This two-volume work seeks to dispel misconceptions regarding the history of the short-lived Provincia Libre de Guayaquil and its commitment to the liberation of the Presidency of Quito. After gaining independence from Spain in 1820, Guayaquil endured pressures from powerful neighbors, Lima and Bogotá. Generals San Martín and Bolívar both coveted this well-located port and its cacao-rich hinterland. As the author explains, a successful strategy allowed Bolívar to annex Guayaquil to Colombia in 1822, along with Quito and Cuenca, all former provinces of the Presidency of Quito.

The two volumes are well researched and offer valuable data. Julio Estrada is a dedicated scholar and long-time director of the former Archivo Histórico del Guayas. His portrayal of José Joaquín de Olmedo, president of the Junta, as a statesman, skillful diplomat, and firm believer in self-determination is convincing. He amply demonstrates Bolívar’s arbitrary style in dealing with geopolitical issues as well as his disregard for such trivialities as popular will. Bolívar dismissed the Provincia Libre and its political agenda as a “republiqueta,” “a city and a river,” an insult that Estrada, a native of Guayaquil, will not have us forget.

Estrada claims that these events have been relegated to limbo by Ecuadorian historians, and indeed, regionalism has not spared historiography. Judging from Estrada’s work, regionalism seems, alas, difficult to avoid. His own interpretations are impassioned and often clouded by regional biases. There is no need, for example, to claim that Quito aimed to harm Guayaquil by seeking closer links to Panama, its most important trade partner, when similar attitudes regarding Lima on the part of Guayaquil are viewed as legitimate self-interest. Olmedo’s “silences” are too freely interpreted. Did he really have in mind the Estado de Quito, rather than autonomy or annexation to Lima, both legitimate aims? These volumes, nevertheless, raise important questions. Perhaps, as Estrada suggests, the “Colombianization” and later militarization of the young republic could have been prevented through the Estado de Quito, a more historically grounded name and entity than the Departamento de Ecuador.