Ecuador is a land of contrasts and it is impossible not be overwhelmed by this. The same astonishing diversity you find in its nature, you find in its people.
Two key symbols in Ecuadorian culture are “La Patria” – the motherland – and “El País” – the fatherland. La Patria is a more resonant reference for collective identity. While El País may be chaos, La Patria endures. Symbolism is very present in Ecuadorian society. The central government is a four-yearly elected presidential, unicameral representative democracy. The President of Ecuador is head of state and head of government on a multi-party system. A wide variety of religious influences united the country as for many, faith is a harmonious mixture of Christianity and pre-Columbian beliefs. As such, Ecuadorians are very spiritual. Some will make pilgrimages to the Virgins and Saints to heal their afflictions, mental or physical.
Others rely on shamans to cure ailments and there are those who congregate in cemeteries to socialize with the souls of the deceased and honour death itself through vivid imagery.
Ecuador is commonly known as the Land of Plenty. Very early on, knots and weaving played a central role. From the quipu – a very ancient knotting system used to record numerical information – to clothing and leather work, handicrafts have been present for centuries. Traditionally, the yarn used would come from alpaca, sheep or llamas. The women would prepare the materials (spinning and dyeing the yarn) and the men would dedicate themselves to weaving. Ecuador became the arts centre of Latin America in the early 16th century during the Conquista. The natives learnt religious painting, sculpture and ceramics from the Spanish priests and missionaries but very soon made it their own, inspired by their rich spiritual cosmos and their landscape. Inca art was born.
Here’s a bit of trivia. Red is a primal colour in indigenous costumes, still worn by the various groups today. It was an important colour to the Incas, representing blood, and therefore life.
Ecuador is one of the most colourful and diverse nations in South America, home to a broad span of people, from pre-Columbian locals to Europeans to sub-Saharan Africans. Indigenous cultures are very prevalent in Ecuador: groups such as the Shuar, Huaorani, Capayas and the Quechua make up roughly a quarter of the population. As such, at least thirteen languages are spoken in the Republic, with Spanish being the official bonding tongue for the nation. However, a strong Ecuadorian bond remains.
All nationalities in Ecuador identify as runa (“fully human”) as well as Ecuadorian. In that sense, it is most appropriate to refer to any Ecuadorian as “gente” – simply human.
Read more about Ecuador on our new Blogzine
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