With her bubble gum pink shall, bowler hat, long anako skirt, and shoes that garishly advertises Jesus as he savior, she stands defiantly on the side of the road. She is fourteen-year-old indigenous girl of Guamote. As her parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents do, she speaks Kichwa. Unlike her relatives, however, she also knows Spanish. She attends a bilingual school, where classes are taught in both languages. The young girl wears a rainbow bracelet demonstrating her support of the indigenous political party. Proud of her heritage, she unashamedly declares herself indígena.
But does she know where these components of her culture originated? Does she know the inception of these traditions? I wonder if she knows Spanish conquistadors mandated the dress she wears in the 1500s. I can’t help but question if she knows the religion she feels so passionately about was forced upon her ancestors. Does she realize that she speaks Kichwa because the Spanish required that the indigenous adopt it as to more easily spread Christianity? Had the Spanish not colonized Ecuador, wouldn’t she have an entirely different sent of customs?
If history been written differently, she might be wearing a wrap around dress as her ancestors did. She might have never heard of Jesus, and revered only the Pachamama. Instead of Kichwa, she might speak one of the hundred pre-Inca languages. Maybe she wouldn’t use “mande” (which literally means order me) instead of “cómo” to ask “what?” Is it recognizing defeat to not only have adopted, but also taken pride in these customs that have their origins in repression?
I guess I am in no position to say one way or the other. I suppose all customs are a reflection of our pasts, whether that past is ugly or ideal. The reality is history was written in a permanent marker. The indigenous have evolved according to the harsh condition of their past, and instead of trying to erase what happened, they have made these truths their own. Traces of their ancestry linger in their lives, and it is this hybrid of cultures that is distinctly theirs to call their own, to celebrate, and to unapologetically take pride in.