© Jim Belote 2000 (1984)

This is Chapter 11 of the Ph.D. dissertation entitled CHANGING ADAPTIVE STRATEGIES AMONG THE SARAGUROS OF SOUTHERN ECUADOR, accepted in 1984 by the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

With the exception of a few minor typographical changes (including changing underlined words to italic form), the dissertation is copied here exactly as written with whatever errors of fact or interpretation it originally contained. While there are no significant changes in the original text, comments on errors, some updating of information and some explanatory information have been added. These are clearly marked with brackets and asterisks thusly [* . ...*]. Page numbers in the original dissertation have been indicated in brackets without asterisks, i.e. [306]. Also added are links to other material on the Saraguro web site.

The specific data supporting most of the generalizations in this chapter is provided in the earlier chapters of the dissertation.

The entire dissertation has been published in Spanish, in Ecuador by Abya-Yala, and is also available in English from University Microfilms.

Those not familiar with the Saraguro area and its people should first read the Brief Overview of Saraguro and the material on the Shuar and the Saraguros. These should also be consulted for updates on current (1999) conditions faced by the Saraguros.

All places named herein are shown on one or more of four maps provided on this website. To find the locations of the places named go to the Map Index. In the index they are alphabetically listed and provided with links to the map(s) where they are shown. A key is also provided which indicates the section of the map(s) where they may be found.


Corn and Cattle: The Development of a Dual Strategy

At the beginning of this century the Saraguros of the six communities of Oñacapa, Tambopamba, Tuncarta, Ñamarin, Lagunas and Quisquinchir [* see Saraguro Region map. *] [*1*] , in the parish [* parroquia *] of Saraguro, were primarily engaged in subsistence farming. Living in an isolated area, with no regular market or retail business of significance, they were only sporadically engaged in market or exchange transactions with outsiders in order to obtain things that they could not produce themselves; a few necessities such as salt and metal tools; some supplementary foods such as rice, sugar and tropical fruits; and some occasional luxuries such as jewelry.

So that they could obtain these goods they raised some cattle and chickens, the products of which (beef-on-the-hoof, cheese and eggs) were taken to be traded or sold in the Jubones valley, Zaruma or the coast. The Saraguros were thus engaged in exchange oriented vertical circulation patterns. But many of their cattle were being raised in the high paramo areas around Saraguro; the Saraguros were thus engaged in production oriented verticality at the same time. Combining the two forms of verticality, production oriented and exchange oriented, many individual Saraguros were involved in covering a vertical range of well over 3000 meters (from paramo to coastal elevations), not to mention horizontal ranges of over 150 kilometers.
While their economic adaptation was vertically organized, the Saraguros were laterally mobile as well: they occasionally traveled to the highland cities of Loja and Cuenca for legal, political and religious purposes. It is possible, also, that some Saraguros supplemented their incomes as muleteers, transporting goods and people between Cuenca and Loja. Evidence on this point, however, is not good.

At any rate, Saraguros were responsible for official goods and personnel passing through Saraguro on the way between Loja and Cuenca and thus had forced upon them the skills of mule [306] handlers–whether or not they made use of these skills for their own profit. This tambo mita [*2*] service was one of the major forms of direct exploitation the Saraguros suffered as indígenas [*3*], and was not to end until the Pan American Highway was built through the Saraguro area in the 1940s.

Not only did tambo service extract goods and labor from the Saraguros over its centuries of existence, but it had negative impacts on the eventual development of autonomous community organization among the Saraguros. Though the elaborate gobernador system of indigenous organization, which managed the tambo mita service, did have some other functions such as the defense of indigenous interests and the coordination of indigenous religious activities with church authorities, it was viewed primarily as a servant of the state–as an agency that facilitated the extraction of goods and labor from the indigenous population. And this image of indigenous organizations as quisling systems, or as entities that could easily be co-opted or controlled by outside interests seriously impeded the development of community organization among the Saraguros through the 1960s, particularly when government agencies such as the Misión Andina tried to establish community councils. Not until the late 1960s and early 1970s were the Saraguros to begin to establish their own forms of autonomous community organization.
Beginning perhaps before the turn of the century some Saraguros had begun to experiment with planted and managed pastures as an alternative to the use of paramos as rangeland. These pastures were established by carving out plots of cerro [* mountain woodland/ cloud forest *] land in the vicinity of the communities. Then a few Saraguros, principally from the communities of Gurudel, Oñacapa and Tambopamba began to enter the upper Yacuambi valley to establish pastures there. They had probably originally been drawn to that area to hunt gold or quinine bark or to help those who did. Then followed several decades of relatively slow development of the managed pasture system. By the 1920s and 1930s, then, Saraguros pursued the market aspect of their dual [307] strategy in a variety of ways and areas: they still raised most of their cattle, most of the time, in the paramos, but many were becoming familiar with a more intensive system of cattle and pasture management.

The Yacuambi valley component of their dual strategy received an added stimulus from the entry of the Franciscans in the 1930s–using Saraguro as their support base. With the establishment of the Franciscans in the Yacuambi valley, trails between the Saraguro and Yacuambi areas were expanded and maintained and Saraguros from communities other than Gurudel, Oñacapa and Tambopamba, many of whom served at first as auxiliaries of the Franciscans, began to become familiar with the area. Further, Franciscans took over effective control of the Yacuambi valley from the Shuar who had previously directed settlement: this made it easier for more Saraguros to search out and claim good land there.

The major external stimulus to the full flowering of the dual strategy of the Saraguros, and its colonization option, was the construction of the Pan American Highway between Cuenca and Loja. Where previously the town of Saraguro had been little more than a local administrative and religious center which also served as a tambo on a major national mule trail, it now became a commercial center with a proliferation of small shops and the establishment of a weekly cattle market.

As I indicated above, the arrival of the road freed the Saraguros from the onerous burden of tambo service. But just as important were the new opportunities for market engagement that emerged. Although employment in road construction crews provided market engagement for many Saraguros for several years, the chief long range impact of the road's arrival was to promote increased development of the livestock production aspect of the Saraguros' dual strategy.

No longer having to travel great vertical and horizontal distances to obtain a few necessities, supplements and luxuries, the Saraguros threw themselves more intensively into the production of more livestock and livestock produce. The exchange [308] oriented vertical circulation taking them to the coast, Zaruma and the Jubones valley was soon reduced to a trickle. And the establishment of local markets led quickly to the demise of free-range paramo cattle raising. Those Saraguros who had access to good forest land in the cerro which could be transformed into pasture increased their efforts to so transform it. Others entered the Oriente to claim and work land for the same purpose: cattle raising. Those Saraguros who did not have enough resources to get a good start in livestock raising had to develop alternative strategies: wage labor, specialized crafts production (weaving, basket making, pottery manufacture), begging or stealing. All but a very few were able to at least produce a good portion of their subsistence needs from small plots of land they did own; many of these with alternative strategies hoped to accumulate enough resources to eventually be able to enter the livestock raising business.

Increased market participation promoted a decline in networks of obligation and reciprocity. Most successful Saraguros found it more satisfactory to depend upon more limited networks of friends and family members than they had in the past.
As much as they became engaged in the market, however, the Saraguros did not neglect their subsistence orientation; subsistence security was a primary goal of the dual strategy, not a mere appendage to the livestock business. Though small scale livestock raising produced reasonably good long term cash yields by Third World standards, year to year variations in income were great–due to fluctuations in herd sizes and market conditions. A strong subsistence base, then, freed the Saraguros from the worst features of market engagement.

Wolf (1968: xiv) has almost perfectly described the situation: "the peasant most often keeps the market at arm's length, for unlimited involvement in the market threatens his hold on his source of livelihood . . . he favors production for sale only within the context of an assured production for subsistence." Wharton (1971), Johnson (1971), Mayer (1974) and Scott (1976) also provide excellent discussions of [308] subsistence security strategies among peasants. Saraguros have been quite conscious of this aspect of their dual strategy. As two Saraguros put it in comparing their group with the Otavalos of northern Ecuador, "We are richer than they are . . . We have cattle, land, real wealth. The Otavalos have factories and money but they have to keep working all the time to get money, while we have our land whether we work or not" (cited in Belote 1978:3).

Unlike peasants living on the margins of survival there is enough play in Saraguro subsistence activities, particularly in the raising of food crops, that Saraguros have been able to follow a pragmatic and sometimes experimental approach. That is, they have been willing to try innovations introduced by outsiders or thought up by themselves–they have not been resistant to all change. But all this has been done in the context of maintaining crop production as a subsistence activity. Among the Saraguros, then, increased crop production, surpluses, are generally quite deliberately kept out of the market and instead, are stored against lean years or redistributed through the ceremonial structure.

Thus, by the 1960s the Saraguros had emerged as a group whose dual adaptive strategy had given them a degree of subsistence autonomy and strength, combined with a livestock based market involvement, that was remarkable in Ecuadorian rural terms.

But the dual strategy of the Saraguros was reaching its limits in the 1960s. Population growth had caught up with the availability of good land. Well before the 1960s land for general expansion was limited in the highlands, but the resources of the Yacuambi valley had provided an option for those engaged in the dual strategy. However, in the late 1960s good, accessible land either to buy or to claim was running out in that area also. Some Saraguros entered the Chicaña valley, others went further down the Yacuambi, but they found themselves hemmed in by settlers entering the area along the newly constructed Zamora valley roads. And even [310] when they could find good, unworked land in other parts of the Oriente they were beginning to encounter the reassertion of Shuar claims to their (Shuar) traditional territory.

Saraguro Since 1971: Oil, Ethnogenesis, Professionalization and Proletarianization

When the adaptive strategy of an internally colonized agricultural group such as the Saraguros reaches its culmination in terms of population pressure on the land and other developed resources, there are a number of strategic directions that can be taken by individuals or the group. Among these are involution, intensification, transculturation/assimilation and niche diversification.

Drawing from Goldenweiser (1936) Geertz has defined involution, in reference to agricultural systems as:
         . . . those cultural patterns which, after having reached what would seem to be
         a definitive form, nonetheless fail either to stabilize or transform themselves into
         a new pattern but rather continue to develop by becoming internally more
         complicated . . . [involution(is)] the overdriving of an established form in such
         a way that it becomes rigid through an inward overelaboration of detail (Geertz
         1963: 81, 82).
The manifestation of involution includes such elements as more intricate tenure systems, more complicated tenancy relationships, more complex cooperative labor arrangements, "all in an effort to provide everyone with some niche, however small, in the overall system" (Geertz 1963: 82). Scott (1976: 13) has equated Geertz's agricultural involution with Chayanov's (1966: [1926]) "self-exploitation"–another apt term.

Involution has not become a significant pattern in the Saraguro area. Although some elements that may be linked to involution, such as an elaboration of complex obligation/cooperation networks, are pursued by some poorer Saraguros, most Saraguros have been attempting to simplify such arrangements over the last generation (as pointed out above and in Belote and Belote 1977a) .[311]

Boserup's (1965) intensification involves a different–although in some ways, overlapping–response to population growth vis-à vis resources. Intensification is perhaps more likely to be a generally earlier response than involution and, when its possibilities are exhausted, may lead to an involuted pattern. Essentially, intensification occurs "when land efficiency becomes a primary goal of procurement, that is, when productivity per unit land must be raised, even at the expense of more work and potentially lowered productivity per unit time or labor" (Jochim 1981: 135).

In a rather unsatisfactory sense the Saraguro shift from free range paramo to the staking/managed pasture system of cattle raising was a kind of intensification: per unit productivity of land was raised at a cost in terms of labor inputs required. But while the shift was due in part to increased desires for market engagement and desires to impart security and control into the cattle raising process (desires that can accompany intensification) this shift involved the abandonment of one kind of land (paramo) rather than the intensification of its use. Abandonment was brought about by the development of more satisfactory techniques for exploiting forest land for pastures (albeit with more labor inputs) and not through pressure by Saraguros on the land nor, as happened in the case of the Canelos Quichua (Macdonald 1979: 290), through pressure on their land resources exerted by outsiders with the backing of the state.

Though Saraguros may have experienced a kind of semi-intensification in the past, the question before us is in the present; that is, what are they doing now to handle the land scarcity they are beginning to experience? The answer in part, but only in part, is intensification. Some Saraguros are working their land harder with both old and new techniques. They are clearing land that should better be left in forest or brush cover–marginal land that otherwise would provide wood resources for the future and general protection for the local environment. Some few are extending their search for new land [312] further into the Zamora valley, in the process competing with other colonists and Shuar for a rapidly diminishing resource. The construction of two-story houses in the highlands–a phenomena entirely of the 1970s and 1980s–is a reflection of the intensified pressure on the land. This pressure is a far more frequent topic of conversation among the Saraguros in the 1980s than it was in the 1960s and early 1970s.

For those who continue to follow the dual strategy of subsistence security combined with cattle-based market engagement, intensification is likely to grow as an emergent pattern. But intensification for these people may be diminished or indefinitely delayed if a large enough number of Saraguros should opt for alternatives, or partial alternatives, to the dual strategy. These alternatives, to the investigation of which we will now turn, would take them out of competition for the land resources available in the area.

The major alternative, which would reduce the push to intensification, is occupational diversification oriented towards the exploitation of resources not traditionally under the control of the Saraguros. There were several factors impeding occupational diversification among the Saraguros prior to the 1970s. In the first place, Ecuador was a poor country with very low wage levels for most occupations not requiring much education. Most Saraguros could make a better living following their dual strategy (especially before that strategy approached its resource limits) than they could if they were to be engaged in any of the low-level laboring jobs available to indígenas as indígenas in Ecuador. Higher level, better paying occupations, on the other hand, were not open to indígenas. As Casagrande put it as late as 1974, "To my knowledge no Indian has risen to public or professional prominence in Ecuador and retained his Indian identity. There are no Indian doctors, lawyers, engineers, authors or elected public officials" (1974: 17). Van den Berghe and Primov (1977) made similar observations about the neighboring Andean nation of Peru at about the same time. [313]

One way out of this limitation is individual transculturation or group assimilation; that is, individuals or groups may change their ethnic identities, join the ranks of the dominant society, and no longer be excluded from the opportunities available in that society on the basis of their colonial identity. Ethnic mobility is quite common in Latin America since the boundaries between groups (particularly between groups of European and Native American origins) are not strongly marked by "racial" or biological characteristics (cf. Bourricaud 1976; Escobar 1970; Crespi 1975; Whitten 1976; van den Berghe and Primov 1977). Various intellectuals and government officials at times have attempted to eliminate the category indígena in their countries by promoting an integrationist/assimilationist program of mestizaje or blanqueamiento, that is, mestizoization or whitening (see Rubio Orbe 1956; Erasmus 1968; Gonzalez Navarro 1970; Stutzman 1981). Whitten (1976) and van den Berghe and Primov (1977) have called this approach to ethnic diversity, "ethnocidal."

In fact, most individuals or groups that change their identities are assimilated into the lower levels of the dominant society and do not automatically raise their status in any other than the shedding of a stigma of indigenous identity. They are likely to have accomplished little more than to have exchanged their position at the bottom of a system of ethnic stratification for one at one of the lower levels of a system of economic/class stratification.

At any rate, overt transculturation (individual ethnic identity change in which geographic mobility or other hiding of one's past identity is not required; see Belote, L., and Belote forthcoming [* published in 1984 *]) was an option taken by more than sixty Saraguros in the 1950s and 1960s. Most transculturates changed their identities so that they could obtain non-farming occupations; they became shopkeepers, bakers, carpenters, carpenter's assistants, public employees, cooks, unskilled laborers, etc. (Belote 1978). A few have achieved some success; most have had to struggle just to survive. Almost all [314] of them had had few opportunities to achieve success within the indigenous world; they were therefore a part of what we have called "drain from the bottom" (Belote, L., and Belote forthcoming [1984]). In other words, poorer Saraguros were more likely to transculturate than Saraguros of ordinary or above average wealth.

In the mid 1960s however, a few wealthier Saraguro parents were beginning to consider transculturation for their children. If their children were to become blancos [*4*] they could attend school through the higher grades and even through university levels, and then they could seen good-paying, non-farming occupations. One or two of these families began the process by transculturating one or more of their children and enrolling them as blancos in local schools.

However, the transculturation [*5*] route to the pursuit of alternative occupational niches was stalled, if not completely stopped, by the emergence of new conditions in Saraguro and in Ecuador. By 1970 the educational system in Ecuador was opening up for indígenas as indígenas both locally and nationally, at least at token levels. By the early 1970s a number of Saraguros, females and males, left Saraguro to seek higher educations, going to such places as Quito, Cuenca, Loja and Guaitacama. Others began to enter the developing high school system in Saraguro. Many of these young people were quite successful in their efforts. Some, for example, achieved top honors in middle-class schools in Quito as well as in Saraguro.

In the meantime, in 1972 a major event took place: Ecuador became an oil exporting nation. With the oil came a flood of money, money that came not only in payment for oil but also in the form of large international loans which Ecuador could now obtain against its oil resources. Much of the money was spent to support the military which had instituted a coup shortly before the oil money started to come in. Much money was wasted with poor planning, inefficiency and corruption. And inflation, particularly in the non-agricultural sector, grew rapidly. Nevertheless, this new money was put to some useful purposes; [315] in particular there was an explosion in infrastructural development which was not limited to only a few major cities, but was spread widely throughout Ecuador. Dams, roads, electrical systems, schools, hospitals, and clinics, and irrigation systems were constructed or under construction by the early 1980s. In the canton [* "county" *] of Saraguro in the decade following the beginning of the oil boom many new schools were built, a major irrigation system was under construction, a public hospital was built and staffed and the Pan American Highway was undergoing radical reconstruction (with plans for eventual paving [* it is now a wide, two-lane, paved road although in the last few years the government has not had funds to maintain it properly *]). Not all of these things were necessarily done well (some were); the point is that in Saraguro as elsewhere in the country there was a great expansion of money and occupational opportunities.

At the same time as schools and universities were beginning to permit or even encourage the entry of indígenas, there was some opening of occupational opportunity as well, and as indígenas began to complete courses of study at higher levels many of them sought occupations commensurate with their qualifications. Needless to say, indígenas qua indígenas were not always successful in attaining their desires; not everyone with power in public or private life was willing to allow that. But the barriers to indigenous participation in the life of the country did make it possible for some indígenas to seek alternative occupational niches without having to transculturate. (See Whitten 1981, for the best review of transformations in Ecuadorian society as they affected indigenous groups in recent years.)

Since inflation in wages and non-agricultural prices generally rose more rapidly than the prices for agricultural products many Saraguros (and other rural peoples) for the first time found that they could make what seemed to be a better living at fairly low-level jobs than they would by raising fifteen or twenty head of cattle. Thus as Saraguros had earlier begun to enter higher level schools, they also began to engage in occupations other than subsistence farming combined with [316] commercial cattle raising–and these occupations were not necessarily particularly high ones. That they did so as indígenas, rather than transculturates, requires at least brief comment.

For a variety of reasons, both internal and external, the Saraguros along with many other Ecuadorian indigenous groups have become engaged in an emergent process of "ethnogenesis" (Singer 1962; Whitten 1976: 281). They are redefining and refining what it means to be Saraguros in the modern world, holding on to their ethnicity while they change it. Involved with ethnogenesis are a certain amount of pride and aggressiveness. This pride and aggressiveness can now be turned against those who transculturate and is done so with a strength that was not evident through the 1960s. As a result of group resistance, combined with new opportunities for indígenas in the Saraguro area, the rate of transculturation has declined: compared to the more than 60 people who had transculturated from indigenous to non-indigenous identities in the 1950s and 1960s, we found only six people who had transculturated from indígena to blanco between 1971 and 1981 (Belote, L., and Belote forthcoming [1984]).

A significant aspect of Saraguro ethnogenesis has been manifested in the growth of the activities of community councils and other indigenous organizations. Most important, perhaps, is the development of ACIS (Asociación Comunal de Indígenas de Saraguro–in 1982 ACIS became FIS, Federación de Indígenas de Saraguro). Growing out of groups of young people that toured the country giving folklore performances and speeches in the late 1960s and early 1970s (see Belote and Belote 1981) ACIS was an attempt to link all Saraguros (not just those of the parish) together in a formal organization that would defend indigenous Saraguro interests, promote Saraguro development, and form links with indigenous groups elsewhere in Ecuador. In particular, the Saraguros formed links with the Federación Shuar, attending meetings and [317] discussions at Federación headquarters in Sucua and receiving Shuar literature on community organization.

In the development of ACIS the Saraguros remained cognizant of their past fears over who would benefit from Saraguro indigenous organizations. Some members talked openly of the dangers they faced, if they were not careful, of being bought-off or controlled by outsiders, national or international. One effort to ensure that Saraguro interests would be followed was the establishment of consensus based (rather than majority-rule) models of decision making. Not only would consensus based decision making reduce the ease of outside control, it would also fit better with the pre-existing Saraguro ethos of individuality, autonomy and egalitarianism in which both the giving and taking of orders are considered undesirable human behaviors.

And so the Saraguros are still Saraguros in the 1980s, but many of them no longer pursue the dual strategy of the past. More than a dozen are now school teachers in Saraguro and other areas; other dozens are government paid teachers in Quichua literacy programs; some, long braids intact, serve in the military forces. A fair number work as professionals in various levels of government agencies. Many are auxiliary nurses. Others have given up what had been good cattle business to work as laborers on road crews. Yet others are carpenters, construction contractors, or weavers for non-Saraguro markets. And finally, many are attending universities, seeking degrees in such fields as law, medicine, veterinary medicine and nursing. No longer restricted to one or another peasant strategy, they are joining the ranks of professionals as well as the proletariat.

Most Saraguros engaged in pursuing non-agricultural occupations have kept at least some of their land, using it for home sites and to produce some subsistence crops such as maize. But by not requiring or competing for large portions of a diminishing resource, they are helping to prolong the viability of the dual strategy for those who wish to continue to follow it. [318] Whether enough Saraguros will engage in alternative strategies to prolong the traditional strategy indefinitely, I cannot say.

Those who have withdrawn are taking a chance on the future of Ecuador and on their own security and well-being. Unless new discoveries are made, Ecuadorian oil production will significantly decline. Already Ecuador is feeling the negative effects of lowered world prices for oil. Should Ecuador fail to remain financially viable, those Saraguros who have given up the old dual strategy will probably find it extremely difficult to maintain their new strategies–in the increased competition for diminishing resources indígenas could be the first to lose their positions. And they will not find it easy to re-engage themselves in the old strategy.

Thus Saraguros are entering niches over which they have little control either as individuals or as a group. Further, these niches are embedded in the more hierarchical, authoritarian and alienating structures of the modern world. Even if they are able to remain in these niches, the Saraguros will not have the same kind of control over their own labor and the products of their labor that they did as relatively land-rich agriculturalists.

The children of Saraguros involved in niche expansion and differentiation will be growing up in a world that is very different from that in which their parents grew up. Not only will it be a more hierarchical and authoritarian world, but it will also be one in which the environment will be increasingly pervaded by artifacts of modern technology that are both more dangerous (e.g. chain-saws, gasoline stoves, electrical outlets) and more fragile (e.g. radios, tape recorders, cameras) than they were in the past. And children will no longer be raised in the participatory environment of the family agricultural enterprise where they easily and gradually learned their future occupational roles in a context that engendered strong senses of both autonomy and responsibility (see Belote and Belote 1983 for a discussion of the changing place of children in Saraguro society).[319]
Yet another problem faces the Saraguros in the world of the 1980s and beyond: the emergence of radical differentiation among Saraguros in life style, incomes, education and opportunities. This may lead eventually to the development of profound differences among Saraguros on class lines or through the growth of occupational, political and educational elites on the one hand, a group of have-nots on the other. This has not occurred as yet, in part because of the strong bonds of ethnicity the Saraguros have been creating for themselves and the strong emphasis on egalitarianism they have brought with them into the 1980s.

As they diversify their strategies, then, the Saraguros are entering a new world of opportunities and dangers. I do not know how, or how well, Saraguros will eventually accommodate to the new conditions they encounter or how well they will adjust to radical changes in the national context should, for example, the economy fail or should anti-indigenous sentiments regain ascendancy. Nor do I know if the trade-offs they must make (between, say, a degree of loss of autonomy and control, and increased alienation from the fruits of their own labor on the one hand, in return for expanding educational, occupational/economic and political opportunities in a wider system on the other hand) will lead to a more satisfactory human condition in Saraguro.

Like members of small scale societies everywhere, they probably do not have much choice about becoming more engaged with the modern world. The question is not whether they will be a part of this new world, but how well they will be able to define their place in that world, and how well they will be able to prepare themselves and their children to develop and maintain a coherent and satisfactory life within it.


1       Note that at the time this was written the modern community of Yucacapa was a barrio (distinct neighborhood) of Quisquinchir, and Ilincho and Gunudel-Gulacpamba were barrios of Las Lagunas--these were thus a part of the main area under study.

2       Tambos were way-stations or inns for official travelers established under the Inca empire along major travel routes and usually about a day's walk from each other. They were maintained by a form of labor tax in which individuals, on a rotating basis (usually from nearby communities), were selected for a period of time to serve in them (building and maintaining them, and guiding, feeding and providing lodging for travelers, and feeding and corraling traveling livestock). This labor tax was known at the mita. The subjection of indigenous people to tambo mita service was continued in the Saraguro through Spanish and, until the middle 1940s, Ecuadorian administrations. A government owned tambo still existed on the Saraguro-Yacuambi through the 1960s. Unlike the earlier form, however, it was available for the use of any traveler, and the people running it were paid, voluntary employees.

3       Indígena = indigenous person in Spanish, i.e. in the Andes, the Indian population. The Spanish word for Indian, indio, was generally considered insulting in the 1980s. In the late 1990s, however, a few indigenous people (including some Saraguros) began to aggressively and proudly use the term. Yet others in post-modern Ecuador don't like being lumped into any general category other than that designating their particular group (i,e, "Saraguro"). Adequate treatment of currently "civilly correct" terminology in Ecuador is too complex to deal with adequately here. Suffice it to say that in 1999 most Saraguros found both "Saraguro" and indígena acceptable terms.

4        Blanco means "white" in Spanish. In Ecuador in general, and especially in Saraguro, however, blanco, designated a cultural category rather than a "racial" or biological category. Many people called blanco could have varying degrees of indigenous Andean, European or African ancestry. Most people in the Saraguro region were considered to be biologically mixed to some degree, whatever the term used for them. When the dissertation was written, blanco was the most commonterm used for non-indigenous people both by themselves and by others (including the few in the region who would have been categorized as "black" or "African American" in the U.S). By the 1990s many indigenous people began to use the term mestizo to refer to those formerly called blanco. Mestizo means "mixed blood." Some non-indigenous persons also use the term as a self-referent. However, others are offended by the term. As in the case of the discussion in note 3, these issues of group labels are too complex to deal with adequately here.

5        We have defined "transculturation" as "a more or less rapid shift of membership from one distinct ethnic group to another by an individual who, in the process, changes the significant indicators of his or her ethnic identity and, with or without the use of deceit, is accepted as one of them by members of the receiving group. Transculturation is an action taken by an individual on the basis of conscious decisions and choices made by that individual" (L. Belote and Belote 1984:27).


Belote, Jim and Linda Belote
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Belote, Linda
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Bourricaud, Francois
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