The Guancavilca People possess about 515,000 hectares of ancestral territories in Santa Elena Peninsula, Ecuador. Most of their towns are located near the Pacific Ocean and others in the interior region for farming and hunting.
These territories belonged to the Guancavilca Nation before the “Time of the Crossing.” By mid sixteenth century, disease and warfare decimated the Guancavilcas in the peninsular region. Two thousand Guancavilcas survived the genocide. Some fled to the North to join the T’sachilas and others were grouped in four colonial reservation camps. These reservations were Colonche, La Punta, Chanduy, and Chongon. The Spanish government also prohibited Guancavilcas, among other Indigenous groups, to intermarry with the Spanish and Africans till the nineteenth century.
Isolated in reservation camps, the surviving population adapted to a new culture and technology. They learned Spanish and became Catholics. They also maintained their oral tradition, cuisine, zoomorphic dances, and traditional belief system. In the 1700s, the Guancavilcas purchased back most of their ancestral territory from the Spain. They gained some political autonomy in the form of tribal leadership that not only made it possible to govern themselves without Spanish and Ecuadorian influence, but to keep foreigners away from their territories.
Today the Guancavilcas legitimately hold title deeds to 515,000 hectares of Indigenous territory. According to Silvia Alvares, in 1982, the Guancavilcas added to a total of 168,000 people – making them the largest Indigenous group in the Ecuadorian coast.