The Ecuador Reader: History, Culture, Politics

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Encompassing Amazonian rainforests, Andean peaks, coastal lowlands, and the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador’s geography is notably diverse. So too are its history, culture, and politics, all of which are examined from many perspectives in The Ecuador Reader. Spanning the years before the arrival of the Spanish in the early 1500s to the present, this rich anthology addresses colonialism, independence, the nation’s integration into the world economy, and its tumultuous twentieth century. Interspersed among forty-eight written selections are more than three dozen images.

The voices and creations of Ecuadorian politicians, writers, artists, scholars, activists, and journalists fill the Reader, from José María Velasco Ibarra, the nation’s ultimate populist and five-time president, to Pancho Jaime, a political satirist; from Julio Jaramillo, a popular twentieth-century singer, to anonymous indigenous women artists who produced ceramics in the 1500s; and from the poems of Afro-Ecuadorians, to the fiction of the vanguardist Pablo Palacio, to a recipe for traditional Quiteño-style shrimp. The Reader includes an interview with Nina Pacari, the first indigenous woman elected to Ecuador’s national assembly, and a reflection on how to balance tourism with the protection of the Galápagos Islands’ magnificent ecosystem. Complementing selections by Ecuadorians, many never published in English, are samples of some of the best writing on Ecuador by outsiders, including an account of how an indigenous group with non-Inca origins came to see themselves as definitively Incan, an exploration of the fascination with the Andes from the 1700s to the present, chronicles of the less-than-exemplary behavior of U.S. corporations in Ecuador, an examination of Ecuadorians’ overseas migration, and a look at the controversy surrounding the selection of the first black Miss Ecuador.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

The Ecuador Reader is a gateway for understanding the volatile and intriguing history of this complex, multicultural land. From José María Velasco Ibarra’s fiery populism to the politics of a contemporary beauty pageant, the book captures the rich diversity of the country’s past and present. It is a major contribution to the study of the Andean world.”—Catherine M. Conaghan, Queen’s University

The Ecuador Reader offers an intriguing glimpse of the diverse voices and perspectives through which Ecuadorians have engaged the social, political, and cultural challenges of crafting a modern nation. Compiled by two of the leading scholars of Ecuadorian cultural and political thought, the essays in this volume provide testimony to the diversity and creativity of the intellectuals, organizations, communities, and individuals who people Ecuadorian history. The discussions of identity, ethnicity, colonialism, development, culture, and the state found in these pages offer a unique starting point for exploring Ecuador’s historical path from being a colony on the edges of the Inca and Spanish empires to becoming a central player in modern Latin American political debates.”—Deborah Poole, Johns Hopkins University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822343523
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 2/28/2009
  • Series: The Latin America Readers Series
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Carlos de la Torre is Director of the doctoral program in and Chair of Political Studies at FLACSO (La Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales) in Quito, Ecuador. He is the author of Populist Seduction in Latin America: The Ecuadorian Experience and several books in Spanish, including Afroquiteños: Ciudadanía y Racismo.

Steve Striffler is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Arkansas. He is the author of In the Shadows of State and Capital: the United Fruit Company, Popular Struggle, and Agrarian Restructuring in Ecuador, 1900–1995 and a coeditor of Banana Wars: Power, Production, and History in the Americas, both also published by Duke University Press.

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All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-4352-3

Chapter One

Conquest and Colonial Rule

Documenting Ecuador's past is not an easy endeavor. The people who inhabited what is now Ecuador prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1534 did not use the written word. In the case of pre-Conquest cultures, historians and archaeologists have been left with either material culture-such as paintings, ceramics, and ruins-which in the case of Ecuador lacks the scale (and scholarly attention) of Latin America's more famous archaeological findings, or have depended on chroniclers of the Conquest itself. Most chroniclers were Spanish, some worked through interpreters, all had agendas, and even the most well meaning lacked the cultural knowledge to understand much of what they were witnessing.

This endeavor is further complicated by the peripheral and diverse nature of what would become Ecuador. Prior to the Inca Conquest, numerous indigenous groups-relatively isolated from one another and living outside the control of a unifying state or ruler-inhabited the coastal lowlands, the Sierra, and parts of the Amazon. The Inca Tupac Yupanqui did not conquer the southern provinces of Ecuador until 1480, when further advancement was stopped by indigenous resistance. His son, Huayna Capac, pushed the Inca Conquest farther north, but many groups in the coastal lowlands and Amazon were never conquered. Ecuador's incorporation into the Inca Empire lasted less than fifty years and never succeeded in imposing a uniform language, religion, or set of political and economic institutions. Inca rule in the north was thus much shorter and less than intense than in Peru. To equate pre-Spanish Ecuador with "the Inca," then, is to misunderstand the diversity and history of indigenous peoples in the region.

The late and uneven arrival of the Incas was in large part a product of geography. In the southern Andes of Peru and Bolivia, where higher elevations, lower temperatures, and a dryer climate limit food production, indigenous peoples were forced to develop methods of food preservation and storage. Such an endeavor required significant political organization, state systems, roads, and other forms of physical and social infrastructure. The northern Andes of Ecuador, by contrast-with lower elevations, higher temperatures, and constant humidity-permitted year-round crop production, thereby eliminating the need for highly developed systems of political organization.

What emerged in the northern Andes, then, were small-scale chiefdoms, each with its own language and customs, and each comprising numerous villages that ranged in size from several dozen to several thousand people. Prior to the arrival of the Incas in the late 1400s, the northern region between southern Colombia and Quito was dominated by the Pastos, Caras, and Panzaleos. Ecuador's central Andes were populated by the Puruha and Cañaris. Conflicts between these groups were endemic, but no one nation was dominant.

This native population produced an abundance of agricultural goods-including corn, beans, peas, squash, quinoa, and potatoes-while establishing systems of trade for goods such as cotton, chili peppers, and coca that were grown at lower elevations. Ultimately, it was this natural wealth that attracted the Inca and contributed to their success in conquering the region. Topa Inca, heir to Pachacuti Inca, first defeated the Cañaris during the last part of the fifteenth century and used their capital-Tomebamba-as a launching-off point for future expeditions. Historical sources lack much in the way of detail, but chroniclers suggest that the Incas' military victories were hard fought, often requiring multiple expeditions and, in the case of lowland regions to the east and west, ending largely in failure.

Once in "control" of a region and people, the Incas attempted to secure their rule by relocating a large percentage of the native population while importing more loyal subjects from the southern Andes. Aside from this population reshuffling, the Inca left community relations largely intact, preferring to utilize local leaders-caciques-to maintain control and siphon off tribute. Caciques who lacked sufficient loyalty were replaced; communities that did not submit were often brutalized.

The first contact between subjects of the Inca and explorers from Spain led by Francisco Pizarro reportedly took place off the coast of Ecuador in 1527. Spanish subjugation of the Andean region has become the stuff of myths, but the speed of the initial military conquest was remarkable and made possible by the fact that the Inca had laid the groundwork. They had centralized political control over a region that extended from central Chile to southern Colombia. To be sure, when the Spanish finally arrived in the northern Andes in 1534, they found a diverse array of populations whose assimilation into the Inca Empire had been partial and uneven (especially in terms of language, religious practices, customs, etc.). Yet, the Incas had succeeded in establishing political control over an area larger than the Roman Empire, appointing loyal officials throughout the Andes who implemented policies emanating from Cuzco. The system of political organization created by the Inca facilitated the Spanish takeover.

It was Francisco Pizarro's lieutenant, Sebastián de Belalcázar, who orchestrated the campaign into the northern sector of the Inca Empire during 1533 and 1534. He and 200 men battled through the Ecuadorian highlands, allied themselves with the Cañari, and subjugated the area around Riobamba. The Spanish founded their first settlement, San Francisco de Quito, toward the end of 1534 and continued the military campaign from there. Some communities welcomed the end of Inca rule and submitted to Spanish authority; other resisted; still others found some middle ground. Unable to find much in the way of precious metals, the initial conquerors became frustrated, abused local populations, abandoned towns almost as soon as they founded them, and otherwise left an unenviable legacy.

The Spanish did not disappear, however. New conquerors replaced old ones, bringing with them monks, priests, nuns, soldiers, and fortune seekers who established a permanent Spanish presence in Quito and a number of other towns by the end of the sixteenth century. Within a hundred years, by the end of the seventeenth century, Quito had a population of 25,000 and boasted some of the continent's most magnificent churches, convents, monasteries, works of art, and educational institutions. The coastal region of Ecuador remained relatively undeveloped, though Guayaquil became the shipyard of South America and one of the continent's most important ports.

By 1563, Quito was the seat of the Royal Audiencia of Quito, a territory much larger than present-day Ecuador. It remained under the jurisdiction of either the Viceroyalty of New Castile (Peru) or the Viceroyalty of New Granada (Colombia), but as an audiencia was able to deal directly with Madrid on many matters. Encomiendas-a grant of rights to collect tribute from a carefully defined indigenous population-were given by the Crown to those Spaniards it wanted to reward and who could be trusted to run the empire. The value of a particular encomienda was not so much in the amount of land one controlled but in the number of Indians. The encomendero was to care for and convert "his" Indians to Catholicism; in exchange they would provide him with agricultural services, cultivate his land, and provide labor for textile mills, mines, and other projects. This system would last in some form throughout the colonial period, challenged as much by the decimation of the indigenous population by disease and abuse as by periodic political uprising.

This is not to say Ecuador was devoid of political rebellion or interesting characters. The push for independence from Spain was foreshadowed by a series of major Indian uprisings that shook the highlands in the late 1700s (particularly around Latacunga and Riobamba). They never reached the scale of similar insurrections in Peru, but their demands-the overthrow of Spanish rule and the end of elite dominance in the countryside-threatened the entire social structure, which in turn motivated pro-Independence elites to take action.

One of the most fascinating historical figures of the period was Francisco Eugenio de Santa Cruz y Espejo. Born in 1747 to an Indian father and mulatto mother, Eugenio de Santa Cruz y Espejo was one of Ecuador's earliest scholars, a serious doctor, and a political heretic. He was also considered America's first journalist and writer of fame. He was persecuted, imprisoned, and exiled for political ideas that he never wrote down, but spread by word of mouth. He advocated emancipation from Spain, democratic government, and nationalization of the clergy. He died a Spanish subject in 1795 in a dungeon, but came to represent a future independent from Spain.

An interesting contemporary of Eugenio was Juan de Velasco, one of South America's early historians. Born in Riobamba in 1727, de Velasco was educated in Quito and Lima, entered the Jesuit Order, and was the chair of theology at the University of San Marcos in Lima. He would eventually flee to Italy after the Jesuits were expelled from the Spanish Empire in 1767, and he died there in 1819. It was during this time that he gave us the History of the Kingdom of Quito in South America, a remarkable account of pre-Columbian and colonial Quito that was not published until well into the nineteenth century (and not widely studied until translated into French in 1840). Although his work has been criticized for historical inaccuracies, de Velasco has earned his place as the first scholar to deal seriously with the indigenous population while trying to create the myth of the Creole nation. In stressing the value of the Americas (and its equality with Europe), he lent justification to the creation of an independent Ecuadorian state. For some he may well be considered Ecuador's first historian while for others the creator of nationalist myths.

Finally, there is Manuela Sáenz, the "Libertadora del Libertador," perhaps most famously known as Simón Bolívar's lover, but deservedly recognized as an important revolutionary in her own right and as one of Latin America's earliest fighters for women's rights. One of Latin America's most important female figures, Sáenz was born in Quito in 1797, educated in a convent, and then married off to an English merchant. Well connected in political circles, she became involved in the movement for independence from Spain (first in Peru and then Ecuador). In 1822, after leaving her husband, she met Bolívar in Quito and supported him (once helping save his life), the push for independence, and women's rights until his death in 1830 (after which in 1833 she was effectively exiled from Ecuador and died in poverty in a small town in Peru). With Bolívar out of the picture, the dream of uniting the northern republics of South America into a single nation-state evaporated. Ecuador declared independence, becoming a nation-state in the same year of Bolívar's death in 1830.

Ecuador's Pre-Columbian Past

Tamara Bray

Given its unique geographical position on the South American continent, Ecuador has often been referred to as an "Intermediate Area," a kind of gateway between the two "great" centers of civilization in the Americas: the central Andes (Inca) and Mesoamerica (Aztecs and Maya). Rarely, however, has this region been approached as an important site of indigenous cultural achievement in its own right. The archaeologist Tamara Bray argues that greater insights are gained by adopting a locally grounded perspective that sees Ecuador's position as a crossroads not as a limitation, but as a source of innovation. It is, after all, in the coast of Ecuador where we find some of the earliest evidence for agriculture and pottery production in the hemisphere. The Ecuadorian littoral was also the main source of the highly prized thorny oyster (Spondylus princeps), an essential element of Andean ritual as early as 5,000 years ago and a key component in extensive interregional trade networks. Rather than ask why the complex societies of this region failed to evolve into full-fledged states, as many have, perhaps it is more interesting to consider how they resisted the rise of the state.

Valdivia and the Origins of Pottery in the New World

The appearance of pottery in the archaeological record has long been considered a key indicator of sedentary village life and the momentous shift to food production. Though exceptions do exist, and there is no direct cause-and-effect relation, ceramic technology is generally found to be associated with agriculturally based sedentary societies rather than mobile hunting and gathering groups. When Valdivia (Valdivia culture is defined by archaeologists as the beginnings of settlement life in Ecuador between 3500 and 1500 BC) pottery was first identified through archaeological excavations on the Santa Elena peninsula of Ecuador, its early age and technological sophistication created a stir within the scientific community. Radiocarbon methods dated the lowest levels of the Valdivia occupation to 3100 BCE, making the 5,000-year-old Valdivia pottery, for a time, the earliest known in South America. Valdivia culture was quickly hailed as the progenitor of New World pottery production and the hemispheric birthplace of the Neolithic Revolution. The claims for cultural precociousness, however, had to be fitted to the general understanding of the Intermediate Area as peripheral to the primary centers of New World civilization. Resulting attempts to do so made Valdivia the focal point of considerable controversy and debate.

The Valdivia cultural tradition was first identified by the archaeologist Emilio Estrada in the mid-1950s and since then has been the focus of much scholarly research. While Valdivia sites are found throughout southwestern Ecuador, only a few have been intensively studied. Excavations at the Valdivia site of Real Alto indicate that it was occupied for a period of nearly 2,000 years. During this time, it evolved from a small village with houses organized around a central open space into a segregated ceremonial complex. While the population of Real Alto seems to have declined through time from an estimated maximum of 1,500 people around 2200 BCE, there appears to have been a corresponding increase in the ritual importance of the site as evidenced by the construction of a pair of large earthen mounds in the central plaza and the material remains associated. In Valdivia culture, maize agriculture, public feasting, the ritual renewal of sacred features, and elaborate burials seem to have been important components in the transformation from egalitarian to socially stratified, complex society that occurred on the Santa Elena peninsula during the early Formative period.

The pottery that helps define this period is some of the earliest known in the Western Hemisphere. Valdivia ceramics are technologically sophisticated and quite distinctive. The tradition is characterized by the use of red-slip and incised decoration. The vessel shapes, which include globular-bodied jars with medium tall necks, squat vessels with short necks, and simple hemispherical bowls (figure 1), are remarkably standardized. Also of interest is the fact that a relatively high proportion of Valdivia pottery is decorated, suggesting more of an emphasis on serving, as opposed to cooking and storage, vessels. A variety of decorative techniques, including excision, broad-line incision, rocker-stamping (a decorative technique to create pattern impressions in clay vessel), combing, embossing, finger-grooving, and appliqué, were employed in the embellishment of Valdivia wares.


Excerpted from THE ECUADOR READER Copyright © 2008 by DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


I Conquest and Colonial Rule....................9
Tamara Bray. Ecuador's Pre-columbian Past....................15
Frank Salomon. Ancestors, Grave Robbers, and the Possible Antecedents of Cañari "Inca-ism"....................27
Susan V. Webster. Building a Life in Colonial Quito: José Jaime Ortiz, Architect and Entrepreneur....................40
Sherwin K. Bryant. Finding Freedom: Slavery in Colonial Ecuador....................52
Karen Vieira Powers. A Battle of Wills: Inventing Chiefly Legitimacy in the Colonial North Andes....................68
Sarah C. Chambers. Manuela Sáenz: Americana or Quiteña?....................79
Blanca Muratorio. The State, Missionaries, and Native Consciousness in the Upper Amazon, 1767-1896....................86
II A New Nation....................99
Andrés Guerrero. The Construction of a Ventriloquist's Image: Liberal Discourse and the "Miserable Indian Race" in the Late Nineteenth Century....................103
Friedrich Hassaurek. Four Years among the Ecuadorians....................117
Juan Montalvo. Selection from Juan Montalvo (1832-1889)....................121
A. Kim Clark. Railway and Nation in Liberal Ecuador....................126
Ronn Pineo. Guayaquil and Coastal Ecuador during the Cacao Era....................136
Rob Rachowiecki. Mountaineering on the Equator: A Historical Perspective....................148
III The Rise of the Popular....................155
Albert B. Franklin. Portrait of a People....................159
José María Velasco Ibarra. You are not my President....................163
Raphael V. Lasso. The Wonderland....................167
Jorge Icaza. Patrón and Peon on an Andean Hacienda....................169
Pablo Palacio. The man Who Was Kicked to death....................175
Henri Michaux. The Indian's Cabin....................182
José María Velasco Ibarra. "Heroic Pueblo of Guayaquil"....................185
IV Global Currents....................189
Galo Plaza Lasso. Two Experiments in Education for Democracy....................193
Adrián Bonilla. The Origins of the Ecuadorian Left....................200
Carmen Martínez Novo. The Progressive Catholic Church and the Indigenous Movement in Ecuador....................203
Salomon Isacovici and Juan Manuel Rodríguez. Man Of Ashes....................209
Pablo Cuvi. Men of the Rails and of the Sea....................218
Jean Muteba Rahier. Creolization and African Diaspora Cultures: The Case of the Afro-Esmeraldian Décimas....................226
Hernán Ibarra. Julio Jaramillo and Music as Identity....................237
Steve Striffler. The United Fruit Company's Legacy in Ecuador....................239
Tom Miller. The Panama Hat Trail....................250
Diane C. Bates. Deforestation in Ecuador....................257
Carlos de la Torre. Civilization and Barbarism....................267
Felipe Burbano de Lara. Deinstitutionalized Democracy....................271
V Domination and Struggle....................277
Carlos de la Torre. Nina Pacari, an Interview....................279
Sarah A. Radcliffe. Women's Movements in Twentieth-century Ecuador....................284
Pablo Ospina. The Galápagos: Environmental Pressures and Social Opportunities....................297
Norman E. Whitten Jr. Emerald Freedom: "With Pride in the Face of the Sun"....................302
Suzana Sawyer. Suing Chevron Texaco....................321
Dorothea Scott Whitten. Arts of Amazonian and Andean Women....................329
VI Cultures and Identities Redefined....................337
Jean Muteba Rahier. National Identity and the First Black Miss Ecuador (1995-96)....................341
Brad D. Jokisch and David Kyle. Ecuadorian International Migration....................350
Mary J. Weismantel. Cities of Women....................359
Noemí Espinosa. Traditional Foods of Ecuador....................371
Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld. Globalization from Below and The Political Turn among Otavalo's Merchant Artisans....................377
X. Andrade. Pancho Jaime....................385
Javier Vásconez. Big Angel, My Love....................388
María Fernanda Espinosa. Nature and Humanity through Poetry....................396
Barry Lyons, with Angel Aranda and Dina Guevara. "Simple People"....................403
Iván Oñate. The Writings of Iván Oñate....................415
Suggestions for Further Reading....................419
Acknowledgment of Copyrights....................423
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