The Importance of Being Ecuador, 2

1. Division

The territory that was to become Ecuador was divided economically and ethnographically by coast, the Costa; by mountain, the Sierra, and to the east, the jungle, known as Oriente . The coast was inhabited by four major indigenous groups, the Esmeralda, the Manta, the Huancavilca, and the Puna. Hunters, fishers, traders, these groups traveled by sea along the coast of South America and also maintained an exchange of fish for salt with the inland, mountain groups.

The valleys and mountainsides inland were populated by the Pasto, the Caro, the Panzaleo, the Puruha, the Canari, and the Palta groups. Cultivation of maize, beans, potatoes, quinoa and fruits was widespread, with extensive systems of irrigation supporting agricultural production.

In the 15th century, northward expansion of the Inca empire from Cuzco was strongly contested in both the coast and the highlands. The resistance of the Canari and Cara peoples and all the groups on the coast around the Gulf of Guayaquil lasted for forty years, outlasting the 9th Inca, Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui; his son, the 10th Inca, Topa who conquered Quito but not the coast; succumbing about 1500 to Topa’s son, Huayna Capac.

The Inca introduced new crops to both mountain and coastal agriculture– sweet potatoes, yucca, coca, peanuts. Land was proclaimed the property of the emperor; land was worked collectively by groups of families called allyu. Each family in the allyu also held small plots of land for their own consumption.

2. Dis-integration

The Spanish conquest was the destruction of the Inca empire’s unique integration and autonomy of the region. Spanish rule was the economics of extraction and wages of extraction are economic dis-integration.

Lacking the apparent and accessible mineral wealth of other territories of the Inca, the indigenous people of Ecuador were spared the deadly mita exacted in servicing the silver, mercury, and tin mines of Peru and Bolivia. Instead the people of the Sierra labored in the workshops, obraje, chained to looms and producing the clothing of wool and cotton exported to Spain.

On the coast, Guayaquil was the center for shipping and trade, and although intra-American trade was prohibited by the Spanish mercantilist monarchy, Guayaquil served just such an extensive trade in hardwoods, textiles, and coca.

In the 18th century, the rise of British capitalism, the expansion of English textile manufacturing protected by its very own mercantilism, increased economic pressure on Spanish monarchy. Mother country and its mercantile satellite fell into extended and severe depression. It is estimated that textile production in Ecuador declined 75 percent between beginning and end of the century. The cities decayed, and the ruling elites were compelled to sell their jewelry an their haciendas to survive. In this the peninsulares and criollos of Spanish rule in Ecuador brought to themselves a taste of the life they had imposed on the indigenous peoples: production for export based, at best, on subsistence; production for export requiring always, and sooner or later, sub-subsistence.

3. Gran Plan Colombia

The Spanish royalty confronted its economics of dis-integration with re-formation of its agency of political authority, the Viceroyalty. In 1720, the Quito audiencia (sub-viceroyalty, or court) was transferred for the Viceroyalty of Peru to that of the Viceroyalty of Nueva Granada, headquartered in Bogota, Colombia.
In this re-formation the Quito based elite was awarded jurisdictional autonomy over local political and military matters, basically the exploitation of the indigenous people.

The award carried a cost and the cost was the redistricting of the audiencia. The southern and eastern borders of the audiencia were reduced with territory transferred to other viceroyalties. This shrinkage by decree and degree continued into the 19th century. In 1802, Quijos and Mainas provinces in the Oriente were transferred out of the Quito audiencia. Well before Bolivar’s attempt at liberation and integration through the plan of Gran Colombia; before the US even dreamed of replacing Spain as the royal family of Latin America; the Spanish had attempted a post pre-Columbian pre-Plan Colombia Plan Colombia.

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