Anarchism in Ecuador appeared at the end of the 19th century. At the beginning of the 20th century it started to gain influence in sectors of organized workers and intellectuals having an important role in the General strike of Guayaquil on November 15, 1922 in which around 1000 strikers died.
Alexei Páez in his book El anarquismo en el Ecuador reports that "at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th we find the first evidence of the existence of a group that was a friend of libertarian ideals". This was a group that published a newspaper called El Pabellón Rojo and its first edition appeared in Guayaquil in 1899. In this issue the authors defend French illegalism and the events protagonized by Ravachol and Sante Geronimo Caserio.
At the beginning of the 20th century the Ecuadorian worker's movement was more combative in Guayaquil and the first attempts at anarchist propaganda appeared inside the workers movement. "It has been noted the existence of certain anarchist propaganda in the jamaican workers movement who worked in the railroad in the beginning of the century". According to Paez "the railroad workers were the most combative alongside the carpenters and the workers on the cocoa fields, for the age, being later the cocoa workers and the railroad ones the best agitators for the founding of the anarchosyndicalist Federación Regional de Trabajadores del Ecuador (FTRE).
In Guayaquil "In 1910, the Center of Social Studies...distributed La Protesta (Argentina), Solidarity (USA) and Claridad (Chile), in 1911 in the catalog of Liberia Española we could find texts of important libertarian theorists such as: Bakunin, Malatesta, Kropotkin, etc. These are acquired and employed for the establishment of anarchist groups which with the passage of time will continue to clarify their ideas. In 1920 there appears the Centro Gremial Sindicalista (CGS), editor of El Proletario.". In El Proletario starts to write the important Ecuadorian anarchist "José Alejo Capelo Cabello, who with his example and tenacity collaborated with the first anarchist groups and trade unions.
In Quito there is "a newspaper called La Prensa which went on to be a part of the diaries chosen by Max Nettlau in his book Contribución a la Bibliografía Anarquista en América Latina, since it allowed some libertarian articles in its pages." Another important libertarian media which gave a lot of space to the International Workers' Day was Tribuna Obrera, newspaper of "Ideas y Combate", published by the Asociación Gremial del Barrio del Astillero (AGA), an important place of anarchosyndicalist activity.
The anarchist ideals had support in middle class intellectual sectors which are the first effective organizing sectors of anarchist and socialist positions. The thinker and labor leader Juan Elías Naula in Principios de Sociología Applicada manifests a profound admiration for the positions of Pierre Joseph Proudhon. There also appeared the newspaper Alba Roja which was published by the group "Verbo y Acción" and it included Colón Serrano, Tomás Mateus and Francisco Illescas". On the arrival of anarchist positions in Ecuador "the presence of some foreign elements who lived in Ecuador" were considered important. So the Chilean Segundo Llanos was responsible for the edition of El Proletario. Also the Spanish sailor from his travels brought "newspapers such as La Protesta de Argentina, Solidarity of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World)...and even spanish anarchist periodicals."
"Another tendency of the first ecuadorian libertarian organizations was the organization of feminist groups." In Guayaquil there also appeared in 1910 the Center of Social Studies who participated in the International Workers Association congresses of Berlin of 1922 and 1923.
"The original core of anarchism in Ecuador" converged around the group that published the newspaper El Proletario and it included Manuel Echeverría, Justo Cardenas, Narciso Véliz, Segundo Llanos y Alejo Capelo.
In 1922, the railroad employees in Durán went on strike which, with the support of the Federación Regional de Trabajadores del Ecuador, motivated the other associations to join. The government response produced around 1000 striker deaths caused by the army troops sent to the zone and the persecution and dismantling of the organizations that existed around that time.
In the following years, a tendency led by Narciso Véliz took importance and it centered on the group "Hambre", who published El Hambriento. Between those in it there are Alberto Díaz, Juan Murillo, Jorge Briones, José Barcos, J. Villacís, Urcino Meza, Segundo Llanos, Máximo Varela y Aurelio Ramírez.
The anarchists went on a period of recovery and in the end of the 1920s there were 5 active groups in Guayaquil, all of which were coordinated by the Federación de Grupos Anarquistas ' Miguel Bakunin '. They published the periodical Tribuna Obrera and established the theater group "Ricardo Flores Magón". In Guayaquil inside the federation there were active the groups Redención, Tierra y Libertad, Solidaridad, Hambre and Luz y Acción.
The constant state repression sabotaged a lot of these experiences and many of the main anarchist activists wen on exile to the Galapagos Islands. The Chilean Néstor Donoso was deported to his country after he was imprisoned. The group Luz y Acción decided to establish the Bloque Obrero Estudiantil Revolucionario so it could act in the universities.
In 1934, the anarchosyndicalists decide to reorganize the FTRE and after some failed attempts decide to create another syndicalist organization, the Unión Sindical de Trabajadores. In that organization were militants such as Alejo Capelo, Eusebio Moriel, M.E. López Concha, Able Gonzáles and Alberto Diaz. Around the time of the Spanish Civil War, the Ecuadorian anarchists manifested their solidarity with the CNT, which was a protagonist of the Spanish Revolution.
At the end of the 1930s, the rise of marxism helped the decline of anarchism in the South American region. Alejo Capelo and Alejandro Atiencia collaborated in the Mexican anarchist newspaper Tierra y Libertad. Atiencia died in 1971 and Capelo in 1971.