By Sarah Lander
Identity in Ecuador is a complex concept. Although Ecuador is relatively homogenous regarding religious views and values, there are several different layers of Ecuadorian identity held by its diverse population. In the past, Ecuador’s population has grasped at a common identity, however with a movement towards inclusivity of its Indigenous population and other smaller groups, this can no longer be held as legitimate. There has been an overall shift away from embedded colonial ties, which embraces cultures and practices that were held before Ecuador’s encounters with colonialism. Identity in general is a concept which is often difficult to grasp or define, as it can mean different things to everyone. In Ecuador, there are several understandings of what constitutes an Ecuadorian national identity.
National identity as a concept is blurry and open to interpretation and personal perception. Historically speaking in a global context, it has been both a point of tension and a tool for togetherness for many nations. It can reflect the common values and pride of the people within a nation’s borders, but there is a potential for it to be divisive for lack of a common collective understanding of what it means, in this case, to be Ecuadorian. As with any colonized nation, Ecuador has struggled to embrace a national identity due to its encounters with colonizers and further encounters with an increasingly globalized world.
Indigenous populations in Ecuador have long struggled with having their indigenous identity represented in an overall Ecuadorian context. In a national attempt to unify and homogenize Ecuadorian identity, many indigenous populations were left out of the equation. In recent years though, there has been a shift to include indigenous cultures and identities in an overall Ecuadorian national identity after many peaceful protests and movements from the indigenous peoples. With this shift, Ecuador has embraced more of a multi-layered national identity which seeks to encompass all those living within its borders.
Mestizos, or mestizaje is a term used across Latin America and it can be defined as “a mixed race” identity. In Ecuador, the mestizo identifying population are a mix of indigenous and European background. Approximately ~70% of Ecuadorians identify as mestizo; however, it is important not to discredit the other mixed identities in the nation such as Afro-Latinos and more. In 1895, Mestizos were declared the heart of Ecuadorian national identity moving forward. Although a majority of Ecuador today can be defined as mixed race, there still exists certain racial and ethnic hierarchies within the society at large, making a national identity difficult to grasp at.
Music, language, religion, culture and other factors keep Ecuadorians different, but also somewhat unified. There is not one single national identity for Ecuadorian’s, but there is a common acceptance of one another’s various identities.
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Huarcaya, Sergio Miguel. “Imagining Ecuadorians: Historicizing National Identity in Twentieth-Century Otavalo, Ecuador”. Latin American Research Review. 2014. 49:3. 64-84.
Segreda, Rick. “A Brief History of the Mestizo in Ecuador” Culture Trip. 2017. Web. https://theculturetrip.com/south-america/ecuador/articles/a-brief-history-of-the-mestizo-in-ecuador/