Guancavilca History

Las Vegas

(900-6000 BC)

This is the first known culture in Ecuador. The Vegas People lived in Santa Elena Peninsula between 9000 to 6000 BC. Archeologists and scientists have identified three phases of Las Vegas People: Hunter-gathers/fisherman (Phase I); Farming (Phase II); and Cultural (Phase III).

The Vegas are well-known for their story “The Lovers of Sumpa.” It’s about a commoner who fell in love with a chief’s daughter in Sumpa territory today known as Santa Elena, Ecuador. They nurtured their forbidden love in secret. On the beach. In the forest. In the tropical jungle. One day the chief found out about their love affair and punished the couple. He sent the commoner to fish in the sea with his brothers as an attempt to end their romance. Unfortunately, his daughter became depressed and lovesick.

When the commoner returned home, he searched for her in the village. The chief told him the sad news that his daughter died of a broken heart. In preparation for her ceremony, the commoner asked to be buried alive with her. The Vegas people gave him coins, seashell, food, and clothing for their destination to the Spirit world. An important lesson came out of this love-stricken incident: No matter what socio-economic background two people come from, they have a right to love.

Thousands of years later, archeologists found the remains of the Sumpa Lovers in one of the Guancavilca communities in Santa Elena, Ecuador.




(3500-1800 BC)

The Valdivia people were the first to use pottery. They created bowls, jars, and female statues made out of clay for everyday life and for use in religious ceremonies. They also navigated the sea on rafts and established a trade network with Indigenous tribes in the Andes and the Amazon.



(1800 BC -1000 BC)

The Machalilla people were a farming culture that dominated the Ecuadorian coast in the 1st millennia BC. Their ceramics were painted black or white with red stripes. They were also the earliest civilization to cultivate maize in this part of South America.



(900 BC-200 AD)

The Chorrera people were well-known for their hollow ceramic animal- and plant-shaped figurines.



(320 AD – 1460 AD)

(Oral Tradition not confirmed with sufficient archeological and/or linguistic evidence but narrated by Ecuadorians as part of their history).

The Cara people came from Central America. They brought a new civilization (probably Maya) with them to the Ecuadorian coast. In 300 AD, the Cara people settled near Chone River. The chief embroidered an emerald on his crown so the people would recognize his authority over the tribe. He became the first Shyri (King).

The Cara people traveled on a route to the Andes Mountains where they met, fought, and subjugated the Quitu people in Pichincha region. Together the Cara and Quitu joined forces to become known as the powerful Cara-Quitu or Shyri-Quitu Empire in Ecuador.

Eleven Shyris ruled Ecuador for a millennia. They integrated the Otavalo, Kayambi, Latacunga, Pastos, Tomebamba, and other nations to the empire. The
Guancavilcas became the fifth coastal province to join the Shyri-Quitu Empire.

The eleventh Shyri had no sons and needed to secure the throne of the Shyri-Quitu Empire. He had a daughter named Toa. She married a powerful Puruha man who was the son of King Condorazo, Emperor of the Puruha Nation in Central Andean Ecuador

From 1370-1460, the chief acquired a new title to symbolize the mutual pact between the Shyri-Quitu and Puruha. He became known as Duchicela-Shyri XII. His grandson Duchicela-Shyri XIV Hualcopo faced Tupac Yupanqui, the chief of the Tawantinsuyu (Inca) Empire. By 1460, Tawantinsuyu defeated the Shyris and slowly conquered each nation till they made their way to the capital Quitu.

According to oral tradition, Huayna Capac re-constructed the new city of Quitu in the 16th century. He loved Northern Ecuador for its fauna, mountains, and rivers. He rarely spent time in Cuzco. He also married a Shyri-Quitu woman who gave birth to his son Atahualpa. This baby symbolized the union between Shyri and Tawantinsuyu People. This baby would become a great leader among his people.


On his deathbed, Huayna Capac chose Atahualpa to rule the northern part of Tawantinsuyu and Huascar to rule the southern part of Tawantinsuyu. For five years, both empires co-existed peacefully until the brothers began a civil war – which in my opinion it extended till 1998 as a continuum legacy of territorial dispute between Ecuador and Peru.

In 1525, Atahualpa defeated Huascar in a civil war and claimed Quito as the new capital of the Tawantinsuyu Empire. The Shyri Empire once again resurrected from its oppressive state to thrive as the new Shyri-Tawantinsuyu Empire ruling the Andean Region south of Quito to present-day Chile.



(1470 AD-1532 AD)

The Guancavilcas became an independent nation right after the fall of the Shyri-Quitu Empire or the Chimú Empire (1482). They were well-known for their fishing trading network and successful combats against neighboring Indigenous nations. They resisted Tawantinsuyu three times and won each battle. To this day, Guayaquilenos recount the legend of Guayas and Quil, his wife – both legendary figures who resisted Spanish colonization with a final battle. Their names live through the city of Guaya-Quil.


Indios Costeños

1560-1937 AD

The Guancavilca people lost the majority of their lands to the Spanish Crown in 1560.

The majority of the Guancavilcas resisted Spanish invasion till 1560. They burned down Spanish settlements, including Guayaquil, and fought many battles along the coast. But the Spanish defeated them. They were massacred and impacted by European diseases. Some of them joined the Tsa’chilas People in the North and very few stayed in Santa Elena Peninsula.

The Spanish created four reservation camps: Chanduy, Colonche, La Punta, and Chongon.  The Spanish Crown also decreed a law that prohibited marriage between ethnic groups. For four centuries, the Guancavilcas preserved their ethnicity through endogamy until a new migration pattern took place in Ecuador in the late 1960s.

Comuneros, Montubios, y Cholos



Comuneros, Montubios, and Cholos inherited the Pre-Columbian cultures, practices, and traditions of the Guancavilca, Chono, Chorrera, Machalilla, Valdivia, and Sumpa Nations. The Cholos of Guancavilca heritage possess the largest ancestral land in the Ecuadorian coast and are the largest ethnic group. In 1937, their territories were parceled into counties in Guayas Province. The new decree took effect in 1937 and disrupted communal Indigenous life in Ecuador.

Since then, the Cholos faced a new political threat to dismantle their sovereignty and allot their territories to non-Cholos. The Cholos quickly took immediate action to divide themselves into different communities, towns, and villages and maintain all of their land. They re-named their towns into comunas and guarded unprotected land. However, they lost 110,000 hectares of territories to petroleum, mining, and shrimp companies throughout the years. In response to the new decree, sixty five Indigenous comunas united to become the Federation of Comunas of Guayas. The membership increased to seventy nine by 1982 when Comunas pressured the Ecuadorian federal government and State to recognize their status as Indigenous people of Guayas.


Re-Indigenize Era: The Guancavilca Nation


To push for national recognition, the new generation of Cholos Comuneros took a political stand to represent themselves as First Nations people in Ecuadorian society. As Indigenous people, the Guancavilcas and other ethnic groups reclaimed their original cultures, languages, and names in order to protect their right to live and to exist as Indigenous people in the Republic of Ecuador: Manta (Mantenos), Guancavilca (Guancavilca), Punae (Puna), and Montubio (mixed-ancestry). With this in mind, these ethnic groups actively reclaimed their Indigenous cultures, traditions, dances, and stories to save what is left of their ancestral traditions. In 2007, the Guancavilcas created a new province to represent their politic interests and Indigenous cultures. Only 60% of Guancavilca Comunas achieved this feat while the rest of them remained in Guayas Province. However, the Federation of Comunas in Guayas and Santa Elena work together to protect and represent the interest of the Guancavilca people. In 2011, the Ecuadorian government recognized their status as a Community instead of Nationality. The reason was the lack of Indigenous culture and language disqualified them Sovereign nationhood. In 2014, the Guancavilcas enacted a new policy within their tribal communities to strengthen their cultural identity through incentives and community projects to unite the people with the Guancavilca identity.

Cholos (Comuneros)


Pache (Manta)


Montubio (mixed-Indigenous and African ancestry of coastal Ecuador)

Ecuador 2188

Guancanvilca (Guancavilca)

San Biritute1



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