Class and Ethnicity in Rural Movements in Cayambe, Ecuador
Department of History
University of Kansas
Prepared for delivery at the 1997 meeting of the Latin American Studies Association, Continental Plaza Hotel, Guadalajara, México, April 17-19, 1997.
Draft--please do not cite without author's permission.
This congress in Quito was the first time in Ecuador's history that an urban movement confronted rural issues in a significant and systematic manner. More importantly, this event illustrates the relationship which urban leftists and rural workers enjoyed in Ecuador. The paternalism which the left is often accused of having toward Indigenous groups in Latin America was absent at this encounter, nor does it betray a dependency of Indians upon urban intellectuals. Rather, it represents a peer relationship in which the two groups struggled together to achieve common goals.
This event also elucidates attitudes toward class consciousness and ethnic identity among Indigenous groups in Ecuador. Indigenous participation in the founding of the Ecuadorian Socialist Party represents the beginning of a profound structural analysis of Ecuadorian society. Gualavisí and other Indigenous leaders from Cayambe understood that in order to end the oppression and discrimination which they faced, they would need to effect radical changes in society. They needed allies to achieve this goal, and they found such allies among the members of the Socialist Party.
These Indian leaders, however, did not embrace a class analysis of society to the exclusion of their ethnic identity as Indigenous peoples. Rather, Gualavisí and others emerged out of and continued to work with local grassroots Indigenous organizations. Furthermore, their actions demonstrate a significant change in the nature of Indigenous organizing efforts in Ecuador. Gualavisí's presence at the founding of Ecuador's first socialist party represents the beginnings of Indigenous peasants turning away from looking for local solutions to what were essentially global structural problems. Economic and social relations on the large landed estates called "haciendas" where Indians worked were integrally tied into the broader capitalistic world system. An analysis of their organizing strategies and demands reveals a deep understanding of the political nature of the Ecuadorian state and the changes which would be necessary in order to improve their situation in society. This turn in organizational actions in Cayambe in the 1920s and 1930s from a local to a global analysis represents the birth of Ecuador's modern Indian movement.
Of all the political forces in Ecuador, the Ecuadorian Socialist Party was the most aggressive in their efforts to incorporate Indigenous demands into their political platforms and party positions. Notably, the PSE was the first party in Ecuador to attempt to organize the Indian masses as a political force. Its founding statutes decreed that two of the forty-eight members of its party congress should represent Indigenous concerns or communities.(2) These were "functional representatives," which meant that the delegates themselves did not need to be Indians, but only needed to represent those concerns. This was a radical departure, however, from the actions of other political parties. Traditionally, electoral politics were the domain of white, literate, landed male elites, thereby excluding the vast majority of Ecuador's population.
Robert Alexander believed that the Ecuadorian Socialist Party's position in favor of Indigenous demands was "due more to the personal interest of the Party's founder, Dr. Ricardo Paredes, than to any conscious policy of the Party."(3) Many of Paredes' contemporaries voiced high praise for his abilities and described him as a "pure, honest, unavoidable revolutionary."(4) In addition to his efforts at organizing the rural masses, Paredes was involved in electoral politics. Voting, for the most part, however, excluded the Indigenous masses. Despite this situation, Paredes presented himself as the "candidate of the workers, peasants, Indians, and soldiers." He promised bread, work, land, and liberty for the people.(5) Significantly, agrarian reform headed their list of demands and was to continue to be the principal goal of Indigenous organizations for the remainder of the twentieth century. There was a good deal of confluence between leftist demands and those which Indigenous organizations presented. The two forces were to become natural allies in a unified struggle against the Ecuadorian oligarchy.
Early peasant organizations in Cayambe
Since the 1920s, various leftist leaders and organizations attempted to provide an organizational structure which would motivate Ecuador's large rural population to engage in social revolutionary actions. The earliest peasant movements emerged with the support of the Socialist (and later Communist) Party. Many of these peasant sindicatos (syndicates, or peasant unions) organized in rural communities where the majority of the population was Indigenous, and many of these efforts were based in the canton of Cayambe in the northern Ecuadorian highlands. Although the support of sympathetic outsiders was critical to Indigenous success, the leaders and issues were authentic and home grown. The demands of these organizations often revolved around issues of better salaries and work conditions (which included having the hacienda owner provide tools and work clothes), housing, an end to abusive treatment from hacienda overlords, and respect for their organizing efforts. Far from the stereotype of peasants as isolated and conservative, Indigenous organizations emerged in Cayambe in the 1920s which were aware of and maintained contact with broader social movements. This contact with the left became a defining characteristic of Indigenous organizations in Cayambe.
The first rural organization in Cayambe (and, indeed, in all of Ecuador) emerged in 1926 in the parroquia (parish) of Juan Montalvo just south of the city of Cayambe. The organization was the Sindicato de Trabajadores Campesinos de Juan Montalvo (Peasant Workers Syndicate of Juan Montalvo) which Jesús Gualavisí represented at the founding of the Socialist Party. This organization sought to defend peasant lands, raise salaries, lower the number of tasks and the number of work hours, end non-paid work requirements, demand better treatment and the suppression of abuses from hacienda owners and their overlords.(6) Gualavisí, who was born in 1867 on the Changalá hacienda in this parish, was the primary leader of these early efforts. He served as the secretary-general of this syndicate from its founding until his death in 1962. He was also instrumental in the subsequent formation of peasant syndicates on haciendas in the northern parish of Olmedo in the late 1920s and 1930s. For his actions in this struggle, he became known as a caudillo (leader) of the Indigenous peoples of Cayambe.(7)
The immediate context for the formation of this organization was land conflicts on the Changalá hacienda. Changalá had a history of abuses against its Indigenous workforce. The Indigenous peoples and other inhabitants of Cayambe presented legal claims that the hacienda had taken over lands for which they had historic title. When the owner Gabriel García Alcázar ignored these petitions, Gualavisí led an occupation of the disputed land. García Alcázar called on the government to protect what he claimed as his property from communist and bolshevik attacks.(8) This struggle exploded into a violent conflict in February of 1926 when the Pichincha and Carchi army battalions from Quito and Ibarra arrived to repress these land demands. The sight of seventy soldiers with machine guns facing a large group of unarmed peasants led one editorialist to caution against the threat of bloodshed comparable to the November 15, 1922 massacre of workers in Guayaquil.(9) The repression did not end the struggle, and the following November a newspaper reported that a group attacked the police at Changalá shouting "long live socialism."(10)
Despite leftist support for the land struggle in Cayambe, these local organizations were not a direct outgrowth of the Socialist or Communist parties. The peasant syndicate in Juan Montalvo predated the formation of the Socialist Party in May of 1926 by several months. Rather than emerging out of urban Marxist parties, Indigenous organizations developed simultaneously and out of the same economic situation as the political parties. In an article published in the party newspaper twenty-five years later, the Communist Party appears fully cognizant that Indian organizing efforts in Cayambe predated the founding of the PSE. In fact, these Indian uprisings in Cayambe may have given birth to the PSE.(11) This helped set the stage for what would be a long and congenial struggle of urban leftists and rural Indians united for common goals.
Jesús Gualavisí played an important role in this process. He was both one of the earliest and most important Indigenous leaders in Ecuador and an important communist leader and organizer. He had his political grounding as a Communist and was the first Ecuadorian Indian to become militantly involved in a Marxist party. Gualavisí, however, was more than a token member of the party. He actively participated in discussions, particularly when they related to issues of land or the Indigenous population. For example, at the founding of the PSE, Gualavisí proposed that the party create an office to defend the interests of peasants and workers. The delegates voted on and accepted the proposal.(12) According to Oswaldo Albornoz, Gualavisí understood the exploitation of Indigenous masses because of his communist orientation, which he saw as a way to combat those injustices.
Gualavisí was deeply involved in the Communist Party, but he never lost his ethnic identity. He dedicated his entire life to the struggle for Indigenous rights in Cayambe and throughout Ecuador. He also understood that it was the communists who could give organizational expression on a national level to the Indigenous peoples' demands. Albornoz claimed that "this new form of organization, until then unknown by the Indians, gave strength and cohesion to their struggles." In addition, it introduced "the strike as a powerful battle arm which will never be abandoned and from the beginning demonstrated its great effectiveness." In combining "the peasant movement with the working class, it forged their alliance and gave a greater guarantee of victory." Albornoz contended that it was the Marxists in Ecuador who first recognized the need "to organize our Indians so that they could obtain their legitimate aspirations." These Communists were "the first to raise their consciousness and show them the path which they could take to victory."(13)
Hiding in caves, creek beds, and under cover of night, Indian workers formed some of the first peasant unions in Cayambe: El Inca (The Inka) in Pesillo, followed in the next several years by Tierra Libre (Free Land) in Moyurco, and Pan y Tierra (Bread and Land) in La Chimba. The primary issues which these organizations addressed were land rights, access to water and pasture, salaries, education, and the ending of abuses.(14) Other than their names and the approximate dates when they were founded, little is known about these early organizations. Beginning in May of 1930, Socialists began meeting furtively with Indians in their huts. The workers on the haciendas turned to the Socialist Party and its leaders including Ricardo Paredes, Rubén Rodríguez, and Luis F. Chávez in order to help them organize and present their demands. That August, Carlos Torres and Gustavo Araujo, two Socialist activists, were on the Pesillo and La Chimba haciendas helping organize agricultural syndicates.
Augusto Egas, the director of the Junta Central de Asistencia Pública (JCAP), the governmental agency which administered state-owned land, claimed the urban leftists were stirring up trouble with the seditious intent of organizing a revolt and generally sowing rebellion. Various Indians were preparing a general strike at La Chimba for September 1, and the insurrection threatened to spread to Pesillo by September 4. The strike was a response to the imprisonment of two members of the peasant syndicate who had been detained because of their organizing activities. It was harvest time, and the police intervened to protect the interests of the haciendas' renters. Throughout the second half of 1930, reports from Cayambe indicate an increased pace of rural organization on the haciendas. Egas felt threatened by these organizational efforts, which he considered a Bolshevik attempt to disrupt the social order of the country. Although he was aware that the workers and peasants had a constitutional right to form syndicates, he resolved not to allow them to utilize this organizational form as a basis for a social revolution.(15)
Socialist activists played an important role in support of these early organizational efforts. The Socialist Party announced on August 21 the formation in Quito of an organization called the Socorro Obrero y Campesino (Worker and Peasant Help) which was designed "to help with the demands of workers and peasants in their conflicts with capitalists, landlords, and authorities."(16) The first action in which this organization engaged was to free the imprisoned members of the agrarian workers' syndicate El Inca at Pesillo, as well as members of the Juventud Comunista (Communist Youth) who had gone to help them with organizational efforts. In addition, the socialist senator Luis Maldonado spoke in the National Congress on behalf of the workers in Cayambe, and the Socialist Party collected money for the imprisoned workers which it sent to Cayambe along with a party member to help out with the situation. The Socialist Party newspaper La Hoz claimed success for its new support organization, as the rapid and efficient mobilization of resources led to the release of the imprisoned activists.(17)
Later the Communist Party would proudly proclaim that they had been the only ones to come to the defense of the Indians. They supported the demands of workers on haciendas, members of Indigenous communities, and Indian tribes. Communists defended Indigenous interests in the national press, accompanied Indians when they presented accusations to the authorities, helped Indians with their organizations, defended workers against the abuses of landlords and their employees, and assisted in the formation of schools and literacy campaigns.(18) These claims were not entirely overstated; during a period in which many elites maintained deeply held racist sentiments toward Indigenous peoples, communists comprised a rare group willing to defend their interests. This supportive role was to become critical in defining the nature of Indigenous organizations in Cayambe and throughout Ecuador.
Landholder reports indicate that although the socialist activists on the haciendas were "outside agitators," they did not remain in Quito removed from the local struggles manipulating events at a distance. Rather, they worked hand-in-hand with workers on the haciendas to develop organizational structures and often suffered the same threats of police action and imprisonment as the Indigenous activists. It appears, furthermore, that the hacienda workers appreciated the support which the socialists lent to their local struggles. The workers called them compañeros, a term which roughly translates "companions" and has connotations of being joined together in a common political struggle. Far from the stereotype of socialists being elite, urban mestizo intellectuals with little understanding of the Indigenous reality, the leftists who became involved in Indigenous struggles in Cayambe in the 1920s and 1930s treated the Indians as equals as they fought for a common goal.
On December 30, 1930, the Jefe Político (the local governmental official) of Cayambe sent a telegram to the Minister of Government in Quito noting that the Indians of Pesillo had revolted. No one was working, and some of the Indians had fled the hacienda. A similar situation existed in the neighboring hacienda of Moyurco. The Jefe Político noted that the leaders had not been found or detained, but he urged the government to take immediate action to contain the situation. Augusto Egas, the director of the Asistencia Pública program, denounced the presence of propagandists and Bolshevik instigators who he believed were imposing communist and other foreign ideologies and manipulating the Indians into attacking the haciendas. The Indians assaulted the main hacienda house, and the hacienda's employees had to flee, and, according to Egas, even local governmental officials had to hide. Responding to requests from Egas, the haciendas' renters, and the local officials, the government sent in 150 soldiers (fifty each for the Moyurco, Pesillo, and La Chimba haciendas) with bloodhounds to arrest and torture the leaders, destroy their houses, and protect the interests of the landlords. Five leaders were captured and put on the train to Quito where they would be under investigation for rebellion.(19)
According to a newspaper article in the Quito daily paper El Día, the immediate cause for the uprising was the presence of the army squadron Yaguachi in the area. There were, however, much deeper underlying causes for the work stoppage. The workers who had gone on strike presented a list of seventeen demands. In general, the demands revolved around issues of raising salaries, a forty-hour work week, returning land to those workers from which they had been taken, ending the Church's abusive practice of charging diezmos (tithes, or a tenth of the agricultural production) and primicias (first fruits), paying women for their labor, and ending the huasicama practice of demanding personal service in the landlord's house.(20) All of these issues concerned economic conditions and the Indian workers' relation to social structures on the haciendas.
It is interesting to note that agrarian reform was not included in this list of demands. According to Egas, in organizing the peasant syndicates the previous year, the Socialists had been offering land titles to the Indians and filling their heads with the idea that the land was rightfully their property.(21) Apparently it was outside the realm of possibility for the workers to conceive of the idea that they could own the means of production on the haciendas. It was only later through the influence of the Communist Party that this issue was even raised and became a common demand. It speaks volumes to the nature of their identity that they had so internalized a proletarian-type of identity that land was not a major issue. When land later became an issue, the desire was not to have individualized plots but rather to administer the hacienda as a cooperative or in some other type of communal organization.
Significantly, none of these seventeen demands explicitly addressed ethnic issues. There is no call for an end to racial discrimination, no demand to have Ecuador's ethnic diversity affirmed, or to extend the franchise to Indigenous peoples. Nevertheless, although it is not explicitly spelled out, an ethnic ideology underlies the entire list. Through concrete demands, Indigenous peoples sought to define a space for themselves in Ecuadorian society. In essence, they were claiming citizenship rights. In addition, this list of demands indicates the racialized nature of the class structure on the haciendas. The owners were white, absentee landlords who lived in Quito. The workers who did all of the work on the hacienda were Indigenous. Between these two groups, there was a group of mid-level managers who implemented the landlords' instructions on the hacienda. These managers (mayordomos) were usually mestizos or cholos who were in a process of moving from the Indigenous world to a white one. Indian workers particularly despised them, and they had a reputation for being heavy handed in their dealings with the hacienda workers. Indigenous demands often included protests of the abuse that they received at the hands of these managers. At the same time, hacienda owners looked down on these managers as being below them in class standing, but also relied on them to implement and represent their interests on the hacienda.
Throughout this entire process, the Indians in Cayambe enjoyed significant support from urban leftists. A lawyer named Dr. Juan Genaro Jaramillo accompanied a group of Indians from Moyurco who came to the Asistencia Pública offices on December 31, 1930, to protest the arrest of their companions at the beginning of the uprising. The following day, Jaramillo returned with Indians from Pesillo, who also presented demands for higher salaries and better work conditions. Urban leftists also helped the Indians present the list of demands which were published in the January 6, 1931, edition of the El Día newspaper. Later, Ricardo Paredes was present during negotiations with the landlords to settle the strike.(22)
On January 7, 1931, José Delgado and Julio Miguel Páez, the renters of the Pesillo and Moyurco haciendas, reached a settlement with their workers. The Ministry of Government together with Alberto Batallas, the Labor Commissioner, arranged an agreement in which Delgado and Páez would respect an eight-hour work day, give the workers one day of rest a week, pay for the work which the workers' wives and children did on the hacienda, abolish the custom of forcing the Indians to provide personal services for the haciendas' employees, and not to fire workers except for reasons of bad conduct or insubordination. After signing the agreement, the workers on the Pesillo and Moyurco haciendas as well as on the neighboring La Chimba hacienda returned to work.(23)
Primer Congreso de Organizaciones Campesinas (1931)
Immediately on the heels of the strike at Pesillo and before all the issues in this conflict could be settled, Indigenous leaders organized the Primer Congreso de Organizaciones Campesinas (First Congress of Peasant Organizations) in Cayambe. The congress was planned to be held for three and a half days at the beginning of February 1931 in the parish of Juan Montalvo. Despite the timing, the conference was not an immediate outgrowth of the strike at Pesillo. An article in the Socialist Party newspaper La Hoz in December of the previous year (before the strike began) noted the plans in progress for this conference. It is significant, however, that the congress was planned to be held in Cayambe. Organizations in Cayambe were providing a vanguard leadership and example for the nascent rural protest movement in Ecuador. Peasant organizations in Cayambe including one in Juan Montalvo and El Inca and Tierra Libre in Olmedo were in charge of organizing the conference. The La Hoz article noted that "it appears that the Congress will have a good number of delegates from a variety of provinces."(24)
The organizing committee released to the press the agenda which they planned to discuss during the course of the congress.(25) As is true of the formation of most organizations, much of the time at the congress was to be dedicated to discussion of the structure of the organization, including the writing of by-laws and election of officers. But the formation of the organization would not overshadow its main political purpose. The agenda listed two main issues to be addressed. First, it stated an intent to draw up a list of complaints and demands, a list which in all likelihood would be similar to that which the strikers at Pesillo presented a month earlier. Unlike the Pesillo declaration, this agenda also stated an intent to work on the issue of land reform. Although not mentioned in the Pesillo document, it was a demand consistent with the Socialist Party platform. Furthermore, this was to be a national organization and include peasants in economic and social situations distinct from that of the Indigenous agrarian workers in northern Cayambe.
Before the conference was to begin on February 8, the daily papers in Quito carried descriptions of people flooding to Cayambe from all over the country. A week in advance, Indians from the communities of Valenzuela, San Pablo, Abatag, and Monte Olivo had come to Cayambe to begin planning the conference. In addition, there was news that members of agrarian syndicates from Yaguachi, Milagro, Naranjito, Jesús María, Marcelino Maridueñas, Guale, Sibambe, and Tigua were mobilizing to come to the conference. As the news of the gathering spread, even more people planned to attend. In short, people were coming from throughout the sierra and coast including the provinces of León, Chimborazo, Loja, Azuay, Cañar, Tungurahua, Los Ríos, Manabí, and others to attend the congress.(26) Many people traveled on foot or on horseback for days or weeks to attend the conference. According to Mercedes Prieto, two thousand leaders representing about 100,000 peasants and Indians planned to attend.(27) The local sponsoring committee was arranging housing for everyone, including the construction of numerous straw huts. Even though there were many delegates arriving for the conference, El Día noted that they were behaving themselves and abstaining from all alcoholic drinks.(28)
Although participants were not causing any porblems, this massive mobilization made the government nervous. They feared that the amassed Indians planned to attack haciendas in the area and accused communists from Quito of instigating a revolution in Cayambe. President Isidro Ayora sent in one hundred troops from the Pichincha Battalion based in Ibarra in order to control the situation. On January 31, the government took various measures to prevent the planned meeting from taking place. Both the Ministries of Government and of War were brought in to prohibit the delegates already assembled from taking any action, they closed roads to prevent more delegates from arriving, and generally to bring the situation under control. The government arrested and imprisoned several socialists who had traveled from Quito to help with the meeting, including Luis Chávez, Alejandro J. Torres, Manuel Viteri (the Secretary General of the party), Ricardo Paredes, Cerveleón Gómez Jurada, Juan Bustamante, Gustavo Araujo, and Leonardo Muñoz. Those arrested faced criminal charges for disturbing the public order and committing acts of violence.(29) Because of repression from the national government this congress never took place.
The next day, the government announced that the situation was under control. The socialist leaders captured the previous day were sent to prison until they signed a statement that they would not meddle in affairs which attacked the public order. Several weeks later, Luis Fernando Chávez Molineros presented his statement on his involvement in these affairs. He was a twenty-two year-old mechanic from Quito. Three or four months before he had met with a group of friends (including Paredes) in Quito to discuss the peasant congress. This group sent him to Cayambe to prepare the congress, and he was identified as the secretary general of the organizing committee of the Congress of Agricultural Workers and Peasants. The committee sent circulars and invitations to peasants all over the country.(30)
Chávez' declaration indicates the critical role which socialists played in organizing this meeting. Without this logistical support, many people would not have heard of the meeting or planned to attend. The press in all likelihood would not have received notice of the planned agenda. There is nothing to indicate, however, that the socialists manipulated Indigenous interests in this affair, or that they organized the conference separate from the Indians who would benefit from it. Indians would not have flooded to Cayambe for a meeting which was foreign to their own interests. Rather, all indications are that the Indians and urban socialists worked together for a successful meeting.
Editorials in El Comercio are perhaps representative of elite attitudes toward the Indigenous efforts at organization and indicate the level of racism which the Indigenous population faced in Ecuador. On the day the congress was to start, the paper editorialized that "nothing serious or good can come out of that numerous, illiterate, and poorly prepared mass" of people assembled in Cayambe. The congress was nothing other than a demonstration "of the force and influence which the Communist Party has or thinks it has." It was importing doctrines from Russia, it was a danger to society, and El Comercio criticized the government for allowing communism to flourish in Ecuador.(31) El Día adopted similar attitudes in its editorials. The Indians were children who had "little understanding" and were "susceptible" to negative outside influences which could result in violence. Their primitive mentality made them incapable of reflection or engaging in dialogue, but easily manipulated into violent actions. The Indians were stupid, the paper contended, and the planned meeting was nothing other than whites manipulating the situation to their own benefit. Furthermore, this could not be a political party assembly because the vast majority of the Indians were not even citizens. The meeting was not for ideas, opinions, or votes (which were impossible), but would result in a violent demonstration of power. Despite the fact that the Indians were public about their demands, published their planned meeting agenda in the newspaper, met with the newspapers to explain the situation of abuses which they received at the hands of hacienda employees, and demanded respect for their human rights, the newspaper still claimed ignorance of the motives or intentions of the congress.(32)
These editorials reveal much about elite attitudes toward the meeting, and they also reveal the ideological issues which the Indigenous peoples themselves were pressing in the public mind. On the surface, these demands merely reflect racist perceptions which Ecuador's elite had toward the Indigenous populations. These attitudes were predictable and well established. The editorials also reveal a deep-seated anti-communism in elite society. Other issues, however, also emerge in these editorials. One main issue concerns the question of agency. The elite classes could not accept the idea that the Indians were able to organize their own movements for social change. The Indians' actions, however, contradict the claims that they were merely manipulated at the hands of leftist urban organizers. In addition, the fact that the government arrested various leaders indicates that it perceived the Indians' organizational efforts to be more of a threat to society than the government would have liked to admit publicly. More significant, however, is the issue of citizenship. As the editorial in El Día perhaps inadvertently noted, the Indigenous actions challenged accepted notions of citizenship in Ecuador. They were demanding a larger political role in society.
Other public voices also called for a change in citizenship restrictions. Petronio, a columnist in El Día, noted the injustice of having twenty thousand "citizens" (those who could read and write, the legal conditions for citizenship) elect officials to govern the two million inhabitants of Ecuador. Indians were marginalized from national life, primarily in political administrative terms. Petronio noted that Indians simply wanted to join the dominant culture, particularly in the economic arena. To deny them this opportunity would result in revolts, and blaming the situation on communists was an overreaction and a fear not based on reality. Petronio believed there was an economic basis to the "Indian problem," and a change in economic patterns together with educational opportunities would dramatically change the situation.(33)
These organizing actions in Cayambe also reveal the nature of the relationship btween Indians and the Marxist left in Quito. The press reported that the Indians had been "exploited by false apostles."(34) Newspaper stories created a scenario with a chain of command through which instructions flowed from Marxists in Quito to local non-Indigenous communist leaders in Cayambe to Virgilio Lechón and other local Indigenous leaders at Pesillo and finally to the peons on the hacienda. Páez, the renter of the Moyurco hacienda, charged that the local leaders blindly obeyed orders sent from communists in Quito to the point that without thought they would kill, burn, and destroy as they were ordered.(35) Cornel Alberto Albán, head of the First Military Zone, declared that the communists had convinced the workers that the hacienda land was theirs, and taught them to hate until the death the owners and employees of the hacienda.(36) The ludicrousness of these ideas should be immediately obvious. Hundreds of years of exploitation had given the Indians a deep hatred toward their bosses. It did not take much effort to realize that a context of absentee landlords who profited greatly while those who worked the land scarcely benefitted from their labors was an unjust situation which needed rectifying. Nevertheless, the government continued to look for scapegoats to blame for the continual uprisings. Beginning in February of 1931, the government began a campaign to root out communist influence in Cayambe's education system which they believed resulted in school teachers instigating the Indians to revolt.
For a period of several days in February 1931, Cayambe had become a police state. Military troops stopped all movement in the canton in an attempt to detain the leaders of the congress. Major Ernesto Robalino, the head of the military garrison in Quito, personally went to Cayambe to oversee the situation and to assure that the Asistencia Pública renters complied with the January agreement which they had signed with the government in an attempt to bring the situation under control. Within several days, the government proclaimed that all was calm in Cayambe. The Indians were returning to work on the haciendas, including those in Juan Montalvo where the congress was to have taken place and in Pesillo and Moyurco where the strike had occurred the previous month. Nevertheless, as a precaution the Ministry of Government sent a circular to all provincial governments and police chiefs prohibiting all socialist meetings.(37)
Initially the government announced plans for an imminent withdrawal of troops from the area, but despite public claims that all was calm, persistent unrest compelled them to retain military control over Cayambe. Press reports indicate that although Cayambe's Jefe Político and other local leaders declared the situation to be tenuous, Robalino and other military leaders claimed that the situation was not under control, that the Indians had not gone back to work, and were still demanding better pay and working conditions. Indigenous peoples were beginning to address a global problem of structural cracks in society, and the military perceived a need to implement a global "solution" to the problem. Perhaps the most threatening aspect of communist involvement in these Indigenous protest movements was not that they would instigate revolts or put ideas into the Indians' heads, but rather that the outside support gave these protests a dimension and sustainability which went beyond the capability of local governmental forces to contain and control them.
In spite of elite and government hopes that peasant protests had come to an end, that was not to be. The underlying situation of economic exploitation and racial discrimination which had led to the initial revolts still existed. It was thus to be expected that the protests would continue. On March 10, 1931, barely a month after the government shut down the peasant congress in Juan Montalvo and repressed the strike at Pesillo, 141 Indians from Cayambe walked day and night to Quito in order to present their demands directly to the government. This group included fifty-seven women and about a dozen children. The group stayed at the house of Luis Felipe Chávez, a socialist who supported their struggle and the father of Luis Fernando Chávez who had helped organize the congress in Cayambe. Egas agreed to arrange a meeting between these Indians and the president of the republic and to have the renters of the government's haciendas raise their salaries five centavos. But rather than complying with this agreement, Egas sent the group of Indians to the police who arrested them and then sent them forcibly back to their homes in Cayambe. In the process, the police injured several Indians including Virgilio Lechón, Rosa Catujuamba, and a boy named José Amaguaña.(38)
This incident highlights the importance which urban leftists had for the Indigenous movements and the nature of the role which they played. Not only did Chávez provide the Indians with housing in Quito, he also pressed for their rights with governmental officials there. After they were arrested and forcibly returned to Cayambe, Chávez met with Egas in a failed attempt to defend their rights.(39) The urban leftists played a critical role in assisting Indigenous peoples communicate their concerns to the government.
During the first three months of 1931, rural protest actions in Cayambe repeatedly and consistently made front page headline news in the national papers in Ecuador. Even after the uprisings had quieted in Cayambe, the actions there appeared to set the stage for protests elsewhere in the country. It was as if the revolt in Cayambe had opened the flood gates for other hacienda workers in other provinces to express their discontent. For example, El Comercio described an uprising in April on a hacienda in Guaranda in the central highland province of Bolivar as "almost equal to Cayambe."(40) Nor did the protest actions in Cayambe end with this strike. In August of that same year, Paredes and Maldonado once again were in Cayambe helping to organize an uprising of about five hundred Indians.(41) These were not isolated incidents; such types of protest would continue through the agrarian reforms of the 1960s.
Conferencia de Cabecillas Indígenas (1934)
The Primer Congreso de Organizaciones Campesinas in February 1931 in Cayambe represents the first attempt (although thwarted) in Ecuadorian history that diverse Indigenous groups unified in order to create a national-level organization in order to advocate for their common interests. The governmental repression which prevented this meeting did not stymy Indigenous leaders in their efforts to create such an organization.
At the Casa del Obrero (Worker's House) in Quito in 1934, leaders from various provinces gathered for a Conferencia de Cabecillas Indígenas (Conference of Indigenous Leaders) with the goal of creating a regional or national organization to defend Indigenous interests. Although this meeting had a minimal impact, it created the basis for a future national organization of rural workers. In reality, this was the birth of the Federación Ecuatoriana de Indios (FEI, Ecuadorian Federation of Indians) which was reorganized in 1944 and which the Ecuadorian government legally recognized for the first time in 1945. While not as tightly or centrally organized as later national pan-Indian organizations such as the Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE, Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador), the group which emerged out of the 1934 meeting supported local organizing efforts, attempted to organize several strikes on haciendas (efforts which largely met with failure), and published an occasional newspaper called Ñucanchic Allpa (Quichua for "Our Land").(42)
These national-level organizational efforts did not take place in isolation from other leftist movements or intellectual trends. It is one thing to organize locally to resolve a land dispute with a hacienda owner or to gain better working conditions and wages, and it becomes a completely different situation if an organization's goals include effecting changes on a macro level. This is the fundamental difference between Indigenous revolts which took place during the colonial period and the organizations which rural actors began to form in the 1920s and 1930s. The goals which these organizations embraced required interacting for the first time with a state apparatus, which required the accumulation of new skills.
In order to effect the desired profound changes in Ecuador's land tenure system, the Indigenous leaders would have to take their demands directly to the government located in the capital city of Quito. From as far away as northern Cayambe, people would walk, often barefoot with babies on their backs, to Quito for meetings and protests. They would first go to the town of Cayambe the night before a trip to sleep and leave from there at 3 a.m. At noon they would rest at Guayllabamba and later continue to Calderón by nightfall. The next morning they would arrive in Quito where they would spend anywhere from a few days to a month at the Casa del Obrero which was on the Plaza del Teatro in the center of Quito. Tránsito Amaguaña, one of the leaders from Cayambe, claimed to have made twenty-six trips like this on foot to Quito.(43) The Casa del Obrero was a meeting place for peasants, artisans, artists, workers, students, and intellectuals who were interested in causes of social justice. It was also commonly used as the gathering place for Indians from Cayambe when they came to the capital to participate in protests or present their demands to the government.
Once in Quito, the leaders met various obstacles in their attempts to present their demands to the government. They faced logistical problems, including those of room and board. There were cultural and language barriers to be overcome. Many of the peasants in Cayambe were monolingual Quichua speakers and often illiterate. Petitions to the government needed to be written (in Spanish), often following a specific legal format. This was never a question of intelligence, conceptualization of issues which needed to be addressed, or the need for assistance in mapping out strategies; rather, it was a pragmatic issue of how to present demands to the national government.
It was in these issues that the Indigenous people from Cayambe turned to urban leftists and organizations such as the Casa del Obrero for assistance. Leftists, sometimes with legal backgrounds, assisted in drawing up petitions and helping the Indigenous peoples present their demands to the government. It is a mistake to see this as a paternalistic or manipulative form of assistance. To argue that the urban leftists manipulated the Indians purely for their own benefit is to deny agency to the rural actors. The Indians were caught up in capitalistic economic forces much larger than their small communities or haciendas, but they were capable of analyzing their situation and developing plans of action.
At the same time, it is an oversimplification to see the urban leftists as simple conduits which transmitted the rural demands to the central government without interacting intellectually with the authors of these demands. Naturally, in the process of drawing up the legal petitions the two groups discussed issues and problems which they faced. The urban leftists would introduce the Indians to intellectual trends which were broader than the immediate reality of Indigenous peasants in the countryside in the northern Ecuadorian highlands. For example, Nela Martínez, one of these urban Marxists who worked with the Indians in Cayambe, notes that in the 1920s and 1930s, Amauta, a journal which the Peruvian Marxist José Carlos Mariátegui edited, arrived in Ecuador. Leftists would read and discuss his writings, and years later Mariátegui's works still maintained a central place in Martínez' private library.(44)
What relevance would a Peruvian Marxist have for the rural population of Cayambe, and what kind of influence would his thought have on them? If Marxists in Quito were culturally distant from the reality of rural Cayambe, someone from the Peruvian coast (Lima) would seem even further removed from their reality and have little to say to them. Nevertheless, Mariátegui was one of the first Marxists to seriously analyze the situation of Indians in the Andean highlands and had much to contribute to an understanding of the problems which they faced. Mariátegui contended that "the problem of the Indian is rooted in the land tenure system of our economy," and only through fundamental economic change and land reform would social change take place.(45) "The problem of the Indigenous peoples," Mariátegui wrote, placing the problem in very concrete material terms, "is a problem of land."(46) He believed in the revolutionary potential of the Indigenous and peasant masses, and that only a class-based revolutionary movement could lead to their liberation and the end of exploitation. Mariátegui believed that once Indigenous peoples were introduced to a revolutionary consciousness, they would be unequaled in their struggle for socialism.(47) The rural communities could complement and even replace the historic role which Marxism traditionally gave to the urban working class. The Indigenous peoples would not simply implement a dogmatic copy of European socialism, but rather create an "indo-american socialism" which would grow out of Andean culture and language.(48) So central were Indigenous concerns to Mariátegui's conceptualization of Marxism and social struggles in the Andes that one author has observed that all of his essays were written from this point of view.(49) These were the types of theoretical concepts leftists introduced to Indian workers in Cayambe.
This was the ideological context for the formation of Ecuador's modern Indian movement. Other changes also helped force transitions in organizational strategies. Indians in Cayambe no longer were as isolated as they previously had been. In June of 1928 the railroad came to Cayambe, linking it with Quito. In October of 1930, Julio Miguel Páez and José Rafael Delgado, renters of the government haciendas in northern Cayambe, built a road to Ibarra, the capital of the neighboring province of Imbabura.(50) Not only did these changes in infrastructure more closely integrate rural workers in Cayambe into a capitalistic world system, they also made state power a much more immediate reality in rural areas. With roads and trains, it was easier for the government to move troops in quickly to repress uprisings and to extract Indigenous leaders to stand trial in Quito.
These organizational actions and protests in Cayambe marked an important turning point in the history of Indigenous organizing efforts in Ecuador. For the first time, broad-based actions sought to shift political balances and the social situation of society. It unified isolated local struggles across the parish borders of Olmedo, Ayora, and Juan Montalvo into a strong cantonal movement, and then brought these actors into contact with their counterparts across Ecuador. Rural workers also allied with urban leftists to press for economic demands, strengthening the presence of the Socialist and Communist parties in Cayambe. Increasingly during these protest actions, the Indigenous workers claimed citizenship rights and demanded equal treatment from the central government, even though the government did not extend this recognition to the Indigenous peoples.(51) Peasant actions permitted Rubén Rodríguez later to be elected to Cayambe's municipal council, "tearing from the landlords' hands the absolute control which until that point they had maintained over regional power structures."(52) Indigenous actions had initiated a process of social change which could no longer be detained.
These changes allowed the Indigenous peasantry in Cayambe to assume a growing awareness of the broad nature of the struggle which they faced. This, in turn, led to a globalization of organizational efforts which unified diverse rural organizations under one banner. Indigenous leaders from Cayambe played an important role in this process. As a result, in the 1920s and 1930s these leaders laid the groundwork for Ecuador's modern Indian movement.
1. Partido Socialista Ecuatoriano (PSE), Labores de la Asamblea Nacional Socialista y Manifiesto del Consejo Central del Partido (16-23-Mayo), Quito, 1926 (Guayaquil: Imp. "El Tiempo", 1926), 33.
2. Víctor Alba, Politics and the Labor Movement in Latin America, trans. Carol de Zapata (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1968), 105.
3. Robert Jackson Alexander, Communism in Latin America (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1957), 234.
4. Raquel Rodas, Nosotras que del amor hicimos... (Quito: Raquel Rodas, 1992), 49.
5. Elías Muñoz Vicuña, Masas, luchas, solidaridad, Colección Movimiento Obrero Ecuatoriano; No. 8 (Guayaquil: Universidad de Guayaquil, 1985), 49.
6. Lucía Salamea, "Transformación de la hacienda y los cambios en la condición campesina" (Master en Sociología Rural, PUCE/CLACSO, 1978), 52. Elías Muñoz Vicuña placed the founding of this organization in the month of January. See Elías Muñoz Vicuña and Leonardo Vicuña Izquierdo, Historia del movimiento obrero del Ecuador (resúmen) ([Guayaquil]: Dept. de Publicaciones de la Facultad de Ciencias Economicas, 1978), 25.
7. For a basic biographical treatment of Gualavisí's life, see Oswaldo Albornoz Peralta, "Jesús Gualavisí y las luchas indígenas en el Ecuador," in Los comunistas en la historia nacional, ed. Domingo Paredes (Guayaquil: Editorial Claridad, S.A., 1987), 155-88.
8. "El dueño de Changalá acude a la junta de gobierno," El Comercio, February 25, 1926, 1.
9. "La razón y la fuerza," El Comercio, March 8, 1926, 1.
10. "Se atacó a la policía de Cayambe," El Comercio, November 6, 1926, 1. On the 1926 uprisings at Changalá, see "El pueblo de Cayambe ataca Changalá," El Comercio, February 24, 1926, 3; Albornoz, "Jesús Gualavisí," 160-67; and Efendy Maldonado M., El Canton Cayambe (Cayambe: Abya Yala, 1987), 103-105.
11. "El partido comunista organizador y defensor de los indios," El Pueblo, June 2, 1951, 6.
12. PSE, Labores de la Asamblea Nacional Socialista, 52.
13. Albornoz, "Jesús Gualavisí," 166, 167, 182.
14. Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE), Las nacionalidades indígenas en el Ecuador: Nuestro proceso organizativo, Second edition, revised and expanded (Quito: Ediciones Abya-Yala, 1989), 30.
15. Letter from Augusto Egas to Sr. Ministro de lo Interior y Policía, September 2, 1930, in Libro de Oficios que dirige la Junta de Asistencia Pública, 1930, 353, Archivo Nacional de Medicina del Museo Nacional de Medicina "Dr. Eduardo Estrella," Fondo Junta Central de Asistencia Pública in Quito, Ecuador (hereafter JCAP); letter from Augusto Egas to the Jefe Político of Cayambe, September 2, 1930, in Libro de Oficios que dirige la Junta de Asistencia Pública, 1930, 353, JCAP; letter from Augusto Egas to the Ministro de Previsión Social y Asistencia Pública, September 3, 1930, in Libro de Oficios que dirige la Junta de Asistencia Pública, 1930, 354, JCAP; letter from Augusto Egas to the Ministro de Previsión Social, September 24, 1930, in Libro de Oficios que dirige la Junta de Asistencia Pública, 1930, 379-80, JCAP; "Formación del socorro Obrero y Campesino," La Hoz (Quito) 1:2 (September 11, 1930): 6. Also see a letter from the Ministro de Previsión Social y Trabajo to the Jefe Político of Cayambe, October 16, 1930, in Comunicaciones Recibidas, Julio-Diciembre 1930, 559, JCAP.
16. "El terror de los campos," La Hoz (Quito) 1:2 (September 11, 1930): 6.
17. "Formación del socorro Obrero y Campesino," La Hoz (Quito) 1:2 (September 11, 1930): 6.
18. "El partido comunista organizador y defensor de los indios," El Pueblo, June 2, 1951, 6.
19. Letter from Augusto Egas to Sr. Intiendente General de Policía, December 26, 1930, in Libro de Oficios que dirige la Junta de Asistencia Pública, 1930, 471, JCAP; letter from Augusto Egas to Sr. Ministro de Gobierno, January 7, 1931, in Libro de Comunicaciones Oficiales de la Dirección de la Junta Central de Asistencia Pública, 1931, 6, JCAP; "La sublevación de los indígenas de una hacienda," El Comercio, December 31, 1930, 1; "Los indígenas de Pesillo y Moyurco se han sublevado," El Día, December 31, 1930, 1.
20. "Pliego de peticiones que los sindicatos "El Inca" y "Tierra Libre" situados en la parroquia Olmedo, presentan a los arriendatarios de las haciendas donde trabajan," El Dia, January 6, 1931, 1.
21. Letter from Augusto Egas to José Rafael Delgado, September 2, 1930, in Libro de Oficios que dirige la Junta de Asistencia Pública, 1930, 352, JCAP; letter from Augusto Egas to Sr. Ministro de Gobierno, January 7, 1931, in Libro de Comunicaciones Oficiales de la Dirección de la Junta Central de Asistencia Pública, 1931, 6, JCAP.
22. Letter from Augusto Egas to Sr. Ministro de Gobierno, January 7, 1931, in Libro de Comunicaciones Oficiales de la Dirección de la Junta Central de Asistencia Pública, 1931, 7, JCAP.
23. "Se soluciona el problema creado por Los indígenas sublevados en las haciendas Pesillo y Moyurco," El Comercio, January 8, 1931, 1. In a letter to JCAP, Delgado noted that he had raised salaries, including that of milkmaids from fifteen to twenty centavos, and was now paying day laborers forty cents for an eight-hour day. Letter from José Rafael Delgado to the Junta de Asistencia Pública, January 24, 1931, in Comunicaciones Recibidas, Enero-Junio 1931, 891, JCAP. The agreement is also discussed in a letter frm the Secretaria de Policía to the Jefe Político, January 7, 1931, in Comunicaciones Recibidas, Enero-Junio 1931, 894, JCAP.
24. "El Congreso de Obreros Agrícolas y Campesinos," La Hoz 8 (December 20, 1930), 4.
25. "Siguen llegando a Cayambe gentes de diversas procedencias para la celebración del Primer Congreso de Campesinos del Ecuador," El Dia, January 31, 1931, 1; "Puntos que serán discutidos en el primer congreso de campesinos q' se realizarán en el Cantón Cayambe," El Comercio, February 1, 1931, 1.
26. "Varios millares de indígenas se han concentrado en Cayambe para asistir al primer congreso de campesinos del Ecuador," El Dia, January 30, 1931, 1.
27. Mercedes Prieto N., "Condicionamientos de la movilización campesina: el caso de las haciendas Olmedo-Ecuador (1926-1948)" (Tesis de Antropología, PUCE, 1978), 55. An article in El Día mentioned a figure of ten thousand delegates, a number which is obviously inflated. See "Crónicas de Cayambe," El Día, February 6, 1931, 2.
28. "Varios millares de indígenas se han concentrado en Cayambe para asistir al primer congreso de campesinos del Ecuador," El Dia, January 30, 1931, 1.
29. "Various personas fueron capturados por hallarse comprometidas en el movimiento comunista de Cayambe," El Comercio, February 2, 1931, 1.
30. "La declaración rendida por el Sr. Luis F. Chávez," El Día, February 20, 1931, 2; "Fue puesto en libertad el doctor Ricardo Paredes," El Día, February 20, 1931, 4.
31. "El congreso de campesinos," El Comercio, February 1, 1931, 3. Although El Comercio repeatedly referred to "communism" and the "Communist Party," it was not until the second party congress in October of that year that the Socialist Party of Ecuador (PSE) formally transformed itself into a communist party, although it had been allied with the Communist International before then.
32. "Varios millares de indígenas se han concentrado en Cayambe para asistir al primer congreso de campesinos del Ecuador," El Dia, January 30, 1931, 1; "El congreso indígena," El Día, January 31, 1931, 3; "El verdadero fondo del problema indígena," El Día, February 2, 1931, 3; "El comunismo y el consejo del estado," El Día, February 6, 1931, 3.
33. Petronio, "El congreso de campesinos," El Día, February 15, 1931, 1, 4.
34. "Los Indios de las haciendas de Cayambe han tornado a sus diarias ocupaciones en el campo," El Comercio, February 5, 1931, 1.
35. Letter from Julio Miguel Páez to the Junta de Asistencia Pública, January 20, 1931, in Comunicaciones Recibidas, Enero-Junio 1931, 777, JCAP.
36. "Declaracions del Coronel Alberto Albán," El Día, February 6, 1931, 3.
37. "Se prohiben las reuniones socialistas," El Comercio, February 6, 1931, 1.
38. "141 peones de Cayambe han venido a esta ciudad intempestivamente abandonando sus faenas del campo," El Comercio, March 13, 1931, 1; "Ayer fueron apresados 156 indígenas de las haciendas de Cayambe," El Día, March 13, 1931, 8; "No se efectuó la audiencia del presidente con los indígenas de Cayambe," El Día, March 14, 1931, 1.
39. "Se les obligará a salir de las haciendas de Cayambe a los indígenas," El Día, March 17, 1931, 1.
40. "Los indígenas de las haciendas de beneficencia de Bolívar producen agitaciones como las de Cayambe," El Comercio, April 30, 1931, 1.
41. "Nuevo levantamiento de Los indios de Cayambe se ha estado preparando," El Comercio, August 16, 1931, 1.
42. CONAIE, 31, interview with Nela Martínez, Quito, April 27, 1996. Virtually no information other than that preserved in the oral tradition remains of this meeting. Mercedes Prieto has also searched without success for information on this meeting. See Mercedes Prieto, "Haciendas estatales: un caso de ofensiva campesina: 1926-1948," in Ecuador: cambios en el agro serraño, ed. Miguel Murmis and others (Quito: Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) - Centro de Planificación y Estudios Sociales (CEPLAES), 1980), 119. An article in El Pueblo in 1951 placed the date of this conference in 1936. See "El partido comunista organizador y defensor de los indios," El Pueblo, June 2, 1951, 6.
43. Raquel Rodas, Tránsito Amaguaña: su testimonio, Colección Difusión Cultural, 3 (Quito: CEDIME, 1987), 25.
44. Interview with Nela Martínez, Quito, April 27, 1996.
45. José Carlos Mariátegui, "The Problem of the Indian," Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality, translated by Marjory Urquidi with an Introduction by Jorge Basadre, The Texas Pan American Series (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1971), 22.
46. José Carlos Mariátegui, "El problema de las razas en la américa latina," Ideología y política, 19th ed., Obras Completas, Volume 13 (Lima: Biblioteca Amauta, 1990), 42.
47. Ibid., 84-85.
48. José Carlos Mariátegui, "Aniversario y Balance," Amauta 3:17 (September 1928), 3.
49. Enrique Dussel, "El marxismo de Mariátegui como filosofía de la revolución," in David Sobrevilla Alcázar, ed., El marxismo de José Carlos Mariátegui, V Congreso Nacional de Filosofía (Seminario efectuado el 2 de agosto de 1994) (Lima: Empresa Editora Amauta, 1995), 32. For a comprehensive analysis of Mariátegui's Marxism as it relates to the Latin American context, see Harry E. Vanden, National Marxism in Latin America: José Carlos Mariátegui's Thought and Politics (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1986).
50. "Un trozo de carretero entre Cayambe e Ibarra construyen varios ciudadanos," El Día, October 5, 1930, 1.
51. Kim Clark has observed a similar phenomenon of Indigenous workers claiming citizenship rights in the province of Chimborazo in order to defend their interests. See A. Kim Clark, "Indians, the State and Law: Public Works and the Struggle to Control Labor in Liberal Ecuador," Journal of Historical Sociology 7:1 (1994): 67. Clark also notes that "Paradoxically, these forms of resistance also implied a recognition and legitimization of the state. In cases like this the complexity of the dialectic of resistance and accommodation in situations involving domination is made evident." Clark, 70.
52. Galo Ramón, "Cayambe: El problema regional y la participación política," Ecuador Debate (Quito) 3 (August 1983): 165.