My name is Santy 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 Guancavilcas in their collective territories as Indigenous people. My paternal line comes from an Indo-mestizo background – an ethnic identity that describes their mixed-Indgenoud ancestry (Montubio, Kichwa) as assimilated Indigenous people in mainstream Ecuadorian 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 V.I.P., 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 told me stories of my great-grandparents, my relatives, and my ancestors. When she was a child, her grandparents took her and her sisters to their village during festive ceremonies, vacation breaks, and even on weekends. She remembers how Comuneros in a that particular village respected each others’ land while also acknowledging their lands as indivisible territory of collective Indigenous families. Because of oral tradition and my independent research on Silvia Alvarez’s De Huancavilca a Comuneros, I was able to understand my reality as a Guancavilca removed from my Comunero experience in the communities of Palmar de Data, Playas, El Morro, Jipijapa, and San Antonio.
Silvia spent decades learning Comunero life in Chanduy, El Real Alto, Santa Elena, and other Comunas, which are closely tied to each other and share a Guancavilca heritage. Comuneros practice oral tradition, shamanism, 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 does not fully recognize or respect Comunero Life of Santa Elena Peninsula as Indigenous people with collective rights to their territories. They consider them as “mestizos” because they speak Spanish and practice Catholicism. Ecuadorians believe Comuneros have assimilated into the national mestizo identity, when in fact, it’s the opposite. Comuneros explain the practice of acculturating is a millennial tactic passed down by their ancestors to adapt to the surrounding politics 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.
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