and Working-Class History, no. 16 (Fall 1979), 29-39; Charles Bergquist, “What is Being Done?: Some Recent Studies on the Urban Working Class and Organized Labor in Latin America,” Latin American Research Review, 16:2 (1981), 203-223; Ronaldo Munck, “Labor Studies Renewal,” Latin American Perspectives, 13:2 (Spring 1986), 108–114.


Troncoso and Burnett, Rise of the Latin American Labor Movement, 86-87; Alba, Politics and the Labor Movement, 56; Spalding, Organized Labor, 50, 58, 67-68; Richard Lee Milk, “Growth and Development of Ecuador’s Worker Organizations, 1895-1944” (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University, 1977); Lois Johnson Weinman, “Ecuador and Cacao; Domestic Responses to the Boom-Collapse Monoexport Cycle” (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1970); Plutarco Naranjo, La I Internacional en Latinoamérica (Quito, 1977); Elias Muñoz Vicuña, El 15 de noviembre de 1922 (Guayaquil, 1978); Isabel Robalino Bolle, El sindicalismo en el Ecuador (Quito, 1976–81); Muñoz Vicuña and Leonardo Vicuña Izquierdo, “Historia del movimiento obrero del Ecuador (resumen),” in Historia del movimiento obrero en América Latina, 4 vols., Pablo González Casanova, ed. (Mexico City, 1984-85), III, 201-275.


Alexander, Organized Labor. 124; Milk. "Growth and Development," 53, 78 (although Milk uses the correct name on p. 73); Para la historia: Esposición de la Federación de Trabajadores Regional Ecuatoriana sobre la actitud obrera en los meses de octubre y noviembre de mil novecientos veintidós (Guayaquil. 1923).


Some scholars have pointed up the need for more study of Ecuadorian workers and of general strikes, such as that of Guayaquil in 1922. For example, in a review of recent contributions to Latin American social history, Susan Migden Socolow singled out Michael T. Hamerly’s study of Guayaquil for particular praise, but underlined the need to learn more about the population and workers in the city. Erickson, Peppe, and Spalding noted that no one has studied the urban riots which shook nearly every major Latin American city during or just after World War One.” Socolow, "Three Contributions to Latin American Social History," Latin American Research Review. 15:3 (1978), 233-237 (discussing Historia social y económica de la antigua provincia de Guayaquil, by Hamerly, trans, by Walter R Spurrier [Guayaquil, 1973]). Erickson, Peppe, and Spalding, “Research on the Urban Working Class," 115-142.


As with much of Ecuadorian labor historiography, there is considerable confusion and even a lack of awareness regarding this important topic. Indeed, Spalding in discussing post-World War I working-class unrest mentions Ecuadorian strikes in 1917 and 1919 as the most noteworthy events, but offers not a word on the much larger and vastly more important 1922 general strike. See Spalding, Organized Labor, 50, 67-68.


S. Fanny Simon, "Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism in South America,” HAHR, 26:1 (Feb. 1946), 50; Alexander, Organized Labor, 124: Alba, Politics and the Labor Movement, 56; Milk, “Growth and Development," 53; Weinman, "Ecuador and Cacao," 226.


Fully half of the population in Buenos Aires and São Paulo was foreign born by 1914. See Spalding, Organized Labor and Fanny Simon, “Anarchism and Anarcho-Syndicalism,” 57. On immigration, see Alba, Politics and the Labor Movement; Hahner, Poverty and Politics, 47; and Julia Kirk Blackwelder and Lyman L. Johnson, “Changing Criminal Patterns in Buenos Aires, 1890 to 1914," Journal of Latin American Studies, 14:2 (Nov. 1982), 363. On anarchists, see Sheldon L. Maram, “The Immigrant and the Brazilian Lahor Movement, 1890-1920,” in Essays Concerning the Socioeconomic History of Brazil and Portuguese India, Dauril Alden and Warren Dean, eds. (Gainesville, 1977), 178-210 and James Joll, The Anarchists (London, 1964).


The following discussion is drawn from Ronn F. Pineo, The Economic and Social Transformation of Guayaquil, Ecuador, 1870-1925 (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Irvine, 1987).


This section is drawn from ibid., chap. 2. Whereas in 1898 Ecuador produced as much as 30 percent of the world's cacao, by 1923 it grew 7 percent of the world total. See Linda Alexander Rodriguez, The Search for Public Policy: Regional Politics and Government Finances in Ecuador, 1830-1940 (Berkeley, 1984), 97, 100, 103, 120, 147 and Luis Alberto Carbó, Historia monetaria y cambiaria del Ecuador (Quito, 1978), 68, 97, 106, 107, 110; Shanon M. Eder, “Report for 1878,” Mar. 15, 1879, “Despatches from U.S. Consuls in Guayaquil, 1826–1909” (hereafter cited as “Despatches … 1826-1909"), vol. IV, United States National Archives (hereafter USNA), Record Group (hereafter RG) 59; Vicente Gonzales Bazo, Compañía nacional de cacao: Exposición del negociado (Quito, 1899); Chamber oí Commerce of Guayaquil, Report, 1900, 5; Gobernador del Guayas, Informe, 1901, 95-102; Cámara de Comercio de Guayaquil, Memoria, 1904 and Memoria, 1919, 19-20; Compañía Guía del Ecuador, El Ecuador: Guía comercial agrícola e industrial de la república (Guayaquil, 1909), 897-898; Asociación de Agricultores del Ecuador, Memoria, 1921; Víctor E. Estrada, Ensayo sobre la balanza económica del Ecuador (Guayaquil, 1922), 3; and Weinman, “Ecuador and Cacao,” 347.


. By 1917. France and Great Britain had both imposed formal import restrictions and curtailed imports from Ecuador. See Rodriguez, The Search for Public Policy. 102. From 1903 through 1924, the leading consumers of cacao were: United States (36 percent); Germany (14 percent); Great Britain (14 percent); France (11 percent); and the Netherlands (8 percent). See Manuel (Gallegos Naranjo, 1900 fin de siglo almanaque de Guayaquil (Guayaquil. 1900?); Asociación de Agricultores del Ecuador. Memoria, 1921; Weinman, "Ecuador and Cacao," 348. Alan Middleton notes in "Division and Cohesion in the Working Class: Artisans and Wage Labourers in Ecuador," Journal of Latin American Studies. 14:1 (May 1982), 179, that after World War I Great Britain gave favored status to the Gold Coast, Also see Pineo, "Economic and Social Transformation of Guayaquil," Appendix 1.


A. G. Kenwood and A. L. Lougheed. The Growth of the International Economy 1820-1960 (Albany, n.d.), 140-141, 145, 146, 176, 177, 178, 201.


Figures are adjusted to take into consideration the reduced value of the sucre. See Rodriguez. The Search for Public Policy. 120 and Pineo, "Economic and Social Transformation of Guayaquil." Appendix 1 and chap. 2.


Decrease in cacao production was also a result of the swiftly dropping world price, for many growers chose to get out of cacao. See Weinman, “Ecuador and Cacao,” 202; Bulletin of the Imperial Institute, 19 (1921), cited in Consulate of Ecuador (New York), Republic of Ecuador (July 1922), 22, included in Great Britain, Foreign Office records (hereafter GBFO), “Report to the Foreign Office," 1922, RG 371; Osvaldo Hurtado, Political Power in Ecuador, 1st Eng. ed., Nick D. Mills, Jr., trans. (Albuquerque, 1980), 82, 324; Rodriguez, Search for Public Policy, 101; and Lynne P. Phillips, “Gender, Class and Cultural Politics; A Case Study of Rural Vinces, Ecuador” (Ph. D. thesis, University of Toronto, 1985), 37.


“Declines in export earnings rapidly translated into decreases in public revenues," for “public finances were at the mercy of fluctuations in world cacao markets.” Rodriguez, Search for Public Policy, 175; also see 99, 119, 122.


N. Clemente Ponce, minister of foreign relations of Ecuador, to the British chargé d’affaires in Quito, Mr. Graham, included in GBFO, Jan. 24, 1922, RG 371.


This section on workers and Guayaquil is drawn from Pineo, “Economic and Social Transformation,” esp. chap. 1, 4, and 5. Even by the 1920s, Guayaquil had little industry. The small establishments included those that made cigars and cigarettes, noodles and biscuits, beer, milled flour, and cut lumber.


This section is drawn from Pinco, “Economic and Social Transformation," esp. chap. 6.


Edwin E. Erickson et al., Arca Handbook for Ecuador (Washington, 1966), 243; U.S. Consul in Guayaquil, “Report,” Mar. 12, 1888, “Despatches … 1826-1909”; Blair Niles, Casual Wanderings in Ecuador (New York, 1923), 113.


Rafael Quintero López, Mito del populismo en el Ecuador: Análisis de los fundamentos del estado ecuatoriano moderno (1895-1934) (Quito, 1983), 105.


Elections did not involve most people and were almost never honest. For examples, see U.S. Consul C. Weile, “Report,” June 24 and Sept. 9, 1875, “Despatches … 1826-1909”; The South Pacific Times, Sept. 14, 1875, cited in Weile, “Clip File Report,” Sept. 5, 1875, “Despatches … 1826-1909”; “Quarterly Report #8,” Jan. 1, 1920, General Records of the Dept. of State Relating to the Political Affairs in Ecuador, 1910-1929 (hereafter GRDS-PAE), USNA, RG 59; GBFO, British Legation in Quito (hereafter BLQ), “Report,” Jan. 18, 1924, and “Annual Report for 1924,” Jan. 30, 1925, RG 371; Gallegos Naranjo, 1900 fin de siglo almanaque de Guayaquil, 192; Ángel F. Rojas, La novela ecuatoriana (Mexico City, 1948), 16, 45. Weinman, “Ecuador and Cacao,” adds; “Politics of the nineteenth century were managed by local bosses who ruled their several regions by force and delivered the vote at election time” (p. 34). Also see Georg Maier, “Presidential Succession in Ecuador; 1860-1969,” Journal of Inter-American Studies and World Affairs, 13:3 and 4 (July-Oct. 1971), 481, who similarly concludes that the top “two percent oí the population … has effectively controlled the … political life of the country.”


On Ecuador’s political culture, see Rodriguez, Search for Public Policy; David W. Schodt, Ecuador: An Andean Enigma (Boulder, 1987); and Pineo, “Economic and Social Transformation,” chap. 2.


See GBFO, BLQ, “Report,” Jan. 30 and Apr. 27(?). 1907. RG 371; “Report," May 27, 1912, GRDS-PAE; The South Pacific Times. Sept. 14, 1875, cited in Weile, “Clip File Report,” Sept. 5, 1875," Despatches … 1826-1909"; El Grito del Piiehlo (Guayaquil), Sept. 20, 1896; and Friedrich Hassaurek, Four Years Among Spanish-Americans (New York, 1867), 223-226; and Rojas, La ñorela. 17-18.

Peasants did not have to learn about mass protest when they came to the city; they already knew how to protest. See Mark Van Aken, "The Lingering Death of Indian Tribute in Ecuador,” HAHR. 61:3 (Aug. 1981), 435. There were many uprisings in the late 1700s and early 1800s. See Robson Tyrer, “Economic and Demographic History of the Audiencia of Quito” (Ph.D. diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1976). 333. Other examples include the 189,3 peasant revolt in rural Chimborazo Province and the 1920s tax protest near Riobamba, in highland Ecuador.

In urban areas, political unrest could on occasion arouse acts of extreme violence from the population. See U.S. Minister to Ecuador James D. Tillman, "Report," June 22, 1895 and June 19, 1896, “Despatches from United States Ministers to Ecuador. 1848–1906," vol. XV, USNA, RG 59; GBFO, British Consul in Guayaquil Cartwright, “Report to the British Minister in Quito,” Apr. 9, 1910. included in the “Minister’s Report to the Foreign Office," Apr. 16, 1910, RG 371.


Jaime Duran Barba, ed., Pensamiento popular ecuatoriano (Quito, 1981), 22, 104; Milk, “Growth and Development of Ecuador's Worker Organizations," 4. Labor's ties to government had a long tradition. As Milk notes (p. 17), “during colonial time the cabildos established, maintained, and regulated guilds." See Gobernador del Guayas, informe, 1901, 145, regarding further national government support for worker groups in Guayas. Also see América libre: Obra dedicada a conmemorar el centenario de la independencia de Guayaquil (Guayaquil, 1920), 157 for discussion of government support for artisan-run night schools; Ministro de lo Interior v Policía, Beneficencia, etc., Informe. 1900; and Middleton, “Divisions and Cohesion," 176, 177.


Likewise in Mexico the labor movement, from its earliest beginnings in the late nineteenth century, “really represented an attempt on the part of the government to prevent an undirected [i.e., ‘undirected’ by the government] worker movement" (Ashby, Organized Labor, 4). John Hart, Anarchism and the Mexican Working Class, 1860-1931 (Austin, 1978), 80 shares this view. Hart notes that the Díaz administration had “nearly complete control” over the labor movement by the 1890s. See pp. 126-127 for Hart’s discussion of labor’s reasons for accepting government support, even at the risk of the loss of autonomy. DeShazo, Urban Workers, argues that Chilean workers, aware of the hazards of such ties, avoided such links with government. On the Ecuadorian case, see also Milk, “Growth and Development,” 18, 26. By 1890, Guayaquil had 39 guilds. From 1896 to 1914, 22 more emerged.


Muñoz Vicuña, El 15 de noviembre, 17, 22. For a brief discussion of the problems in implementing the shortened workday, see Ministro de lo Interior, Municipalidades, Policía, Obras Públicas, etc., Informe, 1917, 262. For a more extended treatment of government labor reforms, see Piedad Peñaherrera de Costales and Alfredo Costales Samaniego, Historia social del Ecuador, 4 vols. (Quito, 1964-71), I, chap. 4 and IV, chap. 1. Also see Middleton, “Division and Cohesion,’’ 177.


Glass workers, book binders, drivers, typesetters, carpenters, and bakers, among others, had associations. By 1914, there were 15 groups, including a white-collar employees’ association, as well as two groups for teachers. See José I. Guzman, La hora trágica (Guayaquil, 1974), 16; Milk, “Growth and Development,” chap. 3; Intendencia de Policía del Guayas, Boletín de información, 1904, 55; Almanaque ilustrado ecuatoriano 2924 (Guayaquil, 1914), 71; and Weinman, “Ecuador and Cacao,” 13.


Muñoz Vicuña, El 25 de noviembre, 22; Guzmán, La hora trágica, 1.


Figures are adjusted to take into consideration the reduced value of the sucre. See Pineo, “Economic and Social Transformation of Guayaquil," Appendixes 3 and 4 and chap. 2.


Weinman, “Ecuador and Cacao," 193. The high cost of living is a heavy burden on the poor,” wrote a U.S. observer, “and has produced anything but a friendly feeling among the poorer classes toward the Administration, which they hold responsible for all their trouble.” “Quarterly Report #7," Oct. 3, 1919, GRDS-PAE.


El Guante (Guayaquil), Nov. 1922, cited in Muñoz Vicuña, EI 15 de noviembre, 18. Also see GBFO, BLQ, “Report 0n the President’s Annual Message to Congress,” Aug. 11, 1923, RG 371. President Tamayo discussed the general tripling of prices in this address.

Rodriguez provides a price index for Quito. Although the highland capital city had a different economic situation from that on the coast, the doubling in the price index from 1913 to 1917 is still suggestive. Rodriguez, Search for Public Policy, 98, 171.


GBFO, R. C. Mitchell, “Report on the Economic and Financial Conditions in Ecuador September, 1923” (hereafter Mitchell, “Report”), Sept. 25, 1923, RG 371.


The railroad project was largely completed with foreign capital, both British and American. This discussion of the railroad strike is based on the following: Muñoz Vicuña, El 15 de noviembre, 23, 24, 26, 27; Milk, “Growth and Development," 71-73; U.S. Minister Badin, “Quarterly Report #20,” Dec. 30, 1922 (hereafter Badin, “Quarterly Report”), 12, 13, GRDS-PAE; Mitchell, “Report,” Oct. 31, 1922; and Niles, Casual Wanderings, 80.


Mitchell, “Report,” Oct. 31, 1922; Muñoz Vicuña, El 15 de noviembre, 24-42; Badin, “Quarterly Report,” 12, 13; Milk, “Growth and Development,” 73-77.


The following sources provided information on the beginnings of the strike: GBFO, W. S. Urguhart, acting British consul in Guayaquil, “Report, Nov. 29, 1922 (hereafter Urguhart, “Report”), RG 371; U.S. Consul-General Coding, “Subject: Insurrection at Guayaquil,” Nov. 25, 1922 (hereafter Coding, “Subject"), GRDS-PAE, quoted in Weinman, Ecuador and Cacao,” 365-370; Milk, “Growth and Development,” 78; Guzmán, La hora trágica. 2, 3; El Universo (Guayaquil), Nov. 10, 1922, p. 7; FTRE, Para la historia.


El Universo, Nov. 10, 1922, pp. 1, 7.


Muñoz Vicuña, El 15 de noviembre, 44, 49, 50, 54; Milk, “Growth and Develop- ment,” 77, 80, 85; Naranjo, La I Internacional en Latinoamérica, 209.


El Universo, Nov. 10, 1922, p. 7, Nov. 11, 1922, p. 1; U.S. Consul-General Frederic W. Goding, “Report on and Translation of 'Official Strike Report of the Governor of Guavas, J. Pareja, the Military Chief of the Zone, E. Barriga, and the Chief of Police, Alejo Mateus,'” Dec. 7, 1922 (hereafter Goding, “Report”), 1-6, GRDS-PAE.


El Universo, Nov. 11, 1922, p. 7; Milk, “Growth and Development,” 79-83.


El Universo, Nov. 10, 1922, p. 1.


Ibid., Nov. 12, 1922, p. 1.


Ibid., Nov. 11, 1922, p. 7.


Ibid., Nov. 12, 1922, pp. 1, 7, 8; Muñoz Vicuña, El 15 de noviembre, 58.


El Universo. Nov. 13, 1922, pp. 1, 2, 7; Muñoz Vicuña, El 15 de noviembre. 59; Goding. “Report,” 1.


El Universo, Nov. 12, 1922, p. 8, Nov. 14, 1922, pp. 1, 3; Muñoz Vicuña. El 15 de noviembre, 60; El Comercio (Quito), quoted in El Universo, Nov. 12, 1922, pp. 2, 3; Guzmán, La hora trágica, 3, 4; Milk, “Growth and Development,” 84; Goding, “Report," 1, 2.


El Universo, Nov. 14, 1922, p. 3.


During the general strike of 1916 in Mexico City, the issue of providing light for the city was also a critical one, as it proved to be in Guayaquil. See Hart, Anarchism, 154. In Mexico, “the restoration of electrical power … demoralized the workers, and … proved to be a major turning point in the defeat of the strike." In Guayaquil, the only lights in town were from the boats on the river that partially lit up the waterfront. El Universo, Nov. 14, 1922, p. 3; Muñoz Vicuña, El 25 de noviembre, 64, 66; Goding, “Report,” 1-3.


El Universo, Nov. 14, 1922, p. 1; Goding. “Report," 2; Milk, “Growth and Development,” 83-85; L. E. Elliott, “Land of Equator [sic],” Pan American Magazine, 36 (Feb. 1923), 57-63; Goding, “Subject,” quoted in Weinman, “Ecuador and Cacao, 367; Badin, “Quarterly Report,” 21-22.


Muñoz Vicuña, El 15 de noviembre. 66-67; Goding, “Subject,” quoted in Weinman, “Ecuador and Cacao,” 366-367; Milk, “Growth and Development,” 85-86. "La Aurora,” a feminist group of some 85 women, also joined the movement.


Badin, “Quarterly Report,” 21; Milk, “Growth and Development,” 85-87.


Goding, “Report,” 3, 4.


J. R. Barrera, Para la historia (Guayaquil. 1922). 10. This pamphlet presented the government’s version of events. See also El Telégrafo, Nov. 17, 1922, p. 1; Guzmán, La hora trágica, 2.


Guzmán, La hora trágica, 5.


Barrera, Para la historia, 23; Muñoz Vicuña, El 15 de noviembre, 79-80.


Barrera, Para la historia, 23.


José Alejo Capelo Coello, El crimen del 15 noviembre 1922 (Guayaquil, 1922), 4.


Guzmán, La hora trágica, 5, 6; Goding, “Subject,” quoted in Weinman, “Ecuador and Cacao,” 365-370; Badin, “Quarterly Report,” 21-22; Milk, “Growth and Development,” 89-90; Goding, “Report,” 5; New York Times, Nov. 19, 1922, I, part 2, p. 8 and Dec. 5, 1922, p. 8.


Barrera, Para la historia, 23.


Cited ibid., 24; and discussed in Capelo Coello, El crimen del 15 noviembre 1922, 4.


“González Rubio & Co. (native), Enrique Ribas (Spanish), Cassinelli Hnos. (Italian), Miguel Enrich (Spanish) and González Hnos. (Italian) were the worst sufferers in the looting.” Urguhart, “Report.”


Capelo Coello, El crimen del 15 noviembre 1922, El Telégrafo, Nov. 18, 1922, p. 2.


El Telegrafo. Nov. 20. 1922, p. 1.


Guzmán, La hora trágica, 6.


The British consulate placed the number at two hundred, with three hundred wounded (Urguhart, “Report”).


Weinman, “Ecuador and Cacao,” 151; Rodriguez, Search for Public Policy. 124.


El Universo, Nov. 17, 1922, p. 3, Nov. 18, 1922, p. 1; El Telégrafo, Nov. 17, 1922, p. 1.


Badin, “Quarterly Report,” 6.


El Guante, quoted in Muñoz Vicuña, El 15 de noviembre, 82-83; Telégrafo, Nov.


Badin, “Quarterly Report,” 22; Milk, “Growth and Development,” 90-91.


The firms affected included Sola & Co., Leandro Carrera & Co., Wing Wo Tay & Co., Sociedad Continental S.A., and V. E. Illingworth & Co. GBFO, British Minister to Ecuador or the British Consul in Guayaquil (hereafter BME), “Report,” Jan. 4, 1923, “Report,” Dec. 12, 1923, “Report,” Jan. 17, 1924, “Report,” June 5, 1924, RG 371; Mitchell, “Report,” Sept. 25, 1923.


GBFO, BME, “Report,” Jan. 4, 1924, RG 371.


GBFO, BME, “Report," Dec. 30, 1923, RG 371.


GBFO, BME, “Report,” Oct. 29, 1924, RG 371; Badin, “Quarterly Report,” 7-10.


GBFO, Mitchell, “Report on the President’s Message to Congress,” Aug. 11, 1923, RG 371.


GBFO, BME, “Report,” Oct. 18. 1924, RG 371.


Badin, “Quarterly Report,” 7-10.


Sheldon Maram, “Urban Labor and Social Change in the 1920s.” Luso-Brazilian Review, 16 (Winter 1979), 220 notes that police repression discredited the general strike tactic in Brazil. To many workers, the strategy seemed too confrontational and yielded meager returns.


Badin, “Quarterly Report,” 22.


Barrera, Para la historia; also see Urguhart, “Report.”


Barrera, Para la historia.


Ibid., 10, 12, 20.


El Comercio, quoted ibid., 26.




GBFO, Mitchell, “Report on the President’s Annual Message to Congress," Aug. 11, 1923, RG 371. A British account of the bloodletting went along with this interpretation, claiming that the troops began firing only “when an overwhelming number of the strikers … assumed a threatening attitude,” and that a “revolutionary movement” had been “nipped in the bud.…” “Since the 15th of November, 1922,” it noted, “there have been no further labour movements.” Mitchell, “Report,” Nov. 21, 1922. See also GBFO, BLQ, “Annual Report for 1923,” Dee. 31, 1923, RG 371; Badin, “Quarterly Report,” 13-14; Weinman, “Ecuador and Cacao,” 242, 243; Milk, “Growth and Development,” 2, 95-96; Middleton, “Division and Cohesion,” 178.

Railroad company management wrote, “After several days of rioting in Guayaquil the Governmental forces finally terminated the whole affair by killing and wounding several hundred persons. This drastic action had a very salutary effect and resulted in a distinct clearing of the atmosphere.” 1922 Report of President to the Directors of the Guayaquil and Quito Railway Company for the year ended December 31, 1922 (Huigra, Ecuador, 1923), 7, included in GBFO, BLQ, “Report," Dec. 1923 (?), RG 371.


Pineo, “Economic and Social Transformation of Guayaquil,” chap. 4.


The phrase is from Fredrick B. Pike’s review of DeShazo, Urban Workers, in Historian, 47:3 (May 1985), 455-456.

Historians differ over the roots of labor militancy in Chile during this period. See Spalding, Organized Labor, 9; Bergquist, Labor in Latin America: Comparative Essays on Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, and Colombia (Stanford, 1986), 59. For a discussion of the literature, see DeShazo, Urban Workers, 5, 289.


On Peruvian labor history, Alba and Alexander both tend to view the anarchists as the “prime movers” of the early twentieth-century labor movement and leaders of the 1919 general strikes in Lima and Callao. These authors similarly interpret Colombia’s early twentieth-century labor history, highlighting the role of anarchists. Alexander and Alba offered broad general overviews and reasserted many previous assumptions.

Peter Blanchard recently took a closer look at the origins of Peru’s labor movement. He noted that at times the anarchist minority could nudge workers toward becoming more assertive, as for example during the general strike for the eight-hour workday in Lima and Callao in Jan. 1919, but that overall they played a very limited role. Few workers belonged to any labor organization, and among the small group that did only a fraction were anarchists. At times, Blanchard emphasizes, the anarchist minority played no role at all and almost completely disappeared. He describes a Peruvian labor movement both very conservative and quite dependent on the government for support, with workers devoting their energies to mutual aid and petitioning the government.

Urrutia and Bergquist both studied the Colombian labor movement in some detail. They agree that during the first two decades of the twentieth century also, the labor movement was very small even by Latin American standards and that radical philosophies, especially anarchism, had very limited appeal. To Bergquist, Colombian workers channeled their frustrations into either traditional politics, giving their support to the Liberal or Conservative parties, or personal economic gain, plowing their energies into coffee production. Urrutia likewise holds that “unlike … other countries in Latin America, … the unions organized in the second decade of this century were not controlled by the anarchists.” Colombian workers “did not adopt foreign ideologies,” except for a few river workers drawn to communism (Urrutia, Development of Colombian Labor, 55-58). Nevertheless, both Urrutia and Bergquist interpret the 1918 strikes in the Caribbean ports as being “organized” and “directed” by the anarcho-syndicalists. It could be that the Jan. 1918 strikes in Barranquilla, Cartagena, and Santa Marta share with the Guayaquil general strike of 1922 the need for reinterpretation.

See Alba, Politics and the Labor Movement, 265-266, 270, 271; Alexander, Organized Labor, 112-113, 132-133; Peter Blanchard, The Origins of the Peruvian Labor Movement, 1883-1919 (Pittsburgh, 1982); and Bergquist, Labor in Latin America, 331. Hahner’s recent consideration of early Brazilian labor history, Poverty and Politics, also tends to emphasize the limited appeal of radical philosophies and the limited reach of union organization. See especially her discussion of the 1917 general strike in São Paulo (279-280).


Alba, Politics and the Labor Movement, 56; Robalino Bolle, El sindicalismo en el Ecuador, 85.


These thoughts on democratic insurgencies were suggested by Lawrence Goodwyn, “The Cooperative Commonwealth & Other Abstractions: In Search of a Democratic Premise,” Marxist Perspectives, 3:2 (Summer, 1980), 8-42.


GBFO, BLQ, “Report,” Oct. 29, 1924, RG 371