Juan Jose Flores was the first President of Ecuador and served the country in his capacity as president three times. Flores was an illegitimate child of a Spanish merchant who abandoned him and his mother when he was still a child and his childhood was spent in poverty. Flores was born in Venezuela and due to the abject poverty in which he grew up; he did not have any opportunity to get an education. He worked in a hospital till he was 14 years old but then decided to enter the Spanish Royalist Army. His stint at the army was a successful one but after being captured by the patriot army he decided to join them and again showed his remarkable skills as heroic soldier as he helped the army in winning key battles against the Spanish Royalist Army. However, his life changed completely when he was installed as the supreme leader of Ecuador in 1830 and later on that year, he became the country’s first president. During his three terms as president, he had plenty of conflicts with other members of the congress and it was due to these conflicts, among other things, that his government was overthrown following a rebellion.
Childhood & Early Life
Juan Jose Flores was born to Juan Jose Aramburu and Rita Flores Bohoroques on July 19, 1800, in Puerto Cabello in Venezuela. He was an illegitimate child. Flores’ father was a rich merchant from Spain who abandoned the family and went back to Spain.
Since his father left when he was still a child, Juan Jose Flores grew up in desperate poverty and his mother could not even afford to send her to school and the young Flores worked in a Spanish military school in order to support his family.
When Juan Jose Flores was 15 years old, he decided to sign up for the Spanish Royalist Army in the capacity of a private. He served under general Pablo Morillo, who was tasked to oversee the destruction of all the patriot armies who were fighting for independence in South America.
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In his position as a private in the Spanish Royalist Army, Juan Jose Flores impressed one and all with his diligence, loyalty and heroism. He became a sergeant quite soon but in 1817 he was captured by the enemies. It was during his incarceration that he identified with the cause of freeing the region from Spanish rule and joined forces with Simon Bolivar’s patriot army.
After joining the patriot army, Juan Jose Flores displayed his talents as a heroic soldier and battle strategist as he helped the army win plenty of battles. The Battle of Carabobo in 1821 was a particularly notable victory for the army that was overseen by Flores and he was soon made the Colonel. Subsequently, he became the Commandant General of the city of Pasto.
On May 13, 1830, Ecuador was liberated and Juan Jose Flores was installed as the supreme chief of the country. On August 14, 1830, Flores was appointed as the provisional president and a month later the constituent assembly at Riobamba confirmed him as the elected president of Ecuador.
Juan Jose Flores’ became the first president of Ecuador but his first term as president was a particularly trying one and it came to an end after four years on September 10, 1834. During that term he had to quell a rebellion headed by Luis Urdaneta and subsequently he faced challenges from his fellow Ecuadorian congressman Vicente Rocafuerte, who wanted to be the president. Flores brokered a peace by agreeing to make Rocafuerte the next president if he was made the head of the army.
Throughout his first stint as the President of Ecuador, Juan Jose Flores had to defend the country against Columbian invasion and after two battles, the Columbians were defeated decisively on January 18, 1835.
On February 1, 1839, Juan Jose Flores started his second term as President of Ecuador and during his four years stint he sought to promote peace and social justice. Flores involved the military in Nueva Granada after the Columbian government requested him to do so but it proved to be a largely unpopular operation.
Flores became president for the third term on April 1, 1843 after annulling the constitution of Ecuador but his tenure was short lived as a rebellion threw out his government two years later. Vicente Rocafuerte was one of the leaders of the rebellion, along with the next president Vicente Ramon Roca. Flores tried to invade Ecuador with the help of royal families of Spain and France, but those efforts proved to be fruitless.
Although Juan Jose Flores will always be remembered as Ecuador’s first president, it was his work with the patriot army with Simon Bolivar that will remain his most important work in a distinguished military career.
Personal Life & Legacy
Juan Jose Flores was married to Dona Mercedes Jijon, who belonged to an aristocratic family. The couple had a son named Antonio Flores Jijon, who was born in 1833.
Juan Jose Flores died on October 1, 1864 in Puna Island in Ecuador after suffering from uremia. He was under house arrest at the time.