Social and Economic Reform in Ecuador: Life and Work in Guayaquil

Social and Economic Reform in Ecuador: Life and Work in Guayaquil

Social and Economic Reform in Ecuador: Life and Work in Guayaquil

Social and Economic Reform in Ecuador: Life and Work in Guayaquil


"Pineo's work on the urban social history of Guayaquil not only breaks virgin territory as far as Ecuadorian history is concerned, it also constitutes one of the few such urban social histories for the period in Latin American historiography. While we have comparable works for Brazil, Chile, and Argentina, we have none for Peru or the other Andean countries nor any that emphasizes the public health or medical dimensions of urban underdevelopment."--Peter Klaren, George Washington University
"A pioneering study which fills an important gap in the social and economic history of Ecuador.... An admirable contribution to urban social history in Latin America."--John Martz, Penn State University
This book examines the dynamic tension between Latin America's rising primary product export trade during the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the concomitant heightened social strains of rapid urbanization. It offers a fresh look at one of the most central modern historical issues--the difficult process of urban social reform.
In a departure from previous investigations into the history of Latin American urbanization, the author rejects the assumptions of the existing historiography (which has tended to impose economic, social, and political patterns from a few large cities on smaller ones), finding that smaller cities without economic and trade advantages can less afford the costs of reform.
This study takes as its example Guayaquil, Ecuador, a nonindustrial, nonprimate city, and examines the daily experiences of ordinary women and men, rich and poor, considering the conditions they confront and their struggles--both individual and sometimes collective--to improve their lives. In addition, it analyzes the forces that have shaped the pattern of political reform in Guayaquil and provides a comparative discussion of the process of urban social reform across Latin America.
This study will be valuable to historians and social scientists interested in Latin American social history, urbanization, and Andean history.
Ronn F. Pineo is assistant professor of history at Towson State University, Towson, Maryland. He has published articles in Hispanic American Historical REview and Latin American Perspectives and has contributed numerous entries on Ecuador for the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Latin American History.


Guayaquil and the adjacent Guayas River Basin enjoyed several natural advantages for the expansion of cacao export agriculture: a well-protected port, excellent soil properties, suitable climate, and easy river transportation. Together, geography and the exigencies of cacao cultivation helped give shape to local patterns of land tenure and labor; cacao particularly influenced the economic and social patterns of production that developed in Guayaquil's upriver regions.

Soil, Climate, and Transport

Blessed with a superb natural harbor and fertile conditions for growing cacao, Guayaquil and the surrounding area were in an ideal position to respond to the strong pull of new commercial opportunities in the world market during the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries.

Ocean transport into and around Guayaquil benefits from several factors. the waters of the Gulf of Guayaquil, the largest gulf between Panama and Valparaíso, Chile, are generally calm and fog-free. Traveling north from the gulf, most nineteenth-century vessels of this age found the thirty-mile-long river channel into Guayaquil deep and wide enough to accommodate them.

Guayaquil took advantage, too, of a particularly good fluvial network, that of the Daule (160 miles in length) and Babahoyo (110 miles) rivers, which converge to form the Rio Guayas. This water transportation system was no small advantage; to this day it costs less to ship goods by water than to haul them across land. Daily tidal changes make the Guayas a river that actually flows in both directions, at currents of five miles per hour coming and going . . .

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