Pueblo Montubio is an ethnic group of 1.5 million people throughout the Ecuadorian coast, specifically in the provinces of Guayas, Manabí, Los Rios, and El Oro, and in subtropical regions in Bolivar, Azuay, Chimborazo, and Loja. Pueblo Montubio carry a mixed heritage of Spanish, Indigenous, and Afro-Ecuadorian culture and are proud of their mixed-identity through their rich history of oral tradition, rodeo, and amorfinos.
Their culture is tied to farm life and a great respect for nature. They spend most of their waking hours taking good care of cattle and of crops. Both men and women follow three Montubio virtues: courage, perseverance, and labor. Their machete is what symbolizes Montubio culture as a community.
Montubios are romantics, too. Men recite amorfinos to women as a way to have a romantic conversation with them. Amorfinos is poetry, a declaration of love. Amorfinos can be humorous or sarcastic depending on the context of the lovers.When a Montubio recite his amorfinos, a Montubia responds with her set of amorfinos to test his art of poetry, love and courage. She can turn him down or accept his invitation, too, but he has to prove her courage and give her his best impression. This is a tradition that has been passed down since the beginning of the mixed society.
Here are some amorfinos translated in English. Maybe you can try them out for a potential lover!
Montubio: Desde aqui te estoy mirando/cara a cara/ frente a frente/ para decirte en amorfino que mi corazon siente.
“From here I see you/face to face/eye to eye/ to tell you in amorfino what my heart truly feels.”
Montubia: Rio bajo va mi amor/partido en cuatro pedazos/pero el consuelo que tengo es de morir en tus brazos.
“My love flows in the river/ broken in four different pieces/ but the best comfort I have/ is to die in your arms.”
Montubio Song: Asi lo decia mi abuelo en un juegito de rueda/ diga un amorfino para ver si asi se queda.
“That is how my grandfather used to tell us in a game of spinning wheel/ recite a amorfino to see if he/she will stay.”
Montubios also characterize themselves with their rich variety of oral tradition, legends, myths, prayers, and Indigenous chants. Because of this, they preserved Indigenous oral tradition like the story of Maria Guare, Tigre y Leon, El Tin Tin, San Isidrio Labrador, la Canoa de la Parida, and el Diablo y las Espuelas de Oro. Montubios also love to go to rodeo and compete against each other in the arena. Girls as young as seven years old participate in competitions to demonstrate their astounding ability to tame a horse thrice their size.
As I mentioned before, Pueblo Montubio is a mix of African, Spanish, and Indigenous ancestry. The Indigenous ancestry is also a mix, too, ever since the Goancavilca, Manta, Puna, and Chono people mixed with each other as a result of Spanish colonization in the 17th century. Unlike the Wankavilka people in Santa Elena Peninsula,, Montubios come from a very mixed Indigenous background which makes it difficult for them to trace their lineage to a specific tribe.
Most Ecuadorians view Montubios as unintelligent and dirty countrymen who contribute nothing to society. Also, since Ecuadorians are rooted in classism, Montubios and Cholo Comuneros rank at the bottom of the social pyramid. Beginning in the 1980s, Pueblo Montubio made an effort to push for national recognition as a people in the 21st century. Like cholos, they take the label Montubio as an example to empower a negative word into a positive one.
My biological father and his family are Montubios. If the older generation had a chance to read this blog post, they would literally kill me for making such declarations of Montubio identity. I am sure the new generation would say, “Really Santy? Are we Montubios?”
From what I remember, they were big storytellers and Amorfino poets. But in the 1970s, they sought to climb the social ladder in order to improve their economy, even if it meant to deny their Montubio background and integrate to Ecuadorian society. Since they are in such denial, it’s hard to ask questions about their cultural history. Sometimes, I slip in a question like, “Do we have writers in the family?” My aunt drops whatever she is doing, makes coffee, and sits on her rocking chair ready to tell stories beginning with the first poet who made my great-great-great grandmother fall in love with him and his amorfinos.