Conflicts in Identity

Distorted Histories: The Attempt to Disentangle Past Identities in Northern Ecuador

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Distorted Histories: The Attempt to Disentangle Past Identities in Northern Ecuador

Amber Kling


While identity remains a popular issue today locating it in the past can sometimes be difficult. This is not due to a lack of identity by any means but can usually be attributed to nonpreservation of identity markers or a shortage of information used to ascertain identity. In some areas, information about identity is present but convoluted data from past sources have muddled any real identity image long ago. Add in areas that have undergone intensive warfare and conquest and the attempt to discern a particular identity for a specific group/time becomes exceedingly difficult, if not impossible.
In Northern Ecuador archaeologists face many of these problems when trying to reconstruct the identities of the highland societies during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. First, many of the autonomous chiefdoms in the area shared similar traits based on their close proximities, geographical similarities and deep Andean traditions. Second, prolonged resistance to the Inca (1490-1505) eventually ended in the slaughter of thousands: survivors were moved elsewhere while new settlers were brought to Ecuador. Third, Spanish accounts from the mid 1500’s greatly downplayed and distorted descriptions of the highland peoples, either referring to areas by geographic region, using only one name to describe a region, or combining different ethnic names to describe one group. Working through these hindrances, archaeologists have made progress uncovering some identity aspects for these groups, and future works promise to add more information, in the hope we may better understand the depths of these ancient peoples.

While studies of identity have become more prevalent in archaeology recently, it is not always easy for the identity of a group to be recovered. In some instances this can be blamed on a lack of recoverable identity markers or even a misunderstanding of such markers and their meanings. In other cases, convoluted historical sources are to blame as they muddled, created, deleted or changed identities through their writings. Add to this depleted archaeological information about these groups to begin with and stir in various conquering societies who drastic altered life in the area, and an identity for the region might never fully be uncovered. Such is the case for the Pais Caranqui of Northern Ecuador, where these combined factors have left the past identity of the region heavily distorted and so far, unrecovered.

This paper will be divided into three sections in order to try and disentangle these Northern Ecuadorian societies. The first section will describe what is known about the groups that lived in the northern region during the Late Period (1250-1505/1525), prior to the arrival of the Inca. Although some strides have been made in understanding certain cultural aspects, many gaps still remain. The second part will focus on Inca incursion into the area in the late 1400’s and early 1500’s and the large resistance movement that defined Inca/indigenous relations for over a decade. This prolonged resistance ended when the victorious Inca slaughtered tens of thousands of inhabitants, moving the survivors to Cuzco, Copacabana and other southern locations, bringing in thousands of new settlers from previously conquered regions (Newson 1995). The last section will show how convoluted and fragmented Spanish chronicle accounts, census records and other sources of literature written after conquest further distorted identities in the area, as many of these accounts combined groups under one name, left groups out of descriptions completely, or created names for societies that might not have been used at the time. By depicting and documenting these groups this way, many original identities were oversimplified while others were lost completely.
Since the indigenous societies of Northern Ecuador did not possess a written system, much of the information described below comes from archaeological data and ethnohistoric accounts. A great deal of early work done in Ecuador focused on anthropological studies of the rain forest cultures to the East, archaeological studies of the well defined and preserved early coastal cultures to the West and South and studies of Inca sites in the southern highlands, such as those found near Topebamba (modern day Cuenca). Many more remarkable sites exist in Ecuador although countless sites have been destroyed since the 1500’s, with most destruction happening in the early colonial period after the arrival of the Spanish and in the past 150 years due to population growth and expansion. In densely populated urban areas like Quito, El Quinche, Cayambe and Ibarra, very little sub surface evidence of Inca or pre-Inca occupations exist. While archaeological finds are occasionally uncovered (during construction projects, farming etc) these studies are rarely published, simply widening the hole in our understanding of many of these northern groups.

The region of study is located about 40km east-north-east of Quito geographically defined by the Chota River to the north, the Guayllabamba River to the south and the Andean cordilleras to the east and west (Gifford and Connell 2003, Cordero Ramos 1998, Bray 1992). Occupation here dates back to the middle to late formative period, around 2000 BC (Bruhns 2003), but this paper will only focus on the phase proceeding Inca rule, known as the Late Period (1250-1505/1525).

Before even attempting to understand the identities and peoples that lived there, it is first necessary to pick through the various names used to define Northern Ecuador and its respective societies, found in historical accounts and early publications. Many names usually stem from who was believed to be the dominant society (or societies) in the area, with a single label sometimes defining most or even all of the groups in the region. Examples of such names include:
1) the Cara (Steward 1946, Murra 1947, Meggers 1966, Athens 1992)

2) the Otavalo nation (Newson 1995)

3) the Cayambe (Cordero Ramos 1998)

4) the Caranqui (Enock 1914, Perez and Aquiles 1960)

5) the Otavalo-Caranqui/Cayambe nations (Newson 1995) and

6) the Pais Caranqui (Bray 1990, 1992, 2007, 2008, Gifford et al 2002, Gifford and Connell 2003), among others. I will use the currently accepted phrase Pais Caranqui to refer to this northern region as a whole (Jijón y Caamaño 1952: 343, Bray 1992), but will incorporate specific group names throughout where evidence of distinct associations has been proven.

While little is still known about this segment of Ecuadorian prehistory, recent archaeological research and their respective publications, along with old and new ethnohistoric data, unpublished colonial documents such as vistas (administrative field studies) and court records (Salomon 1986), and new Ecuadorian reports have been able to determine some characteristics of the period. During the Late Period a number of separate autonomous societies occupied the region, possessing a “unity of cultural forms”. Many characteristics were largely shared, such as a lingua franca and artistic traditions, discussed more below (Bray 1990: 29, Athens 1992: 211). In historical records, societies from this region were described as naciones (nations), reinos (kingdoms), dominios (dominions), parcialidades (partisan groups) or cacicazgo (chiefdoms) (Gifford and Connell 2003, Bray 1990): archaeologists and other contemporary authors now refer to these groups as chiefdoms. Each cacicazgo was comprised of numerous villages, or llactas usually defined as “a group of persons sharing hereditary rights over certain factors of production (particular lands, the labor of certain people, specific tools and infrastructures), and recognizing as a political authority a privileged member of their own number” (quote from Salomon 1986: 45, Bray 1990). Between 20 to 30 small groups are believed to have occupied the Pais Caranqui with overall population estimates ranging between 70,000 and 100,000 (Bray 1990: 32, Means 1931, Salmon 1986: 139). Many of these llactas were subsumed by one of the six larger polities in the area, known as the Cayambe, El Quinche, Guayllabamba, Cochasqui, Caranqui, and Otavalo (Espinosa Soriano 1983: 44, Gifford and Connell 2003, Bray 1990, Bray 1992, Meggers 1966). This list is generally accepted by scholars as the major centers within the Pais Caranqui. Rarely are all these groups mentioned in any work from the Colonial and subsequent periods, discussed later in the paper. However, many recent publications now recognize these six as pivotal centers within the Pais Caranqui and some even list smaller societies within the PC that were most likely associated with the polities named above, (i.e. Las Salinas, Lita, Cara, Imbabura, and more) (Espinosa Soriano 1998: 44, Gilford and Connell 2003, Bray 1990 and 1992, Meggers 1966). Each polity was ruled by a cacique or kuraka (chief), usually from the dominant llacta (Bray 1990).

Politically, these groups remained independent, defining themselves on constantly shifting alliances and permeable boundaries which allowed them to better negotiate their positions through constant warfare and conflict (Athens 1992: 200). Some liken their political state to a heterarchy, “with power being exercised along different dimensions and areas of overlapping authority” (Bray 2008: 529). Socio-political development was by no means uniform though, as the Pais Caranqui groups maintained a more refined and developed political structure than their Pasto neighbors to the north (a group which they are frequently associated with in Spanish documents), although it is not entirely clear whether this was in place before Inca incursion to the area, or if it were a result of (Athens 1978, Bray 1990: 27). It appears no one group exercised constant political hegemony over any of the others (Alchon 1991, Athens 1992) although it is heavily agreed the Cayambe and Caranqui polities both held positions of great power. Some hypothesize the Caranqui center (around Ibarra in Figure 1) was the most powerful group as it was here that the Inca built a large religious and administrative site (Cieza de León 1553/1959: 261), while others argue the Cayambe polity was more significant because they organized the initial Incan resistance (seen in the large number of Inca and indigenous fortifications in Cayambe territory) and are the ones most frequently listed by name in the chronicles (Bray 1990). Debates in the past centered on whether these groups were two distinct entities or simply two factions sharing overlapping features (Espinosa Soriano 1983: 61), but it is now generally agreed that while they shared many characteristics, they should indeed be recognized as separate.

Village sites were located 6-24km apart with most of the residents living in dispersed settlements outside village borders, using the natural features of the land as boundaries (Bray 1990: 30). Evidence of ridged fields and extensive agricultural terracing are present (Myers 1974), with common crops including maize, beans, and various types of tubers (Newson 1995: 34). Ceramic wares tend to be simplistic in nature, showing little variation over time, usually coated inside and out with a red slip (Bray 1990: 97). In some instances, these wares were painted, but in most cases the paint a) was the same color or of a similar hue to the red slip, b) served as a simple zonal covering, or c) designs were found in painted band along the rim (Bray 1990: 154). Some wares have incised linear lines or were burnished, but these finds are usually limited and tell us little regarding elements of indigenous life other than manufacturing techniques. More detailed studies of the ceramic assemblage have been published elsewhere and will not be discussed further here (Bray 1990, Bray 1992).

Although conflict between groups dictated most of their interactions, intermarriage was common, house to house trading for goods was prevalent and extensive long distant trade networks with mindalaes (traders) were established and maintained, even in times of turmoil (Bray 1992). Goods such as cinnamon, feathers, gold, copal, salt and cotton were brought in from various zones of Ecuador and traded, with many networks and mindalaes sponsored and maintained by individual chiefs. Traded goods and wares were used when feasting between polities occurred and some hypothesize inter group warfare pertained more to access and control of these trade networks than land and expansion (Cordero Ramos 1998, Athens 2003). These trade networks were so effective the Inca quickly overtook them, and used them to gain access to the upper vestiges of the rain forest, an area they had been unable to penetrate.

Many of these groups possessed similar architectural traits seen in the construction of tolas (huge earthen mounds) and truncated pyramids with or without ramps, a feature unique only to Northern Ecuador. Two types of tolas exist: the earliest examples are hemispherical (usually tombs) appearing around 700 AD, while quadrilateral tolas emerge during the Late Period (Bray 2008, Athens 2003). Data from these tolas vary as many have not been excavated and debates still exist as to whether they served as chiefly residences (Athens 2003), as focal points for dispersed communities (Bray 2008), or as ritual centers. Tola sites range in size from a small amount to large groupings like those found at Zuleta or Cochasqui, and insight about their position and function in these societies will greatly aid our understanding of these societies. Unfortunately numerous tolas have and are currently being destroyed to make bricks, hold water reservoirs, or make way for new structures (Myers 1974, Bray 2011, Oscar Cajas personal communication 2010), making the identification and in depth study of these sites even harder.

The other form of monumental architecture present are pucaras (fortresses) that scatter many hilltops throughout the region. Andean life has frequently been marked by cycles of peace and cycles of warfare and it was no different for the Northern Ecuadorian polities (Topic and Topic 2009, Arkush 2009). As noted above, groups during the Late Period were in constant conflict with one another and many used their pucaras as stronghold, many of which have been documented but few excavated. Of those that have, most tend to be Incaic in origin or were utilized heavily by the Inca during their conquest (Gifford et al 2002, Gifford and Connell 2006, Plaza Schuller 1976, 1977, Bray n/d, Oberem 1969, Hyslop 1990). More work needs to be conducted on locating and excavating these indigenous strongholds; although many have been and currently are being partially destroyed or modified by communities in need of materials or land.

The Proyecto Arqueológico Pambamarca (PAP) has excavated some Incan fortifications in the Pambamarca Fortress Complex (discussed below) and has also partially excavated two fortresses near the modern city of Cayambe believed to have belonged to the Cayambe polity. Studies at these locales so far have only brought more questions than answers. No structures have yet been found at either site, so it is not known if people simply retreated to these pucaras for short periods of conflict, or if they were used to support populations for extended amounts of time. Artifacts at the largest site (Pingulmi) are incredibly abundant but plain in nature, consisting of lithic artifacts and simply made ceramic wares with no decorations (like those discussed earlier). Artifacts from the other site, Pukarito, are highly decorated and elaborate but almost all are of Inca origIn as many locales probably at least traded with the Inca (or with persons having Inca goods) or were occupied by the Inca on their way north. PAP is currently trying to understand the uses and time frames of these fortresses to identify occupation layers dating to the Late Period. As few other types of indigenous monumental or even simple architecture have been found like temples, houses, towns/villages locations etc, tolas and pucaras have generally been used to determine site location within the Pais Caranqui.

With most urban areas, data have been incredibly hard to come by since the centers for many of these polities most likely lie underneath modern cities, constructed after 1534. The present town of Cayambe covers the ancient center of the same name and contains one of the largest tolas in the region, named Puntachil. It was first recorded in 1740 and descriptions of a circular temple on top were described, although nothing remained by 1834 (Myers 1974: 319). While a series of tolas most likely were present, only Puntachil remains today and its ramp was heavily damaged and shortened during the construction of their modern cemetery.

Several potential Late Period sites were identified in the Guallaybamba Valley (the southernmost part of the Pais Caranqui) in the late 1980’s although only ceramic material from the surface was collected and analyzed (Bray 1990). Work is currently being done by PAP in Cayambe and proximal areas to identify indigenous sites dating to the Late Period, and many have been discovered and partially excavated. Currently, all these indigenous sites (except for the pucaras) have C14 dates preceding 1200 AD and thus belong to earlier cultural occupation periods. Recent survey research by PAP and Eric Dyrdahl focused specifically on finding sites from this period, with 25 potential sites documented to date. Further work and excavations will be conducted in the next two field seasons to determine ages and associations (Dyrdahl 2011) and hopefully these sites will prove to be contemporaneous, as this data could greatly enhance our knowledge of the area.

In short, while some characteristics of the Pais Caranqui cultures are known like those discussed above, the information remains fairly cultural historical in nature and many elements related to identity are currently non-existent. Data pertaining to religious practices and beliefs, ideology, dress style, funerary practices, family structure, house layouts, village layouts and more are lacking and this leaves us with an incomplete picture of these Pais Caranqui societies. Recent strides have been made to better understand the region and elements of the Late Period and eventual Inca occupation phase (Athens 1992 and 2003, Bray 1990, 1992, 1995, 2008, 2009, n/d, Cordero Ramos 1998, Connell, Gifford and Fries 2011, Gifford and Connell 2003a, 2003b, 2006, Gifford, Connell and Gonzalez n/d, Oberem 1969, Ogburn, Connell and Gifford 2009, Plaza Schuller 1976, 1977, Jijón y Caamaño 1952, Espinosa Soriano 1983, Echeverría and Uribe (1995 {edited volume}, Ramón Valarezo 1987). It is clear additional work certainly needs to be conducted here to uncover more Late Period sites so we may being to understand their similarities and differences and create a more holistic image for these societies.

Accounts of Inca life and their conquests exist, although all were written by priests and Inca descendants well after the arrival of the Spanish in 1532. While Andean scholars are fortunate to have these references to use, most scholars now realize European bias, plagiarism, re-copying of works, and publications dating nearly half a century or later after conquest have made it difficult to accept the chronicles as fact, and instead should only be used to gleam information where archaeological and other data support it.

A lengthy background of the Inca Empire will not be given here. Arising in the early 1400’s near Cuzco, Peru, the Inca quickly expanded throughout the Andes and are believed to have conquered Quito around 1460 under the reign of their 10th leader Topa Inca. His son Huayna Capac the 11th ruler continued Inca expansion north of Quito where he encountered the resistive societies of the Pais Caranqui. Accounts of these battles survive in the chronicles although there are numerous disagreements as to what actually occurred, how long it took (anywhere from 9-17 years), and who actually constructed the forts in the area (something the Proyecto Arqueológico Pambamarca has been attempting to solve).

The Inca sent gifts to entice a peaceful incorporation as was done when any new group was encountered, but the Pais Caranqui outright refused these gifts and instead physically deterred the Inca from progressing further. As Father Bernabé Cobo relates:
the Indians of those provinces were brave and warlike, and many times the troops of the Inca were defeated and routed, and not a few times the king himself fled. Cayambes, particularly, being men of valor and courage, made it difficult for the Inca Guayna Capac and his captains that in conquering them a great deal of time and blood were lost (1979: 157).
Both sides built and used pucaras (fortresses) as strongholds and during one battle the Cayambe warriors knocked the Inca king to the ground where he almost died at the hands of the enemy before being rescued by his general. The troops regrouped and eventually fought again with the Cayambe slaughter of many Incan warriors. Huayna Capac was forced to retreat back to Topebamba (an imperial center near modern day Cuenca, 500 km south of Quito) and waited for reserve troops to arrive from Cuzco. It was only with these extra troops and some trickery that the Inca were finally able to defeat the chiefdoms of the Northern sierra, sometime at the beginning of the 16th century. To rid the territory of any more uprisings, 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers were murdered and thrown in Yaguarcocha, or “Blood Lake”, located near modern day Ibarra (Cobo 1979: 157-159). Although no estimates have been made for how many other lives were lost in the 10+ year struggle, if these battles actually did occur as depicted, a large portion of these northern populations (especially males) most certainly died, either from direct combat, raiding, or combat induced wounds. The few remaining settlers in the Pais Caranqui were sent south to areas in Peru and Boliva like Copacabana, Huanuco, Cuzco and Lake Titicaca, and mitmaqkunas (resettled persons) were brought north to the Pais Caranqui to establish fields and help Inca rule in the area remain stable and prosper (Newson 1995). This resettlement process was a tactic used quite frequently throughout the Empire, as settlers who were already accepting and knowledgeable about Inca rule and life were used to establish proper communities in areas of unrest. By doing this, the Inca also effectively removed the carriers of the Pais Caranqui culture, separating them and implanting them in foreign areas, while people with new identities and ways of life took over.

Evidence of these struggles can be seen all over the North Ecuadorian countryside. Over 106 Incan pucaras have been documented here alone (Bray n/d, Plaza Schuller 1976, 1977, Hyslop 1990), not including the indigenous constructions that may have been taken over and used by the Inca (like Pukarito discussed above). The highest concentration is found in the Pambamarca Fortress Complex, a series of 14 fortresses tightly clustered within a 7km radius in the mountains between Quito and Cayambe. Excavations near entrances, walls and even in domestic spaces have produced paraphernalia consist with warfare, such as bolas, sling stones, mace heads and obsidian tools, speaking to Inca preparation for conflict.

The Inca did not spend much time and effort in the Pais Caranqui constructing other forms of monumental architecture, like the elaborate and massive imperials centers found in the southern parts of the Empire but instead focused on moving north. Archaeologists have determined the Inca approached the northern part of the Empire much differently than the southern part, using direct control and massive military efforts to subdue the region, instead of trade tactics and indirect control like elsewhere (Alconini 2008, D’Altroy 1992, 2000). They quickly expanded their roads using the previously established mindalaes trade networks to bring goods and provide access to the rain forest. Quito became a secondary capital while a massive imperial and administrative center was built in Caranqui, described by Cieza de León (1553/1959: 261). He speaks of a great stone pool, Incan palaces and houses, a sun temple and an acllahuasi (house of the chosen women) and many of these structures could be seen as late as 1692, although they had disappeared by the mid 1700’s. Recent archaeological research completed by Dr. Tamara Bray has uncovered the remains of a large bath structure, with intricate canals and the possible remains of a temple structure nearby (Bray 2011). Further research is underway here and in the Incan fortifications at Pambamarca, which will hopefully further our understanding of Inca occupation, lives and tactics in the area.
After conquering the Pais Caranqui, there were few areas left for the Inca to successfully overcome, so they pushed through Pasto territory, reaching modern day Columbia before their eventually conquest by the Spanish in 1532. Many of the historical sources we have come from chronicles written after conquest: while they do recount interesting details about the Andean world in the mid to late 1500’s and early 1600’s, variations exist and scholars now agree they should only be used with caution. Some problems frequently associated with these documents include: age, author intent and author bias, sources used, and translation errors. As noted by Tamara Bray, “the ethnohistoric record is viewed as a source of both hypotheses and potentially corroborating evidence to be used in interpreting … the region” (1990: 12-13). However, she also accurately states, “in the case of the northern highlands, not all authors had equal familiarity or firsthand experience in the region”, which should become evident shortly (Bray 1990: 20). New documents such as vistas, and other unpublished colonial holdings are also now being studied (Salomon 1986), but care should also be used with these, as they served not only as acts of “recording the state of the empire in written form” but also as ways for the Spanish to create the empire through their visits and recordings (Jamieson 2005: 219).

Several chronicle accounts were studied and their contrasting descriptions and/or lack of description about the Pais Caranqui are outlined. This paper by no means exhausted all possible references on the subject and merely shows how these chronicle accounts and other colonial documents glossed over many facets of Pais Caranqui life, making it difficult for modern researchers to identify the region, people and groups within the region and elements of these cultures. Some of the most descriptive work of Northern Ecuador comes from Pedro de Cieza de León (1553{1959}), who spent 17 years travelling throughout the Andes after conquest, writing highly detailed accounts of the environment, flora, fauna and places he visited (such as the Inca center at Caranqui). Because of this he is touted as having some of the most trustworthy and insightful references about the physical landscape of the region (Bray 1990: 20) although his discussions of the cultural facets are scant and simplistic. Cieza de León talks at length about Caranqui and Otavalo stating their people “were neither very rich, nor important, nor poor, either” (1959: 22). He mentions Cochasqui in passing, but does not examine in detail any more societies, only noting many groups lived in the area between there and Quito. Several chapters later he discusses Inca advances into the area, giving one of the most heavily detailed accounts of the resistance and various battles that took place. Here he mentions four distinct groups (Otavalo, Cayambe, Cochasqui and Pifo) and states many others joined the fight, but no more information is provided even though he knew of their existence. He did not write his work in chronological order like other authors, but instead wrote in geographic order, starting in Quito and parts north, then heading south, and interjecting important stories along the way with connections to these places. While this does situate portions of the Inca story better geographically, it makes the account appear disjointed.

When discussing Northern Ecuador, he also combines the Pais Caranqui and Pasto territory into one entity, even though they were separate and quite distinct in Pre-Incan times. This occurs frequently in other works as well since the Spanish combined Pasto and the Pais Caranqui into artificially nucleated parishes for clerical and administrative purposes (Bray 1990: 31, Salomon 1986: 48). The Spanish were unwilling to travel to settlements that could not be reached by horse and wished for all natives to live in close proximity for tax purposes. When interviewing natives and documenting their stories in some of these colonial accounts, some would refer to themselves as “so and so from X location”, but these were usually glossed over in the records, perceived as misspellings, and in some cases eliminated over time (Salomon 1986: 48). This is an important fact to consider, since many of the persons interviewed were probably mitmaqkunas brought in under Inca rule who were recounting their cultural identities and traditions.

Juan de Betanzos’ account was finished in 1557, although it was not published until 1576 and was not known by scholars until the early 1600’s, only being heavily circulated after 1847 (Betanzos 1996{1557}: xii). He was born in Spain but moved to Cuzco, marrying Huayna Capac’s niece in 1541 (who also happened to be Atahuallpa’s wife), using many stories from ‘family members’ as the backbone of his work. Similar to other works that used Inca sources, his composition is more chronological in nature outlining the history of the Empire and the lineage of the Inca kings. This account provides information and details regarding Huayna Capac and his son, Atahualpa, but no mention is made of any societies in the northern region, simply referring to it as the province of Yaguarcocha. Scholars turn to his work for the descriptive accounts regarding Inca rites, lineage, and the civil war after Huayna Capac’s passing, but information regarding areas outside Cuzco is limited. Many Cuzco natives (and therefore many of those interviewed for these chronicles) had most likely never travelled far outside the Inca heartland, which is why these accounts tend to be incredibly detailed for areas around the heartland, but are severely lacking on facts for the border regions of the Empire.

Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa served as a Spanish Captain during conquest and completed his work around 1570. He again writes in chronological order, calling all land north of Quito Pasto territory and referring to them as the Quitos (who occupied the Valley of Quito), Cayambis, Carangues, Pastos and Huancavilcas (who were located closer to the coast) (2007: 140). He then only refers to the Cayambe polity through-out the rest of his account, randomly inserting accounts of costal seaports (Tumbez), and greatly confusing the geography of Ecuador.

Father Bernabé Cobo wrote some of the most well known and detailed books about the Inca, focusing one on their customs and origins, with another dedicated solely to their religious practices, something only slightly mentioned in the other works discussed. However, he did not study the Inca until the early 1600’s and did not even publish his work until 1653, over a century after the Spanish and Incan worlds collided. He also took much of his work from Jose de Acosta’s 1590 piece and Garcilaso de la Vega’s 1609 work (discussed below) among others, claiming to interview Inca natives in Cuzco around 1610 as well. In general, his accounts of the practices of the Inca are incredibly comprehensive and he describes in great detail the struggle of Huayna Capac in Northern Ecuador, agreeing with many details set out by the others. He follows Gamboa’s piece, heavily referring to the Cayambe people and only noting the Caranqui polity, speaking of no one else (1653{1979}: 157-160).

Garcilaso de la Vega has one of the thickest published accounts (1609) and one of the few from a more Incan perspective. He was not born in Cuzco until seven years after conquest, with an Incan princess as a mother and a conquistador father. In 1560 he travelled to Spain where he spent the rest of his life, writing down stories his relatives had told him as a child. His accounts take on a somewhat fanciful approach putting great detail into small stories (like describing at length the smell and awful demeanor of the King of Quito, and including several passages quoting speeches and conversations) and glossing over areas that could be more detailed. When speaking about the area north of Quito, he introduces a new group (the Quillacencas), who lived in Pasto territory. He does mention the Pasto, Otavalo, and Caranqui groups by name, although a) he does so in reverse geographic order, stating Pasto country was conquered first, and then the Inca moved south, b) his accounts possess extremely limited information about these groups and c) he breaks up the campaign in the north, talking about the initial conquest in book eight and referring to a later uprising and further conquering of the area in book nine.

Juan de Velasco’s late 18th century work was usually hailed as the most descriptive concerning any pre-Inca empires in Quito. However, deeper readings of his work and correlations with other sources showed several references and toponyms used (such as the term Cara for the Northern region) had no antecedents or other ties (Salomon 1986, Athens 1992). Miguel de Cabello also spent much of his life in Quito and although his chronicle is usually ignored by most early scholars because it describes similar events to the more well known chronicles, his accounts of Quito and Ecuador are much more detailed than the others, mentioning the Caranqui forces as fighting against the Inca, and even noting names of captains and locations in the area (Salomon 1986: 145).

Other chronicles and documents certainly exist, especially in unpublished manuscript form and/or other works in reserve holdings in Ecuador such as Lope de Atienza (1571{1931}), and Jimenez de la Espada (1965) (Bray 1990: 20). As aforementioned, this paper by no means claims to have reviewed them all. New works continue to be found, like the recently discovered writings of Fernando de Montesinos (1644), synthesized by Sabine Hyland (2010) and discussed by Frank Salomon (2011). This manuscript presents a much different and informative picture about Northern Ecuador than seen in previous accounts, and it is believed the author was either of indigenous descent, or was heavily informed by indigenous people. Many of the description of Ecuadorian cultures, especially those in the highlands, match well with the data archaeologists and ethno historians have complied thus far (Salomon 2011), and new ideas are brought forth, such as the existence of a Caranqui Queen and her attempted relationship with the Inca King Huayna Capac (Hyland 2010: 68). Since this publication is still extremely new, it has not been heavily read or discussed in Andean circles yet, but certainly provides an interesting area of study and an avenue for new discourse.

As seen above, many authors were not always familiar nor probably very interested in Northern Ecuador, as their accounts focused more heavily on the Incan heartland around Cuzco and details of the Spanish conquest. When the Pais Caranqui was occasionally discussed, it was usually only in minimal detail and many of its powerful societies were left out of the accounts completely, or were combined with nearby groups greatly undermining their own importance and cultural aspects. In the centuries after conquest, interest in documenting the colonial societies became important, and by then so many changes had been made to these societies, a truly accurate account of these groups and their histories were never fully obtained. These convoluted reports have greatly confused many aspects of the area and although archaeologists and other researchers have made some progress wading through the various references to the region, a somewhat muddled picture still remains.

While identity issues remain a large part of archaeological research today, many times it is not always easy to piece together or even recover elements associated with identity. This paper has attempted to show how a series of drastic events greatly distorted the images and ancient lives of many North Ecuadorian societies, making identity studies at the moment almost impossible. While the region should be remembered and respected for its impressive prehispanic cultures, their unique tolas and pucaras, their extensive trade networks and other remarkable features, only general descriptions currently exist. Researchers have made strides uncovering more information about these Late Period societies, but as noted, data related to the big aspects such as religion, ideology, gender, agency and identity are missing. Since many of these societies also shared similar socio-political traits and architectural styles, distinct identities and identifying factors for each of the major groups in the Pais Caranqui have not yet been untangled. Several societies probably did share elements like those noted above, but we cannot discount the fact many most likely also possessed unique features yet to be uncovered.

Subsequently, we add a heavily prolonged and fierce resistance of the Pais Caranqui societies against the Inca, which drastically altered life and removed many cultural elements. The loss of tens of thousands of inhabitants, combined with their resettlement to new areas, new settlers being brought In and Inca rule, would all change the cultural landscape of this region. However, since the Inca did not occupy the area long before the arrival of the Spanish, only some of their changes are believed to have taken effect, with certain areas embracing Incan traits and culture, and others clinging to their own markers. This would provide a perplexing picture for many entering the area, as so many identities and cultural features were conflicting with one another in the same region.

On top of all this, the arrival of the Spanish and eventually resettlement of communities and towns according to their own agendas greatly altered many of these groups and twisted their identities. Historical accounts were created but as seen, these did not (and still do not) provide in depth nor completely accurate pictures of the Pais Caranqui. For centuries then, accounts of the region remained indistinct and even as late as the middle of 20th century some authors would acknowledge certain polities and their importance in defining the region while others would use a completely different set. It has only been fairly recently that many of these terms and phrases were accepted or debunked, and information for the Pais Caranqui was synthesized into a singular established narrative. Research has provided the building blocks for understanding the region as seen above and it will only be through future work that more information will come to light. Hopefully then we may be able to better recreate the lives and individual identities of these indigenous peoples after they have spent so long being decimated, confused and partially erased.


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Chapter 9

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