The unique Quichua culture is as a result of their wanderings south along the ridges and valleys of the Andes and East into the rain forest of the Amazon. Other pouints worth noting are the following:
- they were the earliest conquered peoples of the Incas
- The Inca Empire spoke the same Quichua language
- Spanish colonization resulted in their level falling drastically
- November 16, 1532 The Inca Emperor Atahualpa was captured by Francisco Pizarro a main event of our history but more of that event later.
- Consequently, further Spanish expansion resulted and the diseases they brought greatly wiped out indigenous populations having no immunity to these diseases
- Ethnic Quichua from the speakers of Quichua. There is a distinction . The speakers total about 10 million. Many speakers of what are now dead languages adopted Quichua.
- Some have suggested that there are more speakers now than when the spanish first arrived.
- The Quichua were pre literate and recorded events by tying knots on ropes. From early on,they intermarried with the Spanish to have a separate ethnic group of Mestizos.
- Remote communities would be where to venture to locate pure blood Quichua.
- Roman Catholicism is widespread existing alongside pagan and animist tradition.
- The Latacunga festival of the Virgin attests to this religious plurality of coexistence.
With a population around 2.5 million, the Quichua groups of South American
Indians are the largest of any American Indian group in the World today.
Aymara-Quechuan languages (of which the Quichua speak many dialects) are
collectively the most widely spoken of all indigenous languages in South
America. The Quichua are also the only people to have migrated both south along
the ridges and valleys of the Andes mountains and east into the rainforest of
the Amazon Basin. This early divergence in their migration paths has created
distinct mountain- and jungle-Quichua identity and culture.
The Quichua were
among the earliest peoples to be conquered by the Inca empire. Ironically, the
Inca empire itself consisted mainly of people who spoke the same Quichua
language! It wasn't until Spanish colonization, though, that their population
level fell drastically. One of the most important dates in history is associated
with this decline. November 16, 1532 marked the capture of the Inca Emperor,
Atahuallpa, by the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro. This blow to the
Incas was the single biggest factor in allowing further Spanish expansion in the
region, bringing with them the diseases that would eventually wipe out millions
of native peoples.
Today we must distinguish ethnic Quichua from speakers of
Quichua. The latter total somewhere around 10 million, since many speakers of
what are now dead languages later adopted Quichua as their language. Numbers are
impossible to confirm, but some have suggested that there are more
Aymara-Quechuan speakers in South America today than when the Spanish first arrived.
has, over the past five hundred years or so, created interesting mixtures in
Quichua culture. Before the Spanish arrived, the Quichua were pre-literate -
having no true writing system. However, they developed an interesting way of
recording events by tying knots in cord. Inter-marriage with the Spanish was
practiced from the early days, creating "Mestizos" who are virtually counted as
a separate ethnic group! One has to venture into remote communities these days
to find majority "pure-blood" Quichua. While Roman Catholicism is today
widespread following the efforts of (mainly Spanish) missionaries, pagan and
Animist tradition happily co-exists alongside it.
For example, some of the
photographs on this page were taken at the annual two-day La Virgen de las
Mercedes festival (known locally as the Fiesta de la Mamá Negra) in Latacunga,
Ecuador. Officially a Roman Catholic religious celebration, as you would
expect, local alcohol bars are closed on the first night of the
festival. The second day begins with a traditional mass; it is easy to believe
you are in Rome itself. Immediately after mass, a statue of the Holy Virgin is
carried through the streets. Locals throw garlands at the statue in hopes of
receiving blessing and good favor. Then, just as the day before, cross-gender
dressing and masked-costume street dancing form the bulk of the activities. The
public parade of sacrificed, butchered pigs, adorned with other dead animals as
well as packets of cigarettes and bottles of wine and liquor are also to be
seen. Men wear these ritual, pagan offerings to the spirits like a backpack as
they accompany the dancers and musicians through the streets. I know of no
official comment on this "Roman Catholic" festival from The Vatican, but it
surely must not approve!