Ecuadorian; ecuatoriano (masc.), ecuatoriana (fem.)
Republic of Ecuador, República del Ecuador (official name, in Spanish), El Ecuador
Identification. In 1830, Ecuador took its name from the Spanish word for the equator, which crosses the entire northern sector. The three mainland regions are referred to as the Coast, the Sierra, and Amazonia, or the Oriente ("east"). A constitutional democracy, Ecuador is a multicultural, multiethnic nation–state that many consider multinational. It has one of the highest representations of indigenous cultures in South America and two distinct Afro–Ecuadorian cultures. The dominant populace is descended primarily from Spanish colonists and settlers and to a lesser extent from German, Italian, Lebanese, and Asian immigrants. Spanish is the national language; thirteen indigenous languages are spoken, of which the principal ones are Quichua in the Sierra and the Oriente and Jivaroan in the Oriente.
The citizens take great pride in being Ecuadorian and refer to themselves as ecuatorianos(-as) and gente (people). Despite continuing discrimination, indigenous and black citizens identify themselves as Ecuadorians as well as native people or black people.
The elites and those in the upper–middle classes are oriented toward education, personal achievement, and the modern consumerism of Euro–North America. People in these classes regard themselves as muy culto ("very cultured"), and while they may learn English, French, or German as part of their formal education, most disavow knowledge of any indigenous language.
People in the upper and upper–middle classes generally identify by skin color as blanco ("white"), to distinguish themselves from those whom they regard as "below" them. The prevalent concept of mestizaje is an elitist ideology of racial miscegenation, implying "whitening." Those who self–identify as "white" may use the term "mestizo" for themselves, as in blanco–mestizo , to show how much lighter they are than other "mestizos."
Black people, represented by their leaders as Afro–Ecuadorians, (afroecuatorianos) , speak Spanish and range through the middle to lower classes. They are concentrated in the northwest coastal province of Esmeraldas, the Chota–Mira River Valley of the northern Andes, and the city of Guayaquil. A sizable black population lives in sectors of the Quito metropolitan area, and there is a concentration in the oil-rich Amazonian region.
The cultures of the indigenous people are rich and varied, but there are commonalities across languages and societies. The Quichua (pronounced Kéechua) speakers of the Andes and Amazonia are differentiated from one another, but come together when common causes arise. Quichua includes the northern dialects of Quechua, the language of the imperial Inca. In Quichua and Quechua people identify as Runa ("fully human"), and their language as runa shimi ("human speech").
All of the nationalities identify in their own languages as both fully human beings and as Ecuadorians. There is no word resembling indio ("indian") in indigenous languages, and the use of that term is deeply resented. In Spanish, the term for indigenous person ( indígena ) is preferred, though gente (person, human being) is the most appropriate designation for any Ecuadorian. People throughout Ecuador make it very clear that identification as Ecuadorian is for all people, and is not only for the elite and upper–middle classes.
Location and Geography. Ecuador, which is 109,493 square miles (283,600 square kilometers;
Demography. The population of Ecuador is estimated as approaching fourteen million and is under–enumerated. It is divided almost evenly between the Coast and the Sierra. The Amazonian region consists of only about 6 percent of the nation's population. Guayaquil, the major coastal city with nearly four million people, and the Andean capital, Quito, with its two million people, constitute the powerful polarities of a political–economic coastal–sierran divide. Both metropolitan areas vie for control of the nation's wealth and power. Indigenous people may comprise as much as 25 percent to 35 percent of the republic, and black people about 7 percent. When those descended from indigenous or Afro–Ecuadorian parents or ancestors are added to these statistics, people who from an elite and upper–middle–class perspective carry the "taint" of ethnicity become the majority. The Quichua– speaking people constitute the largest indigenous population of about two million, followed by the Jivaroans who number between 50,000 and 70,000. The smallest group, the Zaparoans, number only a handful of actual speakers. The other indigenous groups range between 500 and 1300.
Linguistic Affiliation. Spanish, called castellano , is the official Ecuadorian language. According to the 1998 constitution, the state guarantees the system of bilingual, intercultural education that uses the principal language of a particular culture and Spanish as the idiom of intercultural relations.
The indigenous nationalities speak various languages that belong to different linguistic families. Quichua is spoken by most indigenous people in the Sierra and by the largest indigenous group in Amazonia. Well–known cultural clusters in the Sierra include the Otavalo of Imbabura–Carchi, the Tigua–Zumbagua of Cotopaxi, the Colta of Chimborazo, the Cañari of Cañar and Azuay, and the Saraguro of Loja. The Awa, Chachi, and Tscháchila of the northern coastal region speak mutually intelligible dialects of Barbacoan. In the Amazonian region, Shuar, Achuar, and Shiwiar are Jivaroan languages, though those identifying with the latter may speak Achuar, Shuar, Quichua, or Záparo. The Waorani, Záparo, and Cofán (A'i) speak languages unrelated to other language families of South America, and the Siona and Secoya speak Western Tukanoan.
Quechua, subsuming Quichua, has twelve million speakers ranging from southern Colombia to Argentina in the Andes, and Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru in Amazonia. It is the largest Native American language. The Jivaroan languages (Shuar, Huambisa, Achuar, and Aguaruna) are spoken in northeastern Peru; Cofán is spoken in Colombia; Siona and Secoya are spoken in Colombia and Peru.
A public square in Quito, the capital of Ecuador.
Symbolism. Identity as Ecuadorian has many key symbols. La patria ("the motherland") is complemented by el país, "the fatherland" (country). The former is the more powerful evocative referent of collective identity. While el país may be in chaos, la patria endures. The government, el gobierno ,is closely related to the fatherland. It expresses itself through el estado ("the state"). The people look to the government for sustenance and protection, but also expect corruption. When the government cannot serve the people, they rise up as one. The common collective chant during such uprisings is el pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido ("the united people will never be defeated"). The feminine concept of la nación ("nation") is weaker than the other two, as is the collective idea of an estado–nación ("nation– state"). While scholars debate whether Ecuador is a true nation or nation–state, the people identify with la patria and look to el gobierno for salvation of individual and collective self, as citizens of el país . "Governability" is another key symbol in Ecuador, and every leader has stated that Ecuador is very difficult to govern, or that governability is impossible.
The national flag (the "tricolor") emerged in the union of Gran Colombia in 1820s. A broad horizontal yellow stripe represents the sun, fount of all natural abundance; a red stripe is for the blood of the heroes who fell in the making of a nation, specifically those who died in Quito; and the central blue strip is for the sky. The national coat of arms, which is also part of the national flag, features the union of Coast and Sierra. The condor, the national bird, is on top of the coat of arms. In the 1960s the Central Bank of Ecuador took as its emblem a golden sun mask from the La Tolita archaeological culture of Esmeraldas Province. In the 1990s the indigenous organization CONAIE appropriated this same mask as its own emblem of multinationality of el pueblo . One of Ecuador's most powerful collective symbols, which appears on some official stationery and in other places, is ¡el Ecuador es, ha sido, y será, país amazónico! (Ecuador has been, is, and will be, an Amazonian country!). This slogan arose after Peru attacked Ecuador in the war of 1941. After brief but costly wars in 1981 and 1995, the boundary dispute was resolved in October 1998. With the acceptance of the treaty, Ecuadorians everywhere reported feeling as though a limb had been amputated from the collective body of el país long after the Peruvian violation of la patria .On 12 May 1999, presidents Jamil Mahuad and Alberto Fujimori presented a new symbol of unity—the Spondylus shell—evidence of ancient long-distance trade between the native peoples of Ecuador and Peru—renewing their nations' cooperation in development and prosperity.
The national anthem reflects these themes. It is played and sung, often with all of its verses, at all public gatherings in every setting, including those involving nationalities that may be at odds with the government, the nation, and the nation–state. Every television station signs on with the national anthem, often accompanied by pictures of the national flag flying and the golden sun mask radiating. Also included are ethnic and geographic scapes that remind everyone of the topographical and cultural diversity of the country.
Two key symbols represent both cultural– biological centralization and homogenization and diversification, human integrity, and dignity. The first is that of mestizaje , which is promulgated by the elite, who descend from Europeans. It refers to a body of blended Ecuadorians who occupy the middle to lower classes. It is confronted constantly by the second symbol of nacionalidad ("nationality") which refers to being culturally distinct in an oppressive nationalist state. The most prominent nationality in Ecuador is that of the Quichua– speaking people. In the 1970s their slogan was a common greeting in the Inca Empire: ama shua, ama llulla, ama quilla ("don't steal, don't lie, don't be lazy"). The indigenous–based social–political movement pachakutik ("return to the land"), formed in 1996, chose as its flag a rainbow spectrum, representing the anaconda, which emerges from the Amazonian lowlands to unite people from the Andes and Amazonia. This rainbow flag was combined with the golden sun and Inca greeting to build a master set of symbols of a diverse yet unified body. These symbols are now nationally recognized, defining an indigenous space of dynamic nationalities within the republic.
History and Ethnic Relations
Emergence of the Nation. Pre–Inca indigenous existence—which is important to the concept of national culture in Ecuador—is difficult to unravel, but it was rich in its diversity, complex in its multiplicity of polities, and left an archaeological record that differentiates its cultures from others in South America. The Incaic period, to which most Ecuadorians refer when discussing the indigenous past, began about 1480 and ended fifty years later with the Spanish conquest led by Francisco Pizarro and Diego Almagro. The Inca, whose northern leader in the 1530s was Atahualpa, probably introduced Quechua, as Quichua, into Andean Ecuador, and they certainly promoted its usage as a political lingua franca. The Spaniards introduced their language as they imposed colonial rule, but Quichua continued to spread.
As the Spanish took over Quito, began the exploration of Amazonia, and sought to establish a viable Pacific port, African-American people began their own conquest of the northwest rain-forest region of what is now Esmeraldas. By the mid– sixteenth century, self-liberated Africans and their offspring controlled what was known as the Zambo Republic ( zambo refers to intermixture of African and Native peoples). As Quito became a royal court system of the Spanish crown in 1563, it extended bureaucratic control westward to the northwest coast and eastward to the Upper Amazon. In both areas full-scale revolts occurred, with the "Zambos" of the northwest coast and the Quijos and Jivaroans of the Amazonian region resisting all attempts of Spanish incursion. The Spanish were forced to make alliances with the representatives of the Zambo Republic to the west; they managed to subdue the Quijos in the north Amazonian territory, but not the Jivaroans in the center and south Amazonian regions.
The colonial era lasted for three hundred years and caused large–scale depopulation due to disease and the emergence of a system of "racial hybridity" that denied nationality to all those classed as indio and negro . Through it all there were uprisings, revolts, revolutions, movements of self–assertion, and relationships that promoted subsistence, trade, commerce, and cultural coherence beyond colonial bureaucratic control.
National holidays that proclaim the sequence of events leading to the one hundred fifty years of republican history are 10 August (1809), "shout for Independence," and 24 May (1822), "Battle of Pichincha." After that battle Ecuador broke from Spain, which also governed Peru, and joined the Confederation of Gran Colombia, which also included present–day Colombia and Venezuela. In 1830 Ecuador became an independent republic, gained its name, and began a tumultuous history racked with ethnic clashes and dominated by a white, European–oriented oligarchy.
A unifying force between about 1860 and 1875 was a conservative–Catholic alliance aimed at infrastructural development and consolidation of the blanco elite's position against that of the army, which was filled with blacks and mestizos. As conservatism reigned in the Sierra, liberalism grew on the Coast. Political conflicts between liberal and conservative, Coast and Sierra played heavily in national governing throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s led to a series of civil wars, including the assassinations of conservative President Gabriel García Moreno and liberal President Eloy Alfaro Delgado.
The decline of dependency on the world market that accompanied World War I calmed the violence and civil disorder and ushered in an era of internal development. As dependency on world trade returned, violence again became common until the army of the Sierra rebelled against coastal dominance and initiated a new era of Quito–dominated bureaucratic controls that included a central bank (inaugurated 10 August 1927). Between 1925 and 1979, Ecuador's political history, which has a powerful hold on its cultural history, was characterized
Community workers take a lunch break in Mariano Acosta. In Ecuador, national identity is a state system that owes the poor a livelihood.
Since 1979, after nine years of military dictatorship, Ecuador has had a series of democratic governments, each one strengthening the role of the white elite and increasing the poverty of the rest of the nation. Three elected presidents have failed to fill their terms. In 1981, Jaime Roldós Aguilera perished in a plane crash; in 1997, Abdalá Bucaram Ortiz was ousted by an act of congress and by grass–roots movements for "mental incapacity"; and in 2000, Jamil Mahuad Witt was ousted by a conjuncture of an indigenous and grass–roots uprising and a military coup. Although a growing middle class has been increasingly apparent in the last quarter century, poverty has grown exponentially as an economy of capital dependence has overridden subsistence pursuits. The most recent manifestation of these processes is that of "dollarization" of the national currency in 2000.
National Identity. In all walks of life, people identify as ecuatorianos(-as) . National identity emerged historically in several sectors. The elites and the upper–class, along with ideologues in the military and the press, use the concept of " blanco– mestizo " to both identify with the masses (through the concept mestizo ), and to affirm their distance from the masses (through the concept blanco ). The elites have a concept of gente de bién ,or gente bién ("good people"; "people of good or proper background"). They are complemented by a new elite that sometimes is known as gente de bienes ("rich people"). The concept of sociedad ("society") refers to the old elite, both internally and among the new rich.
Among the elite and the newer wealthy, identity as Ecuadorian is paralleled by identity as good, righteous, Catholic, civilized, white people, who share a European and United States orientation. Colonial wealth is important, as is the maintenance of high status with great power and substantial wealth. Among the middle classes, the elite focus on whiteness is conjoined with the elitist ambivalent stigma of mestizaje . Middle–class commercial people tend to identify with their families, their jobs, and a general sense of the republic without worrying about their ethnicity.
Over half the nation is poor, and poverty is a self–identity referent. Here national identity is with a state system that owes the poor a livelihood. Those who self identify as "fully human" in one of seven or eight language families also identify as being Ecuadorian, but look to themselves and to their own social movements for critical livelihood, and for the political capital by which to construct a nation of indigenous people. Where the elites and middle classes are dominated by capitalist thought and activity, the indigenous people, who are at the forefront of movements of self-affirmation, favor socialist reforms. Black people are caught between the dominant elite, the prejudices of the middle classes, and a tenuous and tentative rapproachment with indigenous people.
Ethnic Relations. Black and indigenous people identify with cultural counterparts in other nations. For example, Quichua–speaking people identify with other such speakers in Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. Jivaroan speakers do the same with Peruvians. Cofán, Secoya, and Siona make little differentiation between themselves and those speaking the same languages who live in adjacent countries. At another level, the very fact of being indigenous, of being "original people," serves as a binding reference not only in South America, but across the Americas and beyond. Black people identify more tenuously with those who would seem to be phenotypically similar, and the processes of identity are stronger within their own regions than they are internationally. In the last decade, movements for black ethnic unity have taken place. Black leaders suffer from a lack of funding while indigenous leaders have considerable resources for international ethnic nationalist movements of self–affirmation.
Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space
Urbanism permeates the world view of the white–mestizo sectors of Ecuador and is denied by other Ecuadorians. To be urbane in the Sierra is to be a social part of a major city—Quito, Ambato, Riobamba, Cuenca—where whiteness, Catholic Christianity, economic wealth, and ties to political power define the dignidad ("dignity") and gentileza ("gentility") of those who set themselves off from the majority. In the large coastal cities—Guayaquil and Manta—similar concepts prevail, but the phenomena of being listo ("ready to respond") and vivo ("ready to seize an opportunity") are more salient than they are in the Sierra. The cultural and political differences between the Coast and the Sierra are great, and each region may constitute a political– economic bloc that severely impedes a national consensus on matters of critical collective concern.
A market in Otavalo.
Both urban–oriented serranos , as the highlanders are called, and costeños , the people from the Coast, draw a primary contrast between that which is urban and that which is wilderness. The wilderness includes rain forest and dry–forest areas, high mountainous regions ("páramos"), and riverine systems. These are the systems which, in other contexts, define the beauty and romance of the country, that which the tourism industry seeks to "develop" for the benefit of the rich, mobile, and powerful.
Those with wealth and power long ago established what they regard as civilized spaces through the haciendas, which are extensive land holdings surrounding large rural homes. Those in control of their haciendas, called hacendados , treated people on their lands by a system known in the Sierra as the huasipungo (described by western scholars as "landed slavery"). On the Coast the concept of concertaje was very similar, and carried the same meaning. Agrarian reform, which began in the early 1960s and continued through the 1970s, has rectified this system to a large extent, but many large hacendados retain their landed power bases.
For indigenous and Afro–Ecuadorian people, together with their various cultural "mixtures," urban areas and rural areas blend; each depends on the other, and the ability to move between the sites of the "government" and the "home" and the "land" is critically important. Many such people are familiar with one or more of the urban centers of Ecuador, having spent time there in one or another capacity. Most such rural people have relatives and friends in the cities. People in the poor sector are able to move in and out of urban centers because of kinship ties, ties of ritual kinship ( compadrazgo ), and ties of patronage. Social movements usually originate in a rural sector and move toward the governing center.
Architecture can be thought of as a cultural complement to the nation's beautiful, varied scenery. It runs the gamut from humble wattle–and–daub houses with thatched roofs in the northern countryside to the magnificent La Companía Church in Quito with its gold–leaf interior; from thick–walled colonial monasteries to glass–walled, angular skyscrapers. The pace of urbanism has steadily increased since the beginning of petroleum production in the early 1970s, but it has not erased regional architectural styles that rely on natural materials such as palm, mangrove, bamboo, and thatch on the Coast; eucalyptus, maguey stems, earth, pampas grass, and thatch in the Sierra; and palm, bamboo, and thatch in the Oriente. Increasingly, these natural materials are being supplemented or replaced by cut planks, cinder–block, cement, brick, ceramic and asbestos tile, and corrugated metal.
Urban sprawl is visible around the major cities and towns and along the Panamerican highway that runs north–south through the center of the country, but there are vast open spaces in the more rural areas. In the less populous coastal and Amazonian sectors, open spaces abound despite colonization and urbanization. Population density in urban areas, particularly in poorer neighborhoods, is greatly underreported.
The use of personal household space is extremely varied. In general terms, there tends to be a female portion and a male portion of a domicile. Visitors enter through the male side and are received in a sala ("living room"). To be polite as a guest is to be seated; hosts move to serve guests. Within this framework there are innumerable variations. For example, among the indigenous Canelos Quichua native peoples of the Bobonaza River region, and radiating out of urban Puyo, the head of the house sits on a round carved wood stool, the seat of power of the water spirit–master Sungui. Guests sit on a long bench that symbolizes the anaconda. The Achuar native people carry this further, insisting that male and female guests be separated: women enter through the female door and sit with the women on small stools, while the men enter through the male side and sit on the anaconda–bench.
Food and Economy
Food in Daily Life. The most basic, ubiquitous prepared food is soup, with many variations according to region and ingredients. Coastal fish and coconut milk chowders, sierran potato–based soups, and Amazonian pepper–pot dishes are joined by chicken consommé, cream of avocado, and cow's foot and tripe soup. The mildly fermented chicha made from manioc by indigenous people of Amazonia could be regarded as a soup in its daily, nonceremonial consumption. Other common nonfermented food drinks are made with barley and oatmeal.
The middle and upper classes follow a European model of diet and dining: the primary meal, dinner, features several courses, is served at 2:00 P.M. , and may last for two hours. First comes the soup, and then the segundo ("second") or seco ("dry") courses. It is a time to gather with family at home, or to meet friends or business acquaintances at a restaurant. Workers who travel far from home may take along lunch in a vertically compartmentalized lunch bucket, or buy inexpensive hot food from kiosks or street vendors. These foods include potato and meat soups or stews, choclos (corn on the cob), small sausages fried with onions and potatoes, and eggs. Other national favorites from the street to restaurants include empanadas , small meat, vegetable, or corn pies; shrimp, bivalves, fish, pork, or beef specialties; and "typical" dishes such as locro , a potato and cheese soup, and llapingachos , potato– cheese fritters. In urban Quito and Guayaquil one may choose food from Arby's, Domino's Pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's, or TGI Friday's. A small number of caterers specialize in home–delivered prepared meals to accommodate employed women. Abundant fresh fruits and fruit juices are extremely popular.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. A variety of special dishes are prepared from fresh ingredients for ceremonial occasions by the woman of the house and her female maids. In the Sierra and parts of the Coast fanesca , a hearty soup that combines numerous beans, grains, and other vegetables cooked in fish broth, is served during Holy Week. Native people of Amazonia and the Sierra prepare chicha , a brew made from manioc and maize, respectively. This drink is served on all ceremonial occasions, but in Amazonia it also provides daily caloric intake. For the elite, alcoholic drinks, particularly
A woman harvesting corn near Cuenca. Probably 50 percent or more Ecuadorans produce their own food.
Basic Economy. The lush Andean valleys and coastal farms produce vegetables and fruits in great variety and abundance, and there is active interregional marketing. Stable starches are rice, bananas, plantains, and taro, grown on the coast; potatoes, corn, barley, quinoa, and wheat from the Sierra; and, in Amazonia, plantains, bananas, and particularly the root crops manioc and taro. Coffee, sugar, cacao, and coconuts from the coast are widely distributed. Chickens are raised everywhere for meat and for eggs, which are a major source of protein. Other meats are provided by hogs, cattle, and sheep; fish and some game are important in the Oriente. A wide variety of sausages, processed meats, and canned tuna and sardines is available in markets. The dairy industry is strong in the Sierra and the Coast, providing milk and numerous types of cheeses. Supermarkets carry an increasingly wide variety of imported canned and dehydrated soups, as well as nationally produced canned cow's foot and tripe soups.
Until recently, Ecuadorians depended entirely on domestic produce. Probably 50 percent or more of Ecuador's people produced their own food. Such production took place on coastal and sierran haciendas, where the elite controlled the land. Peasants (often indigenous) eked out an existence bordering on abject poverty, often in systems of sharecropping or landed slavery. Since the petroleum boom and the land reforms of the 1970s, more people depend on meager cash incomes to purchase food grown by fewer people. Commercial agriculture and floriculture have increased dramatically with the use of plastic greenhouses—the plastic sheeting is a product of the petrochemical industries. Fish farming (primarily trout and tilapia) and shrimp farming are important sources of food and income.
Land Tenure and Property. Black people of the northwest coast and indigenous people in the Amazonian region have long been excluded from any land tenureship of the property on which they have dwelled, since the mid–16th century in the former, and from time immemorial in the latter. The lands of indigenous and black people in these lowland regions are declared tierras baldías ("uninhabited lands") even though they are teeming with Afro– Ecuadorian or indigenous people. During the time of sierran land reforms, they were opened for colonization by poor Andean people. The resulting clashes and conflicts continue.
Commercial Activities. Petroleum, bananas, shrimp and other seafood, timber and wood products, fruits, and flowers constitute Ecuador's primary legal exports. Its major industry is petroleum processing, which takes place in Balao, just outside of the city of Esmeraldas. Most of the oil comes from the Amazonian region, where companies such as Texaco have caused one of the worst oil disasters in the world. Indigenous organizations have tried to sue Texaco in the United States, but the white– mestizo judges and lawyers of Ecuador support Texaco as a major source of national and institutional wealth.
Division of Labor. In the upper and middle classes, family connections and higher education are extremely important for significant participation in many professional and commercial ventures, as are payments to powerful political figures. Manual labor opportunities are often controlled by labor bosses who recruit among poor people and illegally take a portion of the workers' wages. This system, known as enganche , exploits especially black and indigenous people by setting them against low– class and usually unionized mestizo workers. People have multiple means of labor mobilization including the community–based minga, in which everyone pitches in to accomplish a task.
Classes and Castes. Ecuador is a highly stratified society with strong symbolic as well as socioeconomic and political ordering. The social structure constitutes a class pyramid. The all–white oligarchies represent the pinnacle of political power, economic control, and social esteem. There is a significant middle class of professional, commercial, and service workers who generally self identify ethnically as blancos . Their representations of other people depend on many political and socioeconomic situations and contexts. Power and control are associated with being blanco , and upward mobility often involves a process known as blanqueamiento (whitening). In vulgar discourse blanqueamiento means moving away from any mancha (taint, or stain) of the hybrid categories, as well as denying the sources of indio and negro . Despite quasi-racial categorization and vast differences of wealth, there is a great deal of mobility and fluidity in all social and cultural sectors.
Well over half the nation is composed of those stigmatized as black or "Indian" people and those with ancestry falling into such categories; they are excluded from access to wealth, power, or social esteem. These are the people who must be mobilized in a national election or for collective action, and to whom a caudillo must appeal, usually through the assertion of the commonality of all Ecuadorians as el pueblo . Ecuadorians whose forefathers came from other lands, especially Lebanon, have been particularly successful in such mobilization and some of them have also been quickly deposed by those mobilized. Recent ex–presidents Bucaram Ortiz and Witt Mahuad illustrate these dual processes of caudillismo .
People throughout Ecuador are thoroughly familiar with the economic machinations at the pinnacle of power and argue against aggressive self– serving capitalism and corporate privatization while at the same time looking to patrons in the government for relief from poverty and opportunities to advance socially and economically. The symbolic structure of stratification permeates all dimensions of the republic. Even Amazonian shamans, when in trance, travel to spirit governments to gain the power to cure. In their festivals, black people in Esmeraldas may dramatize diverse relationships with distant central governments.
Government. Ecuador is a constitutional democracy. Political life is focused on caudillos within a contemporary system of coalitions that features from seven to twenty political parties. Parties constantly coalesce and fragment, but a few, such as the Social Christians, the Leftist Democrats, and various populist parties, endure. The judicial system is based on the Napoleonic code, wherein a person is treated as guilty until proven innocent. The military is the most powerful force within the country, and the police force is substantial. Poor people have little recourse to police help, and the idea and practice of justicia por propia mano ("justice by one's own hand") is increasingly prevalent. The military system of socioeconomic mobility stresses the doctrine of mestizaje . During social movements, including uprisings, the military takes control but more often than not serves as a forceful mediator rather than as an oppressor.
Social Welfare and Change Programs
National welfare programs, including a social security system with extensive health–care components, exist. It is common for a program to be established with inadequate funding. The concept of a "program without money" is a ubiquitous cultural image that reflects economic reality. The failure of the social security system has provoked numerous protests for reform. Successful efforts for social change usually come from the poor sectors, of which the most powerful are the many indigenous organizations and the national unions representing labor, transportation, and education.
Rugs for sale at a market in Otavalo are an example of indigenous craftsmanship.
Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations
Ecuadorians have created some very important nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Fundación Natura is well known internationally for its efforts at ecological preservation. Since the 1970s, indigenous people have developed, with substantial help from European sources, many organizations, most notably the Confederation of Indigenous People of Ecuador (CONAIE), Ecuador's Indigenous Awakening (ECUARUNANI), the Shuar Federation, and the Confederation of Indigenous People of Amazonian Ecuador (CONFENIAE). The Association of Ecuadorian Blacks (ASONE) is growing in strength. In recent years there has been an explosion of NGOs serving the interests of numerous groups, mainly grass–roots ethnic–, gender–, and labor–based. Active NGOs number over two hundred and are largely sponsored by foreign capital. While many NGOs are real forces in the transformation of institutional dysfunctions, it is often claimed that they contribute to corruption within institutions.
Families with pictures of loved ones at a demonstration in Quito, circa 1989. The Ecuadoran people look to the government for protection, but also expect corruption.
Gender Roles and Statuses
Division of Labor by Gender. Women make up a considerable portion of the workforce and are particularly visible in banking and finance, university teaching and research, and NGOs. They play a prominent role in indigenous and Afro–Ecuadorian mobilizations and movements. They hold high government positions in the national and regional judicial system, the national congress, and the executive branch.
The Relative Status of Women and Men. Gender roles vary greatly across classes and ethnicities, ranging from equal to male–dominated. Context specificity alters gender roles and statuses so that women may control sectors of activity even when ideological maleness is said to prevail. The ideology of machismo refers to masculine dominance and sexual conquest. It is said by people in some sectors to be complemented by marianismo , which, in reference to the Virgin Mary, designates an ideal of female purity and fidelity. How this somewhat vague ideology, which is not universal in Ecuador and varies enormously by gender, class, and ethnic perspectives, articulates to actual gender roles is not clear, and deserves serious research attention.
Women have gained legal rights over their children and their own property. A woman, even with a stable and enduring marriage, may elect to omit her husband's name from her child's birth certificate to protect that child from possible future bad fatherhood or separation or divorce, in which the father could claim the child.
Marriage, Family, and Kinship
Marriage. Marriage varies greatly, with its expressions ranging from those characteristic of middle–class United States or Europe to a variety of systems that include "trial marriage" and "serial polygyny."
Domestic Unit. The family is a key feature in the social structural and mobility systems of Ecuador. The basic domestic unit focuses on the mother and children with the father as provider. The mother nurtures the children and manages the household; the father legally provides for the family and the home. This system operates at all class levels and across different cultural systems. Overall, strong men try to keep their nuclear and expanded families around them, while bringing in–laws in. Where this succeeds, a kindred political–economic base develops; where it does not, people become attached to relatively more successful kin. Children are cherished, and socialization focuses on the granting of respect to parents, siblings, other relatives, the community, the nation, God, and those who lend a helping hand.
Respeto (respect) is the key to etiquette across all of the class and ethnic divisions and between the genders. To be granted respect is to have dignidad (dignity) which is a social cognate of the legal status of derechos ("rights"). The granting and receiving—or withholding and denying—of respect governs much of interpersonal relationships. The opposite of respect is desprecio (disrespect). One counters disrespect to one's dignity by claiming "rights," and such rights come to one as an ecuatoriano , Ecuadorian. All Ecuadorians demand respect in their interactions, and conflict on interpersonal, aggregate, or group bases occurs when disrespect is repeatedly observed or inferred. One of the fundamental features of the black social movement is found in the phrase el rescate de la dignidad national ("the rescue of national dignity"). Black leaders say that Ecuador will lack dignity until the ideology of mestizaje , with its built–in premise of blanqueamiento and subtext of mejorar la raza ("improve the race" of indigenous and Afro–Ecuadorian people) is abandoned. The indigenous and black social movements, and movements by women and poor people, are oriented toward achieving the status of dignity through the allocation and/or appropriation of respect.
Religious Beliefs. White–mestizo religiosity is predominantly Roman Catholic and varies considerably according to social class. Conservative Catholicism is infused with patriotism. Protestantism with many dimensions and sects is common and growing, though with smaller congregations. Overall, a fatalistic world view prevails wherein, ultimately, God's will is seen to dominate events. Phrases such as "if God permits," "if God helps me," and "thanks to God," are ubiquitous. Natural disasters, which are common in Ecuador, are said to be God's punishment for collective sin. The government, though secular, is thought of as a powerful but unconcerned father who cares little for his "children" (citizens), thereby provoking God's wrath.
Rituals and Holy Places. A root metaphor for many Catholics is that of the Passion of Christ. His life symbolizes the value of suffering. Virgins and saints are second to Christ's imagery in wide– spread Ecuadorian Catholicism. People make pilgrimages to the virgins and saints from great distances, primarily to become healed of physical or mental afflictions. It is believed some saints can heal and inflict harm and that at least one, San Gonzalo, can kill. Syncretisms between Catholic Christianity and local–level beliefs and practices are ubiquitous and permeate every sector of Ecuadorian culture. Indigenous people have a rich spiritual universe, which shamans tap for curing and for sending harm.
Death and the Afterlife. Death occurs, it is said everywhere, "when one's time comes," and this is accompanied by the assertion that "no one knows when my time is to come; when my time is up I die." This knowledge is restricted, according to some, to God ("when God calls me"), but others say even he doesn't know when one's time will be up on this earth. On or near death, saints from heaven and demons from hell come to claim the soul. Conceptions of the afterlife also vary greatly, from pious assertions that the good go to heaven and the bad go to hell, to the Afro–Ecuadorian coastal idea that most souls go to purgatory. Souls are thought to return to earth to seek their households where the living still exist, and this is something that is not wanted. Indigenous people have many concepts of soul movement after death, and the heaven–hell dichotomy, mediated by purgatory, is usually a superficial overlay on indigenous cosmologies and cosmogonies. In the Sierra and the Coast during the Day of the Dead—All Souls Day—which occurs at the end of October or early November, people congregate in cemeteries, socialize with souls of the deceased, and honor death itself through the imagery embodied in special bread–dough figurines and colada morada , a drink made with blue–black corn meal, blueberries, blackberries, other fruits, and spices.
Medicine and Health Care
Religion, shamanism, and home remedies are important resources. Traditional and alternative medicines were recognized in the constitutional reform of 1998. Amazonian Quichua shamans and coastal Tscháchila healers are considered to be the most powerful healers and minister to people speaking other languages, including those who come from many classes and backgrounds from the Sierra and the Coast. The use of Banisteriopsis caapi , called ayahuasca ("soul vine") in Quichua, is widespread and has attracted attention from medical–care personnel, international pharmaceutical companies, and foreign tourists.
Western health-care delivery exists mainly in the large cities, with outlying clinics rarely functioning in anything resembling western designs. While there are exceptions, hospitals are places where people in dire straits go, after trying many possible cures for illness. Pharmacists do a big business in diagnosis and prescription, and almost any drug or medication can be purchased over the counter.
Soccer ( futbol ) is the national passion for the majority of men in every walk of life. As one encounters poverty and ethnic marginality, one finds women playing with men. Futbol reflects regional and economic differences. When the national team plays in international matches, a united Ecuadorian presence emerges throughout the country. When not united, Ecuadorians become divided in terms of the racial features of its national team. Some argue that powerful sports figures seek to "lighten" the phenotype of the teams. Attempts at such blanqueamiento are vigorously protested by the most prominent black organization, ASONE. The celebrity soccer players can achieve quasi-sainthood, particularly when they die under unforeseen and tragic circumstances. Heroes of other individual sports (e.g. track and field) are also idolized and may become quite prosperous.
The most prominent national secular celebrations are 24 May and 10 August, the two dates of national liberation. The assumption of presidential office always takes place on the latter. Other celebrations are 12 October, Columbus Day, known as the dia de la raza ("day of the race"). The elite take this to mean the day of the European (white), Spanish race from which they descend. Other Ecuadorians take this day as a symbol of racial blending, of mestizaje . It is a day of infamy for indigenous and black leaders, who are excluded by its symbolism, as they are excluded in everyday life. New Year's Eve features a huge secular festival where prominent figures, called muñecos or años viejos —effigies or "old years"—are created on platforms on public streets, lampooned, and burned at midnight. Epiphany (6-11 January) is the Three Kings' Day, which is celebrated by indigenous people of the Sierra as a secular festival. Pre–Lenten Carnival is celebrated throughout the country as a big water fight. In June and July, Sierran festivals of Saint Peter, Saint Paul, and Saint John fuse with those of Corpus Christi and the Incaic Inti Raymi solstice celebration, attracting national and international tourists. The founding days of cities and towns are celebrated throughout the nation, while the alleged European–Andean "discovery" of the Amazon on 12 February is acknowledged primarily in the Oriente.
The Arts and Humanities
Support for the Arts. Quito proclaims itself to be the Patrimonio de Humanidad, "the Heritage of Humanity," and in 1999, Cuenca was designated by UNESCO as an international Heritage of Humanity. Two major organizations that support the arts and the humanities are the Casa de la Cultura Ecuatoriana (the House of Ecuadorian Culture), and the Banco Central del Ecuador. These organizations are funded by the federal government. Archaeological and colonial arts are considered national treasures.The Instituto Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural (the National Institute of Ecuadorian Heritage) is involved in the restoration of colonial edifices and some archaeological sites and in preventing national treasures from leaving the country. Excellent newspapers, television documentaries, and ethnographic and historic video productions all feature a wide spectrum of writers, analysts, and commentators, including intellectuals in various sectors of cultural life, as well as in the academies.
Literature. Literature is rich in Ecuador, and includes writings not only by those highly educated and by journalists, but also by self-taught people who have produced works of value. Best known authors include Juan Montalvo, Juan León Mera, Luis A. Martínez, Jorge Icaza, Jorge Enrique Adoum, and Alfredo Pareja Diezcanseco. Artists such as Benjamín Carrión, Oswaldo Guayasamín, Edwardo Kingman, Camilo Egas, and Oswaldo Viteri are internationally known. Julio Jaramillo is the best known national composer.
An internationally significant corpus of literature is produced by black scholars such as Nelson Estupiñán Bass, Argentina Chiriboga, Aldalberto Ortiz, and Preciado Bedoya, among others. Indigenous authors write in Spanish and in Quichua.
Performance Arts. There is a national symphony and national folkloristic ballet in Quito, but Ecuador is probably best known internationally for indigenous bands that combine and recombine various genres of Andean "folk" music. Many come from Otavalo and Salasaca, but groups exist throughout the Andes and the Amazonian region. Black marimba groups from Esmeraldas are becoming internationally known.
The State of the Physical and Social Sciences
Major universities in Quito and Guayaquil, and smaller ones in other cities, all have curricula in physical and social sciences. Private and public universities vary greatly in their emphases, but offer a respectable array of liberal arts and sciences, medical, legal, and engineering training. Funding comes from the government, from tuition, from foreign aid, and from gifts and private donations. Many Ecuadorians, from all classes and walks of life, earn master's and doctoral degrees in Latin America, the United States, and Europe.
Acosta–Solis, Misael, et al. Ecuador: In the Shadow of the Volcano, 1981.
Adoum, Rosangela. "L'Art Equatorien Préhispanique: Une Autre Monumentalíté," in Tresors du Nouveau Monde, 1992
Albán Gómez, Ernestso. Los Indios y el Estado–País: Pluriculturalidad y Multietnicidad en el Ecuador: Contribuciones al Debate, 1993.
Almeida, Ileana, et al. Indios: Realidad Nacional, 1992.
Ayala Mora, Enrique. Los Partidos Políticos en el Ecuador: Síntesis Histórica, 1989.
——, ed. Nueva Historia del Ecuador, 12 volumes, 1988–1992.
—— et al. Pueblos Indios, Estado y Derecho, 1992.
Cervone, Emma, and Fredy Rivera, eds. Ecuador Racista: Imágenes e Identidades, 1999.
Cuvi, Pablo. Crafts of Ecuador, 1994.
Donoso Pareja, Miguel. Ecuador: Identitidad o Esquizofrenia, 1998.
Espinoza Apolo, Manuel. Los Mestizos Ecuatorianos: y Las Señas de Identitidad Cultural, 1977.
Hurtado, Osvaldo, Nick D. Mills, Jr., trans. Political Power in Ecuador, 1977.
——. El Poder Político en el Ecuador, 10th ed., 1997.
Ibarra, Alicia. Los Indígenas y el Estado en el Ecuador: La Práctica Neoindigenista, 1992.
Lane, Kris. Quito 1599: City and Colony in Transition, 2001.
Lathrap, Donald W., Donald Collier, and Helen Chandra. Ancient Ecuador: Culture, Clay and Creativity, 3000– 300 B.C. , 1975.
Lucas, Kintto. La Rebelión de los Indios, 2000.
Marcos, Jorge. Arqueología de la Costa Ecuatoriana: Nuevos Enfoques, 1986.
Newson, Linda A. Life and Death in Early Colonial Ecuador, 1995.
Phelan, John Leddy. The Kingdom of Quito in Early Colonial Ecuador, 1967.
Rangles Lara, Rodrigo. Venturas y Desventuras del Poder, 1995.
Rowe, Ann Pollard, ed. Costume and Identity in Highland Ecuador, 1998.
Salamone, Frank. Native Lords of Quito in the Age of the Incas, 1986.
Salvat, Juan, and Eduardo Crespo, eds. Historia del Arte Ecuatoriano, 1985.
Weismantel, Mary. Food, Gender, and Poverty in the Ecuadorian Andes, 1988.
Whitten, Dorothea S. and Norman E. Whitten, Jr. From Myth to Creation: Art from Amazonian Ecuador, 1988.
Whitten, Norman E., Jr. Sicuanga Runa: The Other Side of Development in Amazonian Ecuador, 1985.
——. Black Frontiersmen: Afro–Hispanic Culture of Ecuador and Colombia, fourth ed., 1994.
——, ed. Cultural Transformations and Ethnicity in Modern Ecuador, 1981.
—N ORMAN E. W HITTEN , J R. , D OROTHEA S COTT W HITTEN , AND D IEGO Q UIROGA
Also read article about Ecuador from Wikipedia
To help on your search for knowledge we provide the following bibliographies / book lists. The variety of subject matter these publications cover foretells of the diversity you will find in the country. Specific titles are sometimes hard to find. Even if your local bookstore or library doesn't have the specific titles listed, pick up what is available. We welcome you comments and suggestions on books and articles to add.
Susan E. Benner (Editor), Kathy S. Leonard (Editor), Fire from the Andes: Short Fiction by Women from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. University of New Mexico Press, 1998.
Judy Blankenship, Cañar: A Year in the Highlands of Ecuador. Univ of Texas Press, 2005.
Rachel Carr. Ritual and Remembrance in the Ecuadorian Andes. First People, 2010.
Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld, Rudolf Joseph Colloredo-Mansfeld, The Native Leisure Class: Consumption and Cultural Creativity in the Andes. University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Derek Davies, Robert Holmes (Photographer), Ecuador: Traveler's Companion. Globe Pequot Press, 1998.
Warren R. Deboer, Traces behind the Esmeraldas Shore: Prehistory of the Santiago-Cayapas Region, Ecuador. University of Alabama Press, 1996
Carlos De Torre, Populist Seduction in Latin America: The Ecuadorian Experience. Ohio University Press, 2000.
Elisabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty: The Life and Testament of Jim Elliot. Harper San Francisco, 1996.
Elisabeth Elliot, The Savage My Kinsman. Servant Publications, 1996.
Elisabeth Elliot, Through Gates of Splendor. Tyndale House Publishers, 1995.
Murray Gell-Mann, The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex. W. H. Freeman Company, 1995.
Allen Gerlach. Indian, Oil and Politics: A Recent History of Ecuador. Scholarly Recourses, 2003.
Sarah Hamilton, The Two-Headed Household: Gender and Rural Development in the Ecuadorean Andes. University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998.
Michael Handelsman, Culture and Customs of Ecuador. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000.
Jeanne A. Hey, Theories of Dependent Foreign Policy and the Case of Ecuador in the 1980s. Ohio University Press, 1995.
Russell T. Hitt, Jungle Pilot. Discovery House Publishers, 1997.
Joe Kane, Marty Asher, Savages. Fodor's Travel Publications, 1996.
Rafael Karsten (Editor), Blood Revenge, War and Victory Feasts among the Jibaro Indians of Eastern Ecuador. Reprint Services Corporation, 1995
Gregory Kaufman, Manuela. RLN & Company, 2000. Based on the life of Ecuadorian born Manuela Saenz, revolutionary, spy and partner of South American Liberator Simon Bolivar.
Sarita Kendall, Ecuador. Chelsea House Publishers, 1998.
David Kyle, Transnational Peasants: Migrations, Networks, and Ethnicity in Andean Ecuador. Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.
Peter Lourie, Lost Treasure of the Inca's. Boyds Mills Press, 1999.
Peter Lourie, Sweat of the Sun, Tears of the Moon : A Chronicle of an Incan Treasure. University of Nebraska Press, 1998.
Theodore Macdonald, Jr., Ethnicity and Culture amidst New "Neighbors": The Runa of Ecuador's Amazon Region. Ally & Bacon, 1999.
Tom Miller, Panama Hat Trail : A Journey from South America. Random House, 2001.
Marnie Mueller, Green Fires: Assault on Eden: A Novel of the Ecuadorian Rainforest. Curbstone Press, 1994
Adalberto Ortiz, Susan Hill (Translator), Jonathan Tittler (Translator), Designed by Tom Gladden, Juyungo: A Classic Afro-Hispanic Novel. Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1991.
John Perkins, The World Is as You Dream It: Shamanic Teachings from the Amazon & Andes. Inner Traditions International, Limited, 1994.
Richard Poole, The Inca Smiled: The Growing Pains of an Aid Worker in Ecuador. Oneworld Publications, 1994.
Sarah A. Radcliffe, Sallie Westwood. Remaking the Nation: Identity and Politics in Latin America. Routledge, 1996.
Lois Crawford Roberts, The Lebanese in Ecuador: A History of Emerging Leadership. Westview Press, 2000.
Wilma Roos, Omer Van Renterghem, Ecuador in Focus: A Guide to the People, Politics, and Culture. Interlink Publishing Group, 2000.
Ann Pollard Pollard Rowe, Lynn Ann Meisch, Laura M. Miller, Costume and Identity in Highland Ecuador. University of Washington Press, 1998.
Thomas K. Rudel, Bruce Horowitz, Tropical Deforestation : Small Farmers and Land Clearing in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Columbia University Press, 1994
Luis Sepulveda, Peter Bush (Translator), The Old Man Who Read Love Stories. Harcourt, 1995.
Frederick W. Shaffer, Indian Designs from Ancient Ecuador. Dover Publications, 1991.
Moritz Thomsen, Living Poor: A Peace Corps Chronicle. Univ of Washington, 1991.
Mike Tidwell, Amazon Stranger: A Rainforest Chief Battles Big Oil. Lyons Press, 2001.
Robert Whitaker, The Mapmaker's Wife. Delta, 2004. Mostly about the French expedition to Ecuador to determine the circumference and shape of the earth, with a number of side stories entertainingly woven in.
Peter Wogan. Magical Writing in Salasaca: Literary and Power in Highland Ecuador. Westview, 2004.
Art, Culture, Music, History Websites
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