Ecuadorian Historical Figure Eugenio Espejo

Eugenio Espejo, born Francisco Javier Eugenio de Santa Cruz y Espejo, was a significant figure in colonial Ecuador and his work is still revered today. He was known first and foremost as a writer and medical pioneer. He even wrote a piece in regard to microorganisms and sanitary conditions that lead to disease and the spreading of it. He also challenged Royal Audiencia and became vital in the establishment of the separatist movement that developed in Quito. Putting his work into perspective, he was the very first hygienist and even journalist in the city of Quito.

Espejo was born in 1747, in Royal Audencia of Quito. His satirical works were inspirational and part of his contribution to developing the philosophy that was conjoined with the Age of Enlightenment. It was a time where education in Ecuador was greatly lacking and he even voiced his opinions on the way that Audiencia handled the finances of city, and wrote about the corruption of the authorities. These bold moves landed him in jail for a while, just before he passed away 1795.

The authority at the time was established in 1563 by Philip II of Spain, but the cracks in this leadership became more apparent during the eighteenth century with communication problems arising due to lack of roads, followed swiftly by economic problems. Most of the population was unable to read and write and with only two doctors in Quito, many people who were ill could not be seen to. Ethnic injustices were also a common practice, leading to great disgruntlement over racial judgment. Espejo was able to overcome racial judgment due to his parents being recorded as white (criollos). He worked side by side with his father, learning through experience at the Hospital de la Misericordia. In 1767 he became a medical school graduate, and then took on canon law and jurisprudence, studying from 1780 to 1793, under Dr. Ramon Yepez. He was given permission to practice medicine in 1772. After that, all records in regard to Espejo went quiet, until his return to the spotlight with a polemical sermon he wrote in 1778.

It is suggested that his quiet years were kept secret due to his posters and satirical works he created to provoke the authorities, which were posted on the sides of building and churches. He went go on to write many manuscripts and dialogues in regard to the corruption of the authorities. He wrote about smallpox in 1785 and was also exiled for a while. But in 1790 he returned to Quito and began to develop the Patriotic Society and became the director of the first Quito public library in 1791. The Society strived to improve Quito, but was disbanded by Charles IV in 1793. He was imprisoned in 1795, only being permitted to treat patients, and passed away the same year. Eugenio Espejo will always be remembered as a vital figure in the shaping of Ecuador and being an advocate for the rights of the people.