My name is Santy Barrera Baidal. I’m Guancavilca from my maternal line. They come from a Comunero background in Santa Elena Peninsula, Ecuador – an ethnic identity that describes the current situation of the Guancavilca People in their collective territories. My paternal line is Indo-mestizo – an ethnic identity that highlights their mixed-Indigenous heritage as Ecuadorians in modern society.
I spent my college years exploring my mixed-Indigenous identity through Voices of Indigenous People – a student organization that aimed to promote Indigenous cultures with its members on and off campus in Middlebury, Vermont. As Co-President of Voices of Indigenous Peoples, I continued the legacy by providing a space where Indigenous college students expressed their identity, opinions, concerns, and ideas to the community at large.
My mother shared her oral tradition of her grandparents, relatives, and ancestors. When she was a child, her grandparents visited their village during their summer vacations, weekends, and important holidays. She remembers how her people in Data respected each others’ family territory boundaries while also acknowledging their lands as indivisible territory of the Guancavilca Nation. Because of oral tradition and my independent research on Silvia Alvarez’s De Huancavilca a Comuneros, I was able to understand my experience as a Guancavilca descendant – removed from my Comunero experience in the communities of Palmar de Data, Playas, El Morro, Jipijapa, and San Antonio – and as an Indigenous young man living my reality in urban New York metro area.
Silvia spent decades learning Comunero life in Chanduy, El Real Alto, Santa Elena, and other Comunas. Comuneros preserve their oral tradition, curanderismo, textile weaving, and sustain a minga system in which they practice the gift of sharing, giving, and learning from each other within the limits of their respective communities.
Ecuadorian society did not fully recognize or respect Comunero Life on Santa Elena Peninsula till 2003 and still does not acknowledge their tribal territories. They consider them as “mestizos” because they speak Spanish and are Catholics. Ecuadorians believe Comuneros have “successfully” assimilated to the national mestizo identity, when in fact, it’s the opposite. Comuneros explain the practice of acculturating is a millennial tactic passed by their ancestors to adapt to the surrounding reality at every turn of a new era. The first group of people in Santa Elena were the Vegas. Then, the Vegas became the Valdivia, the Valdivia became the Chorrera, and so forth.
Acculturation is a strategy of Comunero life. They intentionally take on external cultural elements and incorporate them into their ethnicity as a way to advance in their technology and protect their territories. This blog will collect information about Guancavilca life, culture, tradition, and history in order to inform Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities our their heritage and stories.
Please e-mail me your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org