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Ritual and Remembrance in the Ecuadorian Andes

By Rachel Corr

Publication Year: 2010

Not every world culture that has battled colonization has suffered or died. In the Ecuadorian Andean parish of Salasaca, the indigenous culture has stayed true to itself and its surroundings for centuries while adapting to each new situation. Today, indigenous Salascans continue to devote a large part of their lives to their distinctive practices—both community rituals and individual behaviors—while living side by side with white-mestizo culture.

In this book Rachel Corr provides a knowledgeable account of the Salasacan religion and rituals and their respective histories. Based on eighteen years of fieldwork in Salasaca, as well as extensive research in Church archives—including never-before-published documents—Corr’s book illuminates how Salasacan culture adapted to Catholic traditions and recentered, reinterpreted, and even reshaped them to serve similarly motivated Salasacan practices, demonstrating the link between formal and folk Catholicism and pre-Columbian beliefs and practices. Corr also explores the intense connection between the local Salasacan rituals and the mountain landscapes around them, from peak to valley.

Ritual and Remembrance in the Ecuadorian Andes is, in its portrayal of Salasacan religious culture, both thorough and all-encompassing. Sections of the book cover everything from the performance of death rituals to stories about Amazonia as Salasacans interacted with outsiders—conquistadors and camera-toting tourists alike. Corr also investigates the role of shamanism in modern Salasacan culture, including shamanic powers and mountain spirits, and the use of reshaped, Andeanized Catholicism to sustain collective memory. Through its unique insider’s perspective of Salasacan spirituality, Ritual and Remembrance in the Ecuadorian Andes is a valuable anthropological work that honestly represents this people’s great ability to adapt.

Check out an interview with the author here!

Published by: University of Arizona Press

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

Ritual and Remembrance in the Ecuadorian Andes is a study of how the indigenous people of Salasaca have shaped and continue to shape their religion through ritual practices tied to the sacred landscape. I focus on two related aspects of Salasacan rituals: how Salasacans re-centered Catholic rituals to serve as mediums for sustaining indigenous cultural memory, and how people continuously re-create their religion through individual ...

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1. The Salasaca Runa

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pp. 1-21

In the memory of the young seminarian who would become bishop, he and other church ministers who happened to be in Salasaca at the time of the 1949 earthquake prayed in the plaza. In the wake of this frightening tragedy, the plaza, which marks the religious and civic center of Hispanic town layouts, was the locus of Catholic prayer. In the memories of an ...

Part I: Collective Rituals and Memory

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2. The Catechist and the Quishuar Tree: Religious Transculturation in the Andean Contact Zone

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pp. 25-39

Indigenous culture today is the result of cultural encounters and historical processes, but the trajectory of those processes must be understood locally. In this chapter I show how the colonial religious projects of Spain and the indoctrination policies of the Catholic Church after independence affected indigenous society at the local level. The official instructions regarding sacraments, preaching, extirpation of idolatries, and ...

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3. Textual Strategies and Ritual Control in Early Twentieth-Century Salasaca

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pp. 40-53

The fiesta sponsorship system is a quintessential example of a colonial imposition that was transformed into a symbol of indigenous cultural identity. By the early twentieth century, indigenous men were vying for the priests’ favor in order to be named as festival sponsors. I focus here on specific interactions between indigenous Salasacans and the Catholic clergy from 1908 to 1914. Letters and telegrams, which are among the ...

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4. Prayer and Placemaking in the Andes: Staffholders and Cultural Memory

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pp. 54-78

In chapter 3 I discussed the continued development of the institution of festival sponsorship in the early twentieth century. The focus of this chapter is how fiesta sponsors use Catholic feast-day celebrations to sustain cultural memory through two types of performance: one is recitation of old prayers and Quichua oratory; the other is movement along ritual pathways. There ...

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5. Life Lessons at a Time of Death

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pp. 79-103

August 1, 2002: I was standing outside the International Arrivals area at the airport in Quito, after a brief visit to the United States. I was waiting for Anita to meet me there, and we would ride the bus back to Salasaca together. She should have been easy to spot, as the Salasacan clothing is distinctive. After waiting for some time, I finally found Anita’s two daughters, with their grandfather and two aunts, who both carried their babies ...

Part II: Individual Acts and Personal Narratives

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6. Tales of Amazonia: Personal Narratives of Healing by Yumbos

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pp. 107-116

Salasaca, July 4, 2002, 10:30 a.m. radio broadcast. The announcer this morning informed people that in the city of Riobamba were two shamans from the Amazonian Napo Province: “two shamans [chamanes] from the Association of Shamans of Napo Province will be attending to people. They are M. Shuango and Juan Vargas, cousin of the presidential ...

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7. Shamanism

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pp. 117-140

In 1885 Salasaca was an annex of the parish of Pelileo. The archbishop’s delegation would periodically make inspections, called visitas, of parishes throughout Ecuador and record the state of affairs of each parish, and the archbishop’s recommendations for it, in the “Autos de visitas pastorales.” During the inspection of the parish of Pelileo in 1885, the archbishop of Quito, José Ignacio Ordoñez, noted a problem with ...

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8. Narrating the Sacred Landscape: Religious Ethnographies of the Particular

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pp. 141-164

... I remember it like this. There in Quinchi Urcu, when it hadn’t rained for a while, they held a fiesta. The people went carrying water in puños and in pondos [types of ceramic vessels] to pour it there, so that it would rain. We poured it in the achupalla plants on Quinchi Urcu. There had just been sun, day after day. The old ones said, “Let’s go! It hasn’t rained. Let’s all go to pour water in the achupalla. It’s just been ...


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pp. 165-168

References Cited

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pp. 169-182


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pp. 183-184

E-ISBN-13: 9780816501113
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816528301

Publication Year: 2010