27 February

The Battle of Tarqui, took place on this day in 1829 at Portete de Tarqui, near Cuenca, Ecuador. It was fought between troops from Gran Colombia, commanded by Antonio José de Sucre, and Peruvian troops under José de La Mar. It was a victory for Gran Colombia.

After winning independence from Spain, the countries that are now Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela formed a single nation known as Gran Colombia. Simón Bolívar, the liberator of most of the Andean countries in South America had hoped to join what is now Peru and Bolivia to Gran Colombia, but Peru (including what is now Bolivia) chose to remain a separate nation.

In 1828, José de Lamar the President of Peru, who had been born in Cuenca, was encouraged by influential citizens of Guayaquil to believe that the people of “el Austro” or the southern region of what is now Ecuador would prefer to be part of Peru rather than Gran Colombia. José de Lamar, occupied the city of Loja with Peruvian troops in November of 1828.

The President of Gran Colombia, Simón Bolívar appointed Mariscal Sucre to lead the Gran Colombian troops to defend the “Department of Ecuador.” Helping Sucre was the Governor of the Department of Ecuador, Juan José Flores. Together Sucre and Flores recruited an estimated 5,000 troops by January 1829 and brought them into the area near Cuenca by the middle of February. Lamar also had an estimated 5,000 troops in the vicinity of Cuenca. The two armies confronted each other in Portete de Tarqui with the victory going to the Gran Colombian troops who broke the enemy.

Shortly after the defeat, Lamar’s government was overthrown and he was forced to go into exile in Costa Rica where he died in November of 1830. Also in 1830, the country of Gran Colombia was dissolved, Marshal Sucre went on to become the President of Bolivia after it broke away from Peru. Juan José Flores became the first President of Ecuador.

In honour of the Ecuadorian fallen of the battle the Presidential Horse Guards Squadron of the Ecuadorian Army has the nickname “Tarqui Grenadiers” in honour of the battle, as a horse grenadier unit served with the Colombian army during the battle and was manned partly by Ecuadorian personnel. They wear a blue dress uniform and carry lances in memory of their fallen predecessors.