Travel in Latin America

A Better Understanding of Ecuador's Indigenous Groups
By:Kenneth M Ingraham

When you take Spanish classes in Quito, immersing yourself in the country's culture, food and residents is a big part of the overall experience. Before you attend language school in Ecuador, be sure to learn about the indigenous people, as 25% of the country's total population is of indigenous heritage. Further, 65% of the people who live in Ecuador are of mixed indigenous and European ancestry. The high percentage of indigenous people is rare, and it is one of the things that makes this country unique.

The term "indigenous people" refers to those who lived in the region when the Europeans arrived in South America as well as their descendants. Archaeologists have designated 5 time periods view prehistoric Ecuador. In sequence from the earliest to the most recent, these include the Lithic, Archaic, Formative, Regional Development and Integration.

A great deal of time has been spent seeking to understand the history of the country's indigenous groups to learn more about their civilizations. Artifacts have been found in Ecuador that are from the "pre-ceramic" times, which dates back about 11,000 years. These findings also show that the people were hunters and gatherers. Most of the artifacts have been found in the Andean region and back to 9750 BP.

The Paleo-Indians depended upon large game for survival, but by the end of the Ice Age, many of these animals were extinct. This includes the giant sloth and mammoth. As a result, farming became more prevalent and there were changes in the region's culture. New tools, new burial practices and more art became integral to society.

Archaeologists have learned a great deal about the agricultural practices of the ancient indigenous people. For example, one interesting early civilization was the Valdivia culture, which had a significant impact on Amerindian civilization throughout the continent. These people cultivated crops like cotton, maize, and water plantains. According to some experts, mate and coca crops were also harvested.

Before the Incan invasion, there was a great deal of diversity and complexity among indigenous people in Ecuador. However, the Incans language and culture took over many of these cultures when their reign began. The conquest of this region began in 1463. Yet, much of the indigenous culture remains intact to this day.

One interesting topic of debate that you may learn more about when you attend Spanish classes in Quito is exactly how many indigenous people currently live in Ecuador. For example, the indigenous population numbers fewer than 2 million according to former president Leon Febres Cordero. Additionally, various historians, including Enrique Ayala Mora concludes that there is a population of no more than 16% of the country.

On the other hands, various other organizations like the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador say that the indigenous population is more like 4 million. Begun in 1986, this political group is the largest indigenous organization in Ecuador. They strive for social change using direct action tactics.

If you want to visit indigenous people while you attend language school in Ecuador, about 96.4% of them live in the Sierra region valleys. This group is mostly made up of people who descended from the Incans. However, regardless of where you go in Ecuador, you will likely meet and interact with indigenous people, as they make up such a high percentage of the country's population.

Latin Immersion's Spanish school in Cuenca http://www.latinimmersion.com/cuenca-school.php, Ecuador is open 52 weeks per year, with class size never more than seven. Cultural activities and visits are an integral part of studying Spanish in Ecuador.






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