Don Gabriel García Moreno, Ecuador’s President-Martyr, hailed from respectable families

June 26, 2014

Garcia Moreno

García Moreno was born at Guayaquil on the 24th of December, 1821, some days before the capture of Quito by the Republican troops. He received in Baptism the name of Gabriel, which was that of his father.

He belonged to an old family, as distinguished for its nobility as for its merits. His father, Don Gabriel García Gómez, a native of Villaverde, in Old Castile, had distinguished himself by a brilliant course of studies at Cádiz, and had then been employed in the office of one of his uncles,* when he took it into his head to expatriate himself and seek his fortune in America. Towards the end of the year 1793, he embarked onboard the frigate Our Lady of the Snow with a valuable cargo, of which he was the proprietor, and came and established himself at Guayaquil, where he married the Doña Mercedes Moreno.

Doña Mercedes was the daughter of Don Manuel Ignacio Moreno, Knight of the Order of Charles III, and perpetual Director of the Chapter of Guayaquil. She had two brothers, illustrious in Church and State: Don José Ignacio Moreno, Archdeacon of Lima, the author of a much esteemed work entitled Peruvian Letters, and also a clever essay on the Supremacy of the Pope; and Don Miguel Ignacio Moreno, promoted by the King of Spain to be Judge of the Supreme Court of Guatemala. This last was the father of Cardinal Moreno, Archbishop of Toledo.

Guyaquil Waterfront, c. 1920.

Guyaquil Waterfront, c. 1920.

The newly-married couple were worthy of their ancestors from their rare and eminent personal qualities, and especially for their invincible devotion to the Catholic Church. García Gómez was a man full of faith, a devoted servant of the Church, and one who professed a sovereign contempt for those false Liberals whose object was not only to free themselves from Spain, their mother country, but from the religious habits and customs which she had implanted in her colonies. Of a gentle and amiable character, he yet, on certain occasions, showed a courage and intrepidity which excited universal admiration. During a revolution, when all the neighboring houses were being riddled with ball, he showed himself on the balcony of his palace, and by his imperturbable calm quelled the passions of the populace.

His wife, Doña Mercedes, was equally remarkable for her superior abilities, her solid piety, the dignity of her character, and, we should almost say, the austerity of her life. God rewarded their virtues by a noble set of children, who all gave them the greatest comfort and consolation, and the youngest of whom will be their eternal glory.

Photograph of Garcia Moreno.

Photograph of Garcia Moreno.

The eldest devoted himself early to the priesthood. The second, though a layman, studied deeply Catholic liturgies and Catholic questions. The third, Don Pedro Pablo Moreno, one of the great proprietors of Ecuador, helped his youngest brother to realize his great enterprises, when he had become President of the Republic. Later on, when a witness of the ingratitude of his fellow citizens, he often said to him: “Leave this country for another—no matter where; and draw as much as you will from my purse.” But Don Gabriel invariably replied: “God did not send me into the world to do good anywhere, but in Ecuador!”

The fourth son was Miguel García Moreno, whom the President proposed, later on, as Administrator of the salt works of the State. He was a man of great ability and integrity, and instead of having a perpetual deficit in his accounts, according to the habit of his predecessors, he brought about an extraordinary surplus, which increased yearly. Don Gabriel had also three sisters, Rosario, Mercedes, and Carmen. All three were the joy and honor of their family, and each left this world after having edified it by a holy and irreproachable life.


Gabriel García Moreno was the last of this remarkable family, from the bosom of which he drew those feelings of lively faith, chivalrous honor, and especially that noble passion for duty, which characterized his whole life. To prepare him for the exceptional career to which he was destined, God trained him also in the hard school of adversity. In consequence of the incessant revolutions which convulsed South America, Don García Gomez suffered a terrible reverse of fortune. From having been a very rich man he fell into positive poverty, and his great regret was for his little Gabriel. The elder ones had been educated and launched in their different careers; but what would happen to the youngest? His mother determined to undertake his education herself and to train him in habits of piety, regularity, and love of duty, without allowing any complaints as to their change of position.


* Don Martínez de Aparicio, formerly Secretary of Charles III


Rev. Fr. Augustine Berthe, C.Ss.R., Garcia Moreno, President of Ecuador, (1821-1875), trans. Lady Herbert (London: Burns and Oates, 1889), 1-4.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 397


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