About 200,000 people in Santa Elena Peninsula and Puna Island, Ecuador, are descendants of the Manteño-Guancavilca-Lapunae cultures. They are the largest and most underrepresented Indigenous group in coastal Ecuador. They identify as “Cholos,” ”Comuneros” and/or “Montubios.” They possess about 515,000 hectares of ancestral territories.
They preserve their ethnic identity through endogamy, which means the custom of marrying only within the limits of their community. They also pracrice their Guanklcavilca culture by sailing and trading overseas, decorating their homes with seashells, protecting Mother Earth, and working together as a community to complete communal goals.
However, early colonization wiped out their Indigenous language, ceremonies, and traditional belief system. The Spanish created reservation camps in Santa Elena Peninsula to control the surviving population through religion and politics. The Guancavilcas resisted colonial life but lost many lives in wars, battles, and rebellions. They even destroyed Guayaquil City three times in the 16th, 17th, and 18th century. However, in order to survive as an ethnic group, cultural assimilation meant securing a future for the new generations to come.
Some Ecuadorians label them as “cholos” (a derogative term to describe South American Indians). Without an “acclaimed” history the Guancavilcas are left with one of two options: identify as mestizos or re-claim Indigenous.
Wankavilka comuneros explain that Western culture kept them up-to-date with worldwide technology in the past. But behind closed doors, comuneros practiced herbal medicine, Indigenous ceremonies, oral tradition and endogamy. In this context, Wankavilka people protected and preserved what was left of their culture to this day. In 1982, Wankavilka comuneros made a collective decision to rescue their music, stories, and belief-system as the final push of resistance.
I will fight to voice their concerns, needs, and wants as a tribal community to the world out there.