In October 2013, I sketched a few portrait of my family origins in order to reflect the history and culture of my Indigenous ancestors. I selected eight portraits to share with the world as I celebrate my Indigenous heritage on Indigenous People’s Day 2013.
We come from Santa Elena Peninsula, Ecuador, and are proud comuneros and descendants of the Manteño-Wankavilka-Puna and Tawantinsuyu (Inca) tribes.
Before 1530, my ancestors ruled the Ecuadorian coast. They were well-known for their international sea-faring trades that took them to Mexico and Chile. They also resisted the Tawantinsuyu conquest three times and won all three battles.
During the Wankavilka Empire, Two-Spirit people were considered sacred. They were called Enchaquirados. Today they are discriminated and punished because of their gender/sexual deviation in machista society. Comuna Engabao and Comuna Montañita (Santa Elena) is making an effort to protect their LGBTQ community and restore the glorious times of their ancestors for the new Enchaquirados.
During the 1600s, the Quinde family left their Indigenous village in search for a better life on the coast. They settled in Chanduy, Agua Verdes, and El Morro in the 1600s. During the next four centuries, the Quinde family held high-level positions of authority, craftsmen, and shamans in Santa Elena Peninsula. I am a proud descendant of my Tawantinsuyu ancestors. I am re-learning their Runa Simi language, customs, and traditions in their honor.
According to oral tradition, my ancestors built a church called San Jacinto del Morro in the 17th century. Local custom follows that an engaged couple walked with their families from their villages to the sacred church before marriage. Also, this is where they buried the dead and celebrate the Day of the Dead on November 1st.
In my family, we also told a story about an intermarriage that occurred in the mid-1800s. One of my ancestors married an Afro-Ecuadorian woman. She brought a new culture, history, and oral tradition to the Indians in Santa Elena Peninsula. As our elders told us and as we tell every generation, we share her story to commemorate and respect her. We take pride in our African heritage, too.
In the 1900s, my great-great grandparents resettled and founded the village of Data de Villamil (along with other families like Crespin, Parrales, Baidal, Mite, Yagual, De la A, De la Torre and more). This is where my great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents lived for a century. To this day, I still have relatives who govern la comuna and protect their ancestral lands. Supposedly, all 2,000 comuneros in Data de Villamil are my direct relatives.
In honor of my great-grandparents, I hold their stories, traditions, and culture close to my heart. They took care of my mother and taught her the way of our people. They also inspired our relatives to achieve their dreams and stay together no matter where we migrate. I will always love you, Papi Teofilo and Mami Carmen.
Today, on Indigenous People’s Day, I carry the voices, souls, stories, customs, dances, and traditions of my ancestors. Every day I honor my ancestors and I am very proud of my Indigenous heritage. We will always stand up as a community . We are still here and will be here no matter what.