The Renowned "Three Juans of Ambato"
Born in Ambato on June 28, 1832, Juan León Mera Martínez is widely considered to be the father of Ecuadorian literature. His most famous novel Cumandá, was completed in 1879 and is still taught in schools throughout Ecuador today. It is counted among the great Latin American literature of the 19th century, revealing Juan León Mera’s talent for using the written word in a way that brings a story to life. Through his description of the dense Ecuadorian jungle, the rushing rivers, majestic mountains, fascinating animals and flowers, along with his insight into the power of love that transcends all barriers, this talented author has brought the story of the forbidden love between a young Amazonian woman and the son of a Spanish Dominican friar to countless readers over the years. Through the pages of this novel Mera was appealing for the peace between the indigenous people of Ecuador and the foreigners who had made the land their home. In addition to being a novelist, Juan León Mera was a journalist, critic, politician and satirist. He was also the poet who penned the words of Ecuador’s national anthem. Mera passed away in Ambato, the town of his birth, on December 13, 1894.
Ecuadorian author and essayist Juan María Montalvo Fiallos was born in Ambato on April 13, 1832. After studying law and philosophy in Quito, he returned to Ambato in 1854 before carrying out diplomatic duties in Italy and France between 1857 and 1859. As an outspoken critic of Gabriel García Moreno and Ignacio de Veintemilla, who he considered to be dictators, Moreno was exiled to Colombia for a period of seven years. His writings were also cited as a reason for the assassination attempt on Moreno. He was later exiled to France, once again for his open criticism of the ruling authorities in Ecuador, and most of his writings were banned in his home country during his lifetime. Montalvo also had a lighter side to his character as was evidenced in his book entitled Capítulos que se le Olvidaron a Cervantes (Chapters Cervantes Forgot) in which he offered an amusing sequel to Don Quixote, the celebrated novel by Spanish playwright Miguel de Cervantes. Juan Montalvo died in Paris, with his body being returned to Ambato where it now rests in a mausoleum.
Politician and educator, Juan Benigno Vela Hervas was born in Ambato on July 10, 1843. After completing his law degree at the University of Quito, he became an active member of the Liberal Party, fighting for democracy and freedom. As a political legislator he authored and co-authored a number of governmental policies. In 1877 he was appointed in the province of Tungurahua as the inspector of schools, and was known to use his own money in assisting disadvantaged schools. In addition to being a political figure, Juan Benigno also wrote poetry. He passed away in 1920, having been a loyal and consistent advocate for human rights and freedom in his home country of Ecuador.