The Chachi community in the coastal Region of Ecuador
This indigenous group commonly known as the Cayapas (name not quite proper for the members of this ethnic group), is believed that have arrived to conform 30 communities located in the jungle- mountain zones of what are the regions of Eloy Alfaro, Muisne, Quinindé, Esmeraldas and San Lorenzo.
The population of this ethnic group has about 7600 members, their origin has been lost in time. For the historian González Suárez, the Chachis are originally from Nicaragua and Panama, they are descendants of the Chibchas and are supposed to have mixed with the Caribbean and the Arawacos.
Jijón y Caamaño (1919), affirms that their origin is from the jungle, passing through the Putumayo they might have emigrated to Imbabura, and afterwards moved to the coastal region. The Incan invasion as well as the Spanish conquest were the main reasons that forced them to move to their present location, in Esmeraldas.
The indian tradition proves that Pueblo Viejo (“Tutsa”, in their native language) is the first place where they settled down.
From here, the Chachi came down to the Santiago river, passing then to the Zapallo Grande river and then to the Cayapas, settling in its affluents. From these same traditions, they are originally from Ibarra, then they emigrated to the Zone of Esmeraldas, due to the menace that their powerful enemies had, the same that had the help of their sages or “sorcerers”.
Situated in the province of Esmeraldas, they have developed their cultured based on three activities. Horticulture, hunting, fishing and harvesting. This culture grew stronger due to a strict set of rules and norms, the same that have to deal with their relationships, marriage and sexual behaviors.
They have had almost no contact with other groups in the zone and they have been practically forgotten by the government as well as by the society in Ecuador. Therefore, as a result, they have been able to preserve their lifestyle for centuries.
Nevertheless, due to the increasing amount of black and mixed cultures that are presently located nearby, in search for lands where they can survive, the presence of missionaries and the activities of the wood companies, the Chachi community is presenting a series of new situations and matters that demand change.
Due to the circumstances, the Chachi, originally hunters and fishers, have become jungle farmers that just from time to time go out in search of animals to hunt, fishes or seafood, each day more harder to find. They have even had the need to sell their labor force as well as their handicrafts in order to survive.
The banana is their main source of nutriment and also for harvest, as well as the cacao and the coffee that are to be sold and some rice for their own use.
I highly recommend to visit this indigenous group. Learn about their traditions, culture and at the same time help them buying their handcrafts.
If you are planning a trip to Ecuador and are interested on its history, be sure to take a look at this travel guide: Ecuador and Galapagos (Insight Guides). It provides an essential introduction to Ecuador’s ancient civilizations and colonial history.
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