I never met my grandfather Dr. Francisco X. Martinez Aguirre. I am the youngest son of his youngest daughter. She was a child just seven years old when he passed away in Ecuador in 1917 and just ten years old when his second wife passed away three years later in New York in 1920 leaving her a young orphan in a strange land. Uncovering the facts about my grandfather has been difficult but well worth the effort, and it is an ongoing endeavor.
The story of Dr. Francisco Xavier Martinez Aguirre, in the context of the struggles of 19th Century Ecuador, is a story that clearly needs telling. Chronologically, he lived at the crossroads between Ecuador’s Spanish Colonial epoch and her entry into the modern community of nations. In so many ways he was gifted and fortunate. By any standards his early education was excellent. As a young man he traveled to Europe, studied at one of the leading universities in the U.S. and by the age of 21 yrs he had obtained an M.D. Degree. A few years later he returned to his native Ecuador where he was quickly established as one of the leading physicians in a land whose exceptionally warm climate could cause disease to spread at a very rapid rate. He certainly had other options if he had just wanted to live a relatively comfortable life and stay “under the radar”. Instead he chose to stand up and speak out about the important issues of his time – thereby placing himself and his family at considerable risk.
I haven’t always known the facts presented here about my grandfather. When I was in my mid thirties I came upon fragmentary information about him but the language barrier and the scarcity of Ecuadorian Histories in English made it difficult to prove the facts about his activities and character. The availability of information on the internet has made this information more accessible and recent research has been very productive.
In telling this story I have tried to avoid the use of the euphemistic epithets “Conservative” and “Liberal”. The best interests of humanity are not served by dividing a population into factions; the most practical and realistic solutions to political problems are not found in this way1, and it’s worse yet to give the factions labels that mean different things to different people and which often mislead and confuse the audience as to the true motives and intentions of the people so labeled. Consider the term “Conservative”. In 19th century Ecuador it referred to the faction that supported the granting of immense political control to the Church. What a difference from the meaning of “Conservative” in the U.S. today! So when I use terms like “pro-Catholic”, it is from a determination to avoid the use of “Conservative” or “Liberal” – and for want of a better term.
When talking about historical events; impartiality is important. No one likes to read a story only to find out later that important parts of the story have been intentionally withheld from them because of bias on the part of the author. So in telling this story I have tried to strike a balance between the sometimes conflicting demands of brevity and conciseness on the one hand and comprehensiveness on the other. I look forward to hearing your comments about the information on this site and suggestions are welcome.
-Patrick J. Connolly (Redwood City, CA June 2011)
Comments or questions are welcome.
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- As we watch the political landscape of the United States in the twenty-first century being so disrupted by faction it is instructive to ponder the words of James Madison who sought in the Federalist Papers to protect the fragile union against the ravages of faction: “So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts. But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society. Those who are creditors, and those who are debtors, fall under a like discrimination. A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation, and involves the spirit of party and faction in the necessary and ordinary operations of the government.” –James Madison in Federalist #10 ↩