Making Ecuadorian Histories: Four Centuries of Defining Power

Making Ecuadorian Histories: Four Centuries of Defining Power

Making Ecuadorian Histories: Four Centuries of Defining Power

Making Ecuadorian Histories: Four Centuries of Defining Power


In Ecuador, as in all countries, archaeology and history play fundamental roles in defining national identity. Connecting with the prehistoric and historic pasts gives the modern state legitimacy and power. But the state is not the only actor that lays claim to the country' archaeological patrimony, nor is its official history the only version of the story. Indigenous peoples are increasingly drawing on the past to claim their rights and standing in the modern Ecuadorian state, while the press tries to present a "neutral" version of history that will satisfy its various publics.This pathfinding book investigates how archaeological knowledge is used for both maintaining and contesting nation-building and state-hegemony in Ecuador. Specifically, Hugo Benavides analyzes how the pre-Hispanic site of Cochasqué has become a source of competing narratives of Native American, Spanish, and Ecuadorian occupations, which serve the differing needs of the nation-state and different national populations at large. He also analyzes the Indian movement itself and the recent controversy over the final resting place for the traditional monolith of San Biritute. Offering a more nuanced view of the production of history than previous studies, Benavides demonstrates how both official and resistance narratives are constantly reproduced and embodied within the nation-state' dominant discourses.


The Indians have had no voice for five hundred years.
Little by little, they are feeling like protagonists in history


In the 1990s Ecuador saw a reappraisal of indigenous identity that coalesced into the country’s most important social movement since the turn of the century. The Indian movement, under the leadership of the Confederación Nacional de Indígenas del Ecuador (National Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, CONAIE) and the Pachakutik Nuevo País party, provoked a serious rupture in Ecuador’s ideological belief that it had maintained concerning its historical identity and its indigenous heritage. Since the 1990s the Indian movement has been able to paralyze the country for weeks on end, has forced two governments to reconsider their application of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) structural-adjustment policies, and has successfully aligned itself with the military to overthrow Jamil Mahuad (in 2000).

The Indian movement is the most powerful of a number of social movements (and fragmented social subjects)—women’s associations, the gay and lesbian movement, and ecological organizations—that are questioning Ecuador’s traditional national identity within the wider cultural and economic concerns of globalization. Each of these groups has justified itself, in varying degrees, by assessing a history that situates the group in a powerful position vis-à-vis the nation and the state. In this respect, history has become a contested commodity and is as important in claiming national narratives as in securing international funds or . . .

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