Indigenismo and Indian Movements in Twentieth-Century Ecuador

Marc Becker

Visiting Scholar
University of California, Berkeley

Prepared for delivery at the 1995 meeting of the Latin American Studies Association, The Sheraton Washington, September 28-30, 1995.

Draft--please do not cite without author's permission. Ideologies of indigenismo have deep roots in Latin American history and culture. During the first half of the twentieth century, it emerged as a strong political force in Mexico and Peru. Its importance spread beyond these countries to become an important part of revolutionary movements in Guatemala and Bolivia in the 1950s. Indigenismo, however, has not played as important of a role in Ecuador as in other countries with large Indigenous populations. Based on a critical reading of early indigenista writings in Ecuador, and informed both by important indigenista thinkers in other countries as well as current Indigenous criticisms of this intellectual current, this paper will examine the roots and development of indigenist ideologies in the Ecuadorian context.

Historically, paternalistic impulses which saw Indigenous peoples as passive receivers of outsiders' actions have been the driving force behind indigenismo. At different points in history it has been the domain of various groups of people including archaeologists, anthropologists, theologians, novelists, philosophers, politicians, and political activists. In his book Indigenismo, Jorge Alejandro Ovando Sanz writes that "indigenismo is the theory of members of the Latin American oligarchy to stop and repress the indigenous peoples' liberation movement."[1] Historian Pedro Chamix criticizes an academic indigenismo that "takes the Indians into a laboratory to study them in terms of their physical appearance, family names, dress, language, customs" with a resulting analysis that is contained "in hundreds of publications and books in English, German, or French, and only later translated into Spanish without any political utility."[2] Juan Bottasso notes in the introduction to Del indigenismo a las organizaciones indígenas that Indigenous peoples do not favorably view indigenistas who analyze their status from the perspective of a dominant class and seek to integrate them into a modern nation-state. He writes that these Indigenous peoples "reject the presence of intermediators and deny that people who do not belong to their cultural world have the right to speak in their names or, worse, represent them."[3] Employing stronger language, Adolfo Colomdres calls indigenismo nothing other than ethnocide.[4] Similarly, Indigenous organizations have also consistently taken a stance against indigenist ideologies. Indigenous delegates gathered at the Second Conference of Indian Nations and Organizations of South America in Tiwanaku, Bolivia, in 1983 declared that "Indigenismo must be rejected because it corresponds to the ideology of oppression. Since its origin," the statement continued, "it has served the racist interests of governments, missionaries, and anthropologists."[5]

Indigenismo was always a construction of the dominant culture, particularly that of elite intellectual mestizos who used Indigenous issues to advance their own political agendas. Les Field has noted that although indigenismo "has characterized anti-hegemonic intellectual currents," is also "may have played a more significant role in serving as a means for political and economic elites to appropriate indigenous cultures for nation-building ideologies that end up maintaining the subaltern status of indigenous peoples."[6] Often this ideology was set in the context of an allegedly conservative rural campesino-Indigenous population looking to an urban intellectual elite to awaken a dormant revolutionary Indigenous spirit. Nevertheless, these developments elevated Indigenous causes and made them a significant factor for political parties and labor unions. In this way, indigenismo became part of campesino, worker, and student movements for national and social change.

Particularly with the institutionalization of indigenismo into official government policies, it became a tool of the dominant culture to incorporate Indigenous peoples into their concept of a unified nation-state. Marie-Chantal Barre argues that "Indigenismo required that ethnic groups participate in the development of policies which effect them. Unfortunately, in all of the countries which have an indigenist policy exactly the opposite has happened."[7] Furthermore, she notes an important distinction between classical indigenismo from the 1930s which while being a paternalistic impulse from the dominant culture at least sought to address questions of oppression and exploitation with later indigenista policies of various Latin American governments which did not question or seek to change the structural oppression which Indigenous populations faced.[8]

As can almost naturally be expected, it was simply a matter of time before there were strong reactions against indigenist ideologies and the exclusion of Indians from indigenist practices. Although indigenismo helped bring Indigenous concerns into the national dialogue, it retained aspects of a paternalistic movement which marginalized the very peoples it purported to aid. It spoke of an "Indian problem," and looked for ways to incorporate Indigenous societies into the mainstream national culture. Many Indigenous peoples reacted strongly against the idea that it was only by suppressing their ethnic identity that they could rise above their impoverished and exploited status. They saw the indigenist movement as nothing more than an extension of the imperialism which the nation-state had imposed upon them. Rather than rely on the actions of outsiders, it was on the basis of their ethnic consciousness itself that many activists found themselves organizing for social change.

In Ecuador, as elsewhere, a variety of strands of indigenismo emerged during the twentieth century. The most significant, undoubtedly, is a literary indigenismo. Jorge Icaza's novel Huasipungo is often used to typify this style of literature. Although not as significant as in Peru and Mexico, there were important academic studies which fit in the mode of indigenismo, particularly in the fields of sociology, anthropology, and history. Leftist political parties, particularly the Ecuadorian Socialist Party (PSE), and later the peasant federation Federación Ecuatoriana de Indios (FEI) introduced Indigenous issues as central parts of their political agendas. Institutions, most significantly the Instituto Indigenista Ecuatoriano (IIE), also formed an important part of Ecuadorian indigenismo. Finally, state indigenista policies (which some would consider to be the core construction of indigenist ideology) were never a main element of an Ecuadorian government but nevertheless must be considered in a study of this type. Common threads in these various aspects of indigenista thought include the presence of well-meaning outsiders whose actions acquired paternalistic overtones. The result, therefore, was the imposition of ideological elements which were foreign to or not in the best interests of the Indigenous peoples they purported to support. Another main element was the goal of assimilation of Indian people into the national culture. Rather than preserving the cultural uniqueness of Indigenous populations, indigenistas saw ethnic distinctions as retarding Indian development and often the development of the country as a whole. While appreciating their cultural heritage, indigenistas often wished to leave this at the level of archeology and to modernize the country based on Western standards. Indigenistas in general have tended to triumph the accomplishments of past civilizations while leaving the current descendants of the Inka and Aztec Empires languishing in an impoverished and disempowered state.

The History of Indigenismo in Latin America

Indigenismo, therefore, has a long tradition in Latin American history. Its importance as a philosophical aspect of Latin American thought dates to the very beginnings of European attempts to subdue the aboriginal inhabitants of the American continent. It is a uniquely American phenomenon, and its origins are inextricably bound together with debates on the question of how conquered Indigenous peoples should be treated. Bartolomé de las Casas presented the earliest articulate defense of Indigenous rights from a European perspective and is essentially the founder of indigenist thought in the Americas. Las Casas led the fight to end the abuse, exploitation, and slavery of Indians, and he also served the function of an anthropologist in the New World. He learned to measure American civilizations not by European standards, but to take them for what they were worth. He argued that the Spanish were not superior, just different, and that each civilization had its own advantages and disadvantages. Las Casas was not really radical or revolutionary. More than anything, he retained his loyalty to the Catholic Church and to the Spanish crown. His thought had strong elements of utopianism (he was a contemporary to Thomas More), and he set the agenda for many subsequent discussions on Indigenous issues.

Modern indigenismo first emerged in the nineteenth century in Peru and Mexico, two countries with large Indigenous populations which remained marginalized from the dominant culture. Nineteenth-century indigenismo was most commonly characterized by its romantic and humanitarian impulses, often expressed by its advocates through the medium of literature. This indigenista discourse became dominated by intellectuals who were often strongly influenced by Spencerian Positivist thought and had the goal of assimilating the surviving Indigenous peoples in the Americas into a dominant Spanish or Portuguese culture.

By the 1920s, indigenismo had converted into a form of protest against the injustices which Indians faced. Political parties, especially ones formed in a populist mode, began to exploit indigenist ideologies for their political gain. Indigenismo flourished in the 1930s, particularly in Peru and Mexico, and in the 1950s was institutionalized in the Guatemalan and Bolivian Revolutions. With the officialization of indigenismo, it lost its revolutionary potential to change the colonial and exploited situation which Indians faced. Elite mestizo intellectuals and leftist political leaders led this movement, which they often used only to advance their own political agendas.

The progressive military government of Velasco Alvarado in Peru, which held power from 1968 to 1975, is a classic example of the direction that indigenist policies take when they are institutionalized into a governmental structure. Velasco promulgated an Agrarian Reform law in 1969 which referred to Indigenous communities only as peasant communities. According to Marie-Chantal Barre, with this act the government "officialized the disappearance of Indians as Indians, recognizing them instead only as peasants."[9] Barre notes, however, a contradiction in Velasco's indigenist policies. Whereas he solved "The Indian Question" by calling them peasants, in 1975 he also made Quechua an official language of Peru. In addition, his populist program relied on Indigenous symbolism and created programs with names such as "Plan Inca" and "Plan de Gobierno Tupac Amaru."[10]

The roots of modern indigenismo in Mexico lie in the Mexican Revolution. The Mexican Revolution resulted in legislation (such as the 1917 constitution) which sought to address historic problems of Mexico's Indigenous and peasant peoples such as underdevelopment, land, and exploitation. Official Mexican indigenista policy entered its most radical phase under the government of Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-1940). Cárdenas' indigenist policies, however, had a strong integrationalist theme and he spoke of "Mexicanizing" the Indians rather than "Indigenizing" Mexico.[11] Cárdenas was a strong Mexican nationalist, and his goal was to incorporate the rural Indigenous masses into the mainstream of Mexican culture.

Perhaps Cárdenas' most enduring contribution to the formation of official indigenist policies was his sponsorship of the First Inter-American Indigenist Congress (often referred to as the Pátzcuaro Congress) which took place in Pátzcuaro in the state of Michoacán in 1940. This congress raised consciousness of the need to address Indigenous issues as it brought together delegates from around the Americas. As was common in the indigenista movement, this was not a meeting of Indigenous peoples or Indigenous organizations, but of non-Indians who were often motivated by a paternalistic interest in improving the lives of their countries' Indigenous populations. Many of the delegates were well-educated and included anthropologists and sociologists in addition to high government officials such as John Collier, the architect of Franklin D. Roosevelt's Indian policy in the United States. President Cárdenas himself spoke at the opening session of the congress.

The Pátzcuaro Congress was significant in that it marked a change in how intellectuals and political leaders dealt with "The Indian Question." Ecuadorian indigenista author Pío Jaramillo Alvarado noted that before this congress "The Indian Question" was commonly treated sentimentally and lightly. Revolutionary political parties would address such issues in their party platforms, but forget the Indigenous masses once in power. But it was in Mexico, Jaramillo noted, where an authentic indigenista revolution was born that favored reform for Indigenous peasants.[12] Although this process had begun with the 1917 constitution, it was at the Mexican Revolution's most radical phase under Cárdenas that he sponsored this congress to address the fundamentals of indigenismo. The conference represented a turning away from evolutionist and colonialist patterns in indigenist thought. Still, the tone of the conference was clearly an integrationalist one and the final proclamations called for the acculturation and assimilation of Indians into the national population.

The Instituto Indigenista Interamericano (III, Inter-American Indigenist Institute) was born as a direct result of the Pátzcuaro Congress. Its base was in Mexico City, and Dr. Manuel Gamio served as its first director. Most of the American republics formed branches of the III, and subsequent congresses were held in Cuzco, Peru (1949); La Paz, Bolivia (1954); Guatemala City (1959); Quito, Ecuador (1964); Pátzcuaro, Mexico (1968); Brasilia, Brazil (1972); Merida, Mexico (1980); Santa Fe, New Mexico (1985), and Argentina (1992). In addition, the III disseminated its ideas on indigenismo through its journals América Indigenista (later renamed Anuario Indigenista) and Boletín Indigenista. Quite naturally, however, the III ran into some problems with conservative governments who saw its project in favor of the rights of Indigenous peoples as communistic and subversive.[13] Nevertheless, the III grew and flourished and became an official organ of the Organization of American States.

Ecuadorian Indigenista Intellectuals

Ecuador's first author to deal in a serious manner with issues of the Indigenous population was the Jesuit priest Padre Juan de Velasco. He wrote his Historia del Reyno de Quito in Italy after the Jesuits were expelled from Latin America in 1767. Although this work has often been attacked as being inaccurate in its depiction of Ecuador's history before the Spanish, it is significant in that he attempted to give Ecuadorians their own history. In this he sought to help create a myth of Ecuadorian creole nationhood to lend justification to the creation of an Ecuadorian state. He opposed the idea that Europe and European civilizations were superior to those found in the Americas. In this sense he emphasized the value of the Americas and of Amerindian populations.

A second significant Ecuadorian historian who lived a century later was Federico Gonzálo Suárez. In his various works, the most significant of which is Historia general de la República del Ecuador, Gonzálo Suárez examined the archeology and ethnographic history of Ecuador's Indigenous groups. Gonzálo Suárez trained Jacinto Jijón y Caamaño, who later became Ecuador's most distinguished archeologist. Together they helped lay the basis for subsequent investigations into Ecuador's Indigenous populations. Although working before the indigenismo movement existed as an intellectual force in Latin America, these men shared later indigenista authors' interest in Indigenous populations and the problems which they faced. In addition, their investigations helped lay a groundwork for the later social science studies of indigenista authors.

There are few significant works which analyze Ecuadorian Indigenous society from an indigenista perspective. Although these early authors dealt with Indigenous questions and occasionally denounced abuses of Indigenous populations, they did not do so in a thorough and systematic manner. It was not until the 1920s that the roots of a clearly defined indigenismo movement emerged in Ecuador. The most significant figure in the history of Ecuadorian indigenista thought was Pío Jaramillo Alvarado. Jaramillo was born in Loja in the southern Ecuadorian highlands in 1894, where he received his doctorate in Jurisprudence and Social Sciences. Gonzalo Rubio Orbe has called him the "lay apostle of indigenismo in Ecuador."[14]

In addition to being considered the founder of Ecuadorian indigenismo, in 1922 Jaramillo wrote El indio ecuatoriano which is the fundamental work of the Ecuadorian indigenismo movement. He corrected and expanded this work in subsequent editions until it reached its final form in the fourth edition in 1954. In 1983 the Corporación Editora Nacional published this work in a two-volume form which included a thirty-page prologue by Gonzalo Rubio Orbe reflecting on the significance of the work. The subtitle of the book, Contribución al estudio de la Sociología Indo-Americana, indicates both Jaramillo's sociological approach to the subject as well as the pan-national character of the book. In its original form, this book, like many others from indigenista authors in Ecuador, only mentioned Ecuador in passing or deliberately placed the situation of Indians in Ecuador in a broader continental context. As he added to the work, Jaramillo included more information on Ecuador. In its final form, the book included five sections: "El Indio," "Controversia sobre el Indio," "El Agro," "Organización del trabajo indígena," and "Acotaciones finales."

Jaramillo glorified the Indigenous past and passionately defended Indigenous rights in the face of economic, political, and social exploitation. He worked tirelessly to condemn such injustice and oppression. But Jaramillo retained elements of the paternalistic outsider which so typified an indigenismo that saw Indians as a "problem." He believed that Ecuador's large rural Indian population was the country's largest problem. The exploitation which Indians faced prevented them from realizing their full economic potential. The solution to this situation, according to Jaramillo, was not a defense and preservation of traditional cultures, values, and economic systems, but rather their introduction and assimilation into "modern" European-oriented culture. He did not believe that the Indians themselves were capable of making these needed changes, but rather that it was the responsibility of the dominant white population and the national government to institute these changes.

It was this activist position that led Jaramillo not only to write about the situation of Indians in Ecuador, but also to agitate on a political level for legislative changes. Jaramillo helped found the Ecuadorian branch of the Instituto Indigenista Interamericano and served as its director from its initial conception in 1941 until 1960. But his efforts to effect changes in the political arena met with very limited success (because of a persistent lack of financial resources, he claimed), and he is better known for his intellectual contributions and influence on later indigenistas.

Jaramillo was not the only significant indigenista intellectual in Ecuador. Luis Monsalve Pozo's 1943 book El indio; cuestiones de su vida y de su pasión analyzed Indigenous societies and cultures from a historic and economic point of view in order to present recommended changes in Ecuador's policies toward the Indigenous population. Alfredo and Piedad Costales also contributed voluminous ethnographic studies on Ecuadorian cultures. Costales' work does not present a clear-cut ideological orientation, but their work has helped to preserve a cultural appreciation for Ecuador's Indigenous populations. Jaramillo, however, was one of the first indigenista intellectuals and his influence on later authors is clear.

Jaramillo's most important student was Gonzalo Rubio Orbe. Rubio Orbe, strongly influenced by Social Science trends in Mexico, became the premier indigenista anthropologist in Ecuador. One of his most important contributions was introducing elements of indigenista politics into Ecuador. In particular, Rubio Orbe served as the director of the III in Mexico from 1971 to 1977. His works represent some of the earliest anthropological assessments of Indigenous societies in Ecuador. Punyaro (1956) is a case study of a small community in the northern highlands which examines religion, material culture, political, and economic aspects of Indigenous life. Promociones indígenas en América (1957) was the result of a study which the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru commissioned in 1952 to study Indigenous life in the Andes and to develop policy suggestions which international organizations could implement in the region. Rubio Orbe assembled a "Misión Indigenista de los Andes" which carried out this investigation which was subsequently expanded to also include Mexico. The section on Ecuador in the resulting book focuses on Otavalo (the general area which Rubio Orbe studied in Punyaro and also the town in which he was born) and discusses the impact of religious missions on the Indigenous population.

Aspectos indígenas (1965) is similar to Promociones indígenas en América in that it is a report based in part on a questionnaire and study which the Instituto Indigenista Interamericano had commissioned. Unlike the previous work which focused almost exclusively on the area of Otavalo, this study presented a broad historical and current analysis of Indigenous groups throughout Ecuador. The book is really a collection of three essays, and the first and longest essay which comprises more than half the book is entitled "Indígenas del Ecuador" and is a result of the III study. Two shorter essays ("Educación e integración de grupos indígenas en América" and "La Población indígena en el destino de América") demonstrate his broader interest in issues which transcended his immediate Ecuadorian context.

Following the suggestions of the III, the essay "Indígenas del Ecuador" surveys the history and geographical distribution of Indigenous populations in Ecuador, considers their current situations, examines governmental attitudes toward them as well as the actions of non-governmental organizations which worked on Indigenous issues, and closed with an extensive (353 items) bibliography on indigenismo in Ecuador.

Rubio Orbe's final book in his lengthy career of examining Indigenous issues in Ecuador was Los indios ecuatorianos: Evolución histórica y políticas indigenistas (1987). It is similar in scope to Aspectos indígenas. The first part is a historical synthesis of the history of Indigenous populations in Ecuador. The second part analyzes changes in the thought, politics, and strategies of indigenistas in Ecuador through time.

One of the most significant indigenista works on Ecuador was written by the Mexican Moisés Sáenz. His 1933 book Sobre el indio ecuatoriano presented a sociological study of Indigenous peoples on the coast, in the highlands, and in the Amazon. It is clear that Sáenz favors a civilizing and assimilating project for the Ecuadorian Indians. He considers the Otavaleños and Lojaños to be "not only perfectly capable of entering national life, but also a very valuable element for the nation."[15] Sáenz proposed a blend of legislative, educational, religious, and economic reforms to improve the situation of Indians in Ecuadorian society.

Almost all of the classical indigenist studies in Ecuador focused on the situation of the Indians in the highlands. One important exception to this trend was José de la Cuadra's 1937 book El montuvio ecuatoriano. De la Cuadra typified these rural coastal inhabitants who were mixed descendants of Indians, Africans, and Spaniards as more aggressive and independent than highland Indians. Although they were willing to forgo their traditional cultures in an attempt to improve their economic situation, de la Cuadra still believed that outside intervention on the part of the Ecuadorian government and sympathetic whites was necessary to improve their situation.

Almost all indigenistas, not only in Ecuador but throughout the Americas, have been white outsiders. An important exception to this general rule in Ecuador was Segundo B. Maiguashca, an Indian who studied law and in 1949 wrote El indio, cerebro y corazón de América; incorporación del indio a la cultura nacional. Maiguashca's basic ideological orientation is reflected in the title of his book. He fought against white racism against Indians. His goal, however, was not to defend traditional culture, but rather to seek ways to improve their situation through incorporation into the national culture. He did not favor forced assimilation, but believed that this goal could best be reached through special governmental legislation which would create favorable economic, legal, and educational opportunities for Indians.

Most of these early indigenistas in Ecuador can be contrasted markedly with the thought of José Carlos Mariátegui. Mariátegui, who was one of the premier and most well-renowned Marxists to emerge out of Latin America, was the first Peruvian to develop a serious and systematic Marxist analysis of the problems of Latin American society. Mariátegui idealized the socialist attributes of the Inka empire and stressed that the Inkas, who "lived in material comfort...with abundant food," were happy and content with their lives.[16] Their material gains had been destroyed by the Spanish conquest, and the feudal legacy of Spanish colonialism meant the ongoing exploitation of the Indigenous masses. Mariátegui employed a Marxist economic point of view in order to analyze their alienation. "The problem of the Indian is rooted in the land tenure system of our economy," he argued, and this feudalistic system would have to be changed to result in any lasting change.[17] He pointed to "the most highly developed and harmonious communistic system" of the Inkas as a model for a new societal order. Mariátegui envisioned the establishment of an "Indo-American" socialism in Peru which would be based on the ancient communal values of the Inka empire.[18] He believed that if the ayllus (traditional Indigenous community structures) were to be integrated into the national economy, they would form a natural base for a modern Peruvian socialism.[19]

Mariátegui pursued these issues furthest in his essay "The Problem of the Indian" published in his best-known book Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality. Mariátegui wrote that "The soul of the Indian is not raised by the white man's civilization or alphabet but by the myth, the idea, of the Socialist revolution."[20] He wrote that "socialism has taught us how to present the problem of the Indian in new terms. We have ceased to consider it abstractly as an ethnic or moral problem and we now recognize it concretely as a social, economic, and political problem."[21] Mariátegui criticized various strategies that others had employed to improve the status of Indigenous peoples, including humanitarian campaigns, administrative policies, and legal reforms. Neither could the solution to Indigenous impoverishment be based in an ethnic analysis which saw them as an inferior race. Mariátegui wrote that "to expect that the Indian will be emancipated through a steady crossing of the aboriginal race with white immigrants is an anti-sociological naiveté that could only occur to the primitive mentality of an importer of merino sheep."[22] Nor would their situation be solved through moral appeals to conscious, religious conversions, or education. Education, according to Mariátegui, only served the interests of the dominant culture. Indigenous people were not powerless victims who needed outsiders (such as missionaries) to intervene on their behalf looking for a way to redeem a "backwards" race. He concluded that the solution to Indigenous impoverishment could not be found in individual actions. Rather, their problems were rooted in the nature of the land tenure system and that only through fundamental economic change and land reform would social change take place. This solution could not be in the private ownership of land; such a liberal strategy would not improve the life of the Indigenous peoples in Peru. Rather, Mariátegui encouraged the move toward communal patterns which were consistent with traditional Andean culture. He envisioned blending ancient Inka social and political organizational patterns with modern Marxist ideas of how to construct society.

Mariátegui was an indigenista in the classical sense in that he was an urban mestizo intellectual who had little contact with Peru's Indigenous inhabitants in the highlands. Even so, he does not portray the worst elements of paternalism and assimilation that are evident in his Ecuadorian counterparts. This is even more surprising if one considers that Mariátegui presented his relatively more enlightened and progressive ideas in the 1920s--years before most of the indigenistas were writing in the 1930s to 1950s in Ecuador. What could account for this difference? One possible explanation is that Ecuador lacked the identification with the high state formation of the Inka Empire which existed in Peru and Bolivia. In those countries, a common rallying cry was to recapture "Tawantinsuyu," the legendary Inka Empire. This is evident in Mariátegui's call to build a new society on the basis of the traditional ayllu structure.[23] Even though such high state formation also brought abuses and a certain degree of repression onto the general population, many people generally identified the state formation with something positive and worthy of respect. In Ecuador, which lacked such a tradition of large Indigenous civilizations, for the most part people saw the Indigenous past as something which needed to be overcome rather than affirmed. If the indigenistas in Ecuador could not identify elements of Indigenous society in their country that were worthy of defense, it is only logical that they would favor assimilation and acculturation in order to improve their situation.

Later indigenist authors in Ecuador show a clear and direct influence of Mexican indigenismo. This includes works from the 1970s such as Hugo Burgos Guevara, Relaciones interétnicas en Riobamba. Dominio y dependencia en una región indígena ecuatoriana and Gladys Villavicencio Rivadeneira, Relaciones interétnicas en Otavalo-Ecuador. [[questiondown]]Una nacionalidad india en formación? Both Burgos and Villavicencio studied cultural anthropology in Mexico at the Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia with the noted Mexican indigenista Aguirre Beltrán.

Instituto Indigenista Ecuatoriano (1943)

The institutionalization of indigenista ideology often occurred either through the creation of private organizations or the imposition of state policies. Both favored the carrying forward of a civilizing mission through government programs such as education campaigns, extending economic opportunities, programs of agrarian reform, and drawing the Indians into the social and political life of the nation-state. Often the main difference between these efforts in the public and private sphere was the degree of control which the state wielded in order to impose its will.

Unlike the Cardenas administration in Mexico in the 1930s or the revolutionary military government in the 1970s in Peru, Ecuador has never experienced a national administration which assumed a clear-cut ideology of indigenismo. Perhaps the closest it has come to this is the liberal reforms which Eloy Alfaro imposed when he assumed power in 1895. These reforms favored improving the situation of Ecuador's isolated rural masses, but this was before the development of a intellectual strands clearly identifiable as part of indigenismo.

As a result of the 1940 Pátzcuaro Congress in Mexico, a group of Ecuadorian indigenistas founded the Instituto Indigenista Ecuatoriano (IIE, Ecuadorian Indigenist Institute) in 1943 as the Ecuadorian branch of the Instituto Indigenista Interamericano headquartered in Mexico City. Appropriately, Jaramillo Alvarado was elected as the first director of the IIE. Working closely with the III in Mexico, the IIE labored energetically to disseminate the indigenist ideal: "to liberate the Indian from the slavery in which he lives."[24] It sought to accomplish this through such actions as sponsoring round table discussions, publishing a journal entitled Atahualpa as well as other materials, and agitating for the establishment of a governmental Department of Indigenous Affairs as well as other legal reforms. In addition, this group helped with legal appeals on the behalf of Indigenous communities and sought to train "experts" on Indigenous issues.

Ecuador also sponsored the Fifth Indigenous Congress in Quito in October of 1964. Official delegates from eighteen countries (Mexico, El Salvador, Uruguay, Nicaragua, United States, Guatemala, Peru, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Honduras, Brazil, Panama) attended the Congress. What is striking about the delegate list for this conference is the general absence of people representing Indigenous groups. The official delegations from El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Paraguay, Honduras, and Panama were comprised entirely of that country's ambassador to Ecuador; Uruguay and Brazil were led by similar diplomatic officials in Ecuador; and ambassadors also led the delegations from the United States, Guatemala, Peru, and Colombia. Most of the remaining delegations (Mexico, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Bolivia) were led by the directors of that country's national indigenist institute. Chile and Argentina sent governmental officials from their respective countries with jobs related to Indigenous issues, and the remaining country's delegation (Venezuela) was led by a religious official. Similarly, other delegates and observers were mostly governmental officials, leaders of national indigenist institutes, religious leaders, and academics. In addition, representatives from the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) came from Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, and Ecuador. In fact, the only delegates listed as formally representing Indigenous groups came from the United States, with four delegates representing various tribal governments. In addition, the list from Ecuador includes ten people with the title "Observador Indígena."[25]

The central theme of this Congress was on the economic and social development of the Indigenous population. Documents from the Congress, papers which delegates presented on specific aspects of the general theme, resolutions, and other related materials were collected into five volumes. The first volume, Procesos de integración, includes essays from Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, the United States, and other countries on the then-popular theme of integration, assimilation, acculturation, and incorporation of Indigenous people into the national population. The second volume (Educación, lenguas indígenas y formación de personal) includes papers which present a similar view that education and languages can be used as tools of assimilation and acculturation. The third and fourth volumes (Artesania, defensa de la salud, seguro social y poblaciones selvaticas and La mujer indígena, plastica indígena y discursos) touched on a variety of other themes from a similar perspective.

The fifth volume of the Congress' proceedings is the "Acta Final," and includes the text of fifty-three resolutions which the Congress passed. This volume begins with the "Declaración Indigenista de Quito," which includes the statement that the "integration of indigenous groups into the economic, social, and cultural life of their nations is an essential factor for development. Therefore, to achieve this integration must be one of the principle objectives of economic and social development programs."[26] This short volume ends with Resolution 53 which congratulates the Summer Institute of Linguistics for its recent work on Indigenous languages.[27]

Perhaps the most visible and long-lasting product of Ecuadorian indigenismo is the Plaza Indoaméricana in Quito. This plaza is the site of twenty-one bronze busts of American Indigenous heroes, one from each country in the Americas. The idea for this project to build a monument in honor of Indigenous heroes was developed in 1959 by Enrique Garcés who was president of the National Union of Journalists. He gained the support for this project from the mayor of Quito and other officials. Apparently, though, as was typical of indigenist actions, Indigenous peoples in Ecuador nor in other countries were involved in the construction of this project. Rather, the busts arrived from other countries due to the efforts of ambassadors, cultural organizations, and particularly journalists. The inauguration of the plaza began in 1961 with the mounting of a bust of Rumiñahui, Atahualpa's Inka general in Ecuador at the time of the Spanish conquest. Thirteen years later the project was completed with a bust of Hatuey, the Cuban cacique who led Indigenous resistance against the Spanish conquest of the island and was burned at the stake in 1511 after choosing to go to hell rather than heaven where the Spanish would be.[28]

Political Indigenismo

Although Ecuadorian indigenista authors have not shied away from proposing policy suggestions to improve the situation of Indians in Ecuador, they have had little impact on governmental policy in that country. The policy suggestions which they made were consistently ones of assimilation which favored westernizing influences (such as education, intermarriage, economic changes, etc.) to integrate the Indigenous people into the dominant culture. Considering researchers' alienation from Indigenous cultures, though, such attitudes are more understandable. North American political scientist George Blanksten wrote in 1951 that "Friendless and hopeless in a basically hostile social environment, the Sierra Indian reminds the foreign visitor of nothing so much as a maladjusted and suppressed person."[29] Undoubtedly, many Ecuadorian researchers also came away with similar impressions and saw it as their duty with their privileged position in life to save the Indians from themselves. It is largely a result of this "civilizing" project that subsequent Indigenous organizations roundly rejected the ideology of indigenismo.

Of all the political forces in Ecuador, the Ecuadorian Socialist Party (PSE) went furthest in seeking to incorporate Indigenous demands into their political platforms and party positions. Notable for the PSE was that it was the first (and, so far, the only) political party in Ecuador to attempt to organize the Indian masses. Its founding statutes decreed that two of the forty-eight members of its party congress should represent Indigenous concerns or communities.[30]actions of other political parties, since electoral politics were only the domain of white, literate, landed male elites thereby excluding the vast majority of Ecuador's population. These were "functional representatives," which meant that the delegates themselves did not need to be Indians but only represent those concerns. This, however, drew in many indigenistas who were interested in improving the Indigenous population's situation in the country.[31] The result, thus, has been a traditional association of indigenismo with leftist political parties in Ecuador. Robert Alexander believed that this position was "due more to the personal interest of the Party's founder, Dr. Ricardo Paredes, than to any conscious policy of the Party."[32]tions with highland Indians, and he was largely responsible for organizing the Federación Ecuatoriana de Indios (FEI, Ecuadorian Federation of Indians). Nevertheless, Jesús Gualavisí, an Indian leader from Cayambe, was present at the PSE's founding congress as a representative of the Sindicato de Trabajadores Campesinos. He was probably the first Indian to participate in a political party's congress. Gualavisí, however, was more than a token member of the congress. He actively participated in discussions, particularly when they related to issues of land or the Indigenous population. Albornoz contended it was because of this political orientation as a communist that Gualavisí understood the exploitation of Indigenous masses and saw a way to combat those injustices. In any case, it was the communists who sought to give organizational expression on a national level to the Indigenous peoples' demands. As Albornoz noted, it was the Marxists in Ecuador who first recognized the need "to organize our Indians so that they could obtain their legitimate aspirations." These Communists were "the first to raise their consciousness and show them the path which they could take to victory."[33]rely willing to introduce legislative changes favorable to Indians. Part of this was due to racist attitudes that the situation of Indians was hopeless. Galo Plaza, a Conservative president who held power from 1948-1952, noted:

The Indian is indeed a problem, and no government can solve it in the space of four years. I do not believe that much can be done with the present Indian generation. But with an educational program including instruction in agriculture and domestic industry and the inculcation in the Indian child of habits of hygiene and the necessities of civilized life, there can be developed a generation which will produce miracles.[34]

At the II Inter-American Indigenist Congress in Cuzco, Peru, in 1949, the III ratified a resolution to compile and publish a list of all indigenist legislation in all Latin American countries. In compliance with this resolution, in 1954 Alfredo Rubio Orbe compiled such a list beginning with an October 15, 1828, decree from Simón Bolívar as president of Gran Colombia when Ecuador was still part of that entity.[35] Although a relatively slim volume, it provides a useful resource for historians seeking to review this legislation up until 1950.

Ecuadorian Indigenista Literature

In addition to these historians, anthropologists and other scholars, Ecuador also possesses a group of novelists whose works were influenced by indigenist intellectual currents. Claudio Malo González has noted that it is perhaps in the area of literature, and not in anthropology, sociology, or politics, that indigenismo in Ecuador has reached its highest level of expression.[36] Nevertheless, Jaramillo's sociological descriptions of the Indians' suffering in El indio ecuatoriano had a strong influence on the development of themes in indigenista literature in Ecuador.

In a study of indigenista literature in the Andes, Leon Bright contrasts "the indianista novel, which depicts the Indian romantically as a noble savage" with "the indigenista novel which tries to give a realistic account of the sufferings of the native population in their struggle to gain social justice."[37] Examples of the indianista novel, according to Bright, are the works of James Fenimore Cooper or the Ecuadorian author Juan León Mera's 1879 novel Cumandá which is a romantic love story of a Shuar Indian in the Amazon.[38] Antonio Sacoto also makes this clear literary distinction between indianista and indigenista literature, and constructs his entire book on the role of Indians in Ecuadorian literature around a comparison of Mera's Cumandá which is an example of the former and Jorge Icaza's Huasipungo as an example of the later.[39]

Fernando Chaves' 1927 work Plata y bronce is generally considered to be the first Ecuadorian indigenista novel. The best-known example, however, of this tradition is Jorge Icaza, whose 1934 novel Huasipungo is considered to be the primary example of Ecuador's indigenist novel. This work is one of Ecuador's most renowned novels and helped define the nature of indigenista literature in Latin America. The novel focuses on the persecution and oppression which poor highland peasants (huasipungeros) faced at the hands of large landholders and the repression which they faced when they rose up in defense of their small plots of land.

Icaza's work represents the entire indigenista literary genre in that he was an elite from Quito who showed interest in the plight and suffering of the rural Indigenous masses. He first came in contact with Indigenous peoples when, as a boy, after the fall of a Liberal government in 1912, his family was forced to flee from Quito. They retreated to a family hacienda where he viewed first hand the misery in which Indians lived. In his novels, he shows the corruption of society and the brutality which the sectors with power (religious leaders, local political leaders, landholders, etc.) practiced on defenseless Indians. He stereotypically represents the elite as cruel, selfish, immoral, and willing to use virtually any means necessary to preserve their old established feudal order. He took a paternalistic attitude toward the Indians and portrayed them largely as a passive population which was acted upon by outside forces. Indigenous people, Icaza noted in an interview, "have been oppressed in all ways and in all forms: economically, morally, intellectually, etc."[40] His portrayal, though, is not an affectionate one but rather than of objective realism which presents Indians "as the lowest caste, the scum of the people, degraded to a bestial level."[41]

Indigenista literature, like indigenistas in general, portrays Indians as primitive and ignorant people who are unable to improve their position in life without outside assistance. They are victims who need outsiders to protect them. The solution to improve their situation, when one is offered, is that through education they might be elevated and assimilated into the dominant culture. Rarely are their Indigenous cultures and values recognized as valuable and worthy of protection.

Writing in 1964, toward the end of the time when indigenismo in its classic form was an important literary genre, A. Leon Bright argued that the importance of this literature in Ecuador has been exaggerated. "It is paradoxical," he noted, "that Ecuador should be considered as being primarily a producer of indigenista literature when in reality there have been only three authors and five novels dealing exclusively with the Indians and their struggles against the rest of society."[42]

The Rise of Ethnic Federations

In his book The United States and the Andean Republics, Fredrick Pike devoted one short paragraph to Ecuador in his discussion of indigenismo in the Andes. The failure of what he called "Marxian Indianism" to create as great of a stir in Ecuador as in Peru and Bolivia in the 1920s, according to Pike, has due to an economic collapse in Ecuador. Ecuador, he states, "did not experience the pressures of economic expansion and modernization that contributed to the plundering of Indian lands elsewhere in Andean America."[43] Although this economistic interpretation of developments in Ecuador may have a certain amount of truth in it, for the most part it misses the mark what has happened in Ecuador and how it developed differently than its neighbors.

The height of indigenista activity in Ecuador lasted from the 1930s to the 1950s, and perhaps climaxed in 1964 when the Inter-American Indigenist Institute held its Fifth Congress in Quito. Although certain writings and actions clearly identifiable as indigenista in nature continued to appear in the 1970s and 1980s, the rise of ethnic federations beginning in the 1960s surpassed indigenist actions in importance. For astute observers, this shift in dynamics was undoubtedly very clear. As already noted, the Fifth Congress of the III was dominated by white outsiders. In the published proceedings of the Congress, however, there is a picture entitled "La Delegación Indígena del Ecuador" with a note under it that says "El interés demostrado por esos delegados aborígenes por los asuntos tratados fue una verdadera revelación."[44] Beginning in the 1960s, Indigenous peoples from across Ecuador began to organize themselves into organizations and confederations to defend their native cultures, traditional lands, and human rights. Some of the earliest and best-organized of these Indigenous movements emerged from Ecuador's Upper Amazon basin, particularly the Shuar Federation which was founded in 1964. In 1980 the Shuar Federation along with other Amazonian groups met at the First Regional Conference of Indigenous Nations of the Ecuadorian Amazon to form CONFENIAE, the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonía Ecuatoriana, in order to battle for their common interests. In 1986, Indigenous groups from throughout Ecuador came together to form CONAIE, the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador, a pan-Ecuadorian Indigenous organization which for the first time brought all Indigenous people in Ecuador under one umbrella organization which they themselves controlled. In May of 1990 CONAIE led a nation-wide Indigenous uprising which shut down the country for a week in order to agitate for their demands as Indians. As Juan Bottasso implied in the title to his book Del indigenismo a las organizaciones indígenas, Indigenous self-organization replaced the need to have outsiders and intermediaries intervene on the behalf of Ecuador's Indigenous peoples.

A dramatic example of the change in Indigenous attitudes toward the idea of allowing other people to organize for them came at the Ninth Congress of the Inter-American Indian Institute held in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1985. These congresses, as with the III in general, traditionally had been a forum for governmental representatives of the participating countries and there was little effort to involve Indigenous peoples themselves in the discussions. At the Ninth Congress, however, representatives from a variety of organizations throughout the hemisphere arrived to participate in the conference. This was the first time there was a significant international Indigenous presence at one of III's Congresses. They were not official delegates to the conference but rather only observers, and hence were not allowed to participate fully in the discussions. Rather than condoning the official discussions of the Indian "Problem," they withdrew into a parallel session which they called the Indian Forum. "Given that the Inter-American Indian Institute has always made decisions about Indian people without consulting authentic Indian organizations," a declaration from the Forum stated, "The Indian Forum proposes that all decisions should be made in close consultation with the representative Indian organizations and that at the same time a human rights section be formed with the participation of representatives of Indian organizations."[45]

From the founding of the Shuar Federation in 1964 through the 1990 Indigenous Uprising and on to the present, Ecuador has experienced an Indian movement more significant than anything for which the indigenistas could have hoped. Today, Ecuador has one of the strongest and most dynamic Indian movements in the world. Perhaps the weakness of the indigenista movement in the middle of the twentieth century helped contribute to a more significant movement at the end of the century. A general lack of effective governmental programs in an attempt to improve Indigenous lives also meant fewer attempts to coopt incipient community organizations which had the potential for agitating for real and significant social, political, and economic change. A weak indigenista movement which by its very nature would be paternalistic also left more political space for Indigenous leaders to organize themselves and in the process gain critical organizing experience. Finally, sociological and anthropological studies which Indigenista intellectuals penned throughout the 1930s to the 1950s laid a base of understanding which Indigenous intellectuals could use to build more effective organizational structures. It is perhaps out of a weak indigenista movement that a strong Indian movement has emerged today.

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