The Quichuas People of Ecuador
The Quichuas are considered to be the most populous Amerindian ethnic group in the beautiful country of Ecuador. These peace loving people live in communities located in the valleys, as well as in the páramo regions, between the upper forest line and the permanent snow line, of the majestic Andes Mountains. They live in tight-knit family-oriented communities and still speak their native tongue Quichua, which is also the language used for instruction at their local schools.
It is believed that the ancestors of the Quichuas were among the many people who migrated from Eurasia to the Americas across the land bridge (now the Bering Strait) that joined the two continents an estimated 12,000 years ago. The term “Indian” originated with the renowned explorer Christopher Columbus, who mistakenly thought he had arrived in the East Indies when he set foot on the shores of America. Amerindians has come to be the term used for people living in North or South America in pre-Columbian times.
While a good number of indigenous people of the Americas were hunter-gatherers many, including the Quichuas of Ecuador, were successful farmers, converting much of the land they occupied into fertile agricultural area. The present day communities of Quichuas are hard-working and continue their farming heritage, raising food crops such as potatoes and corn, as well as raising pigs, sheep and guinea pigs.
The Quichuas are readily recognized by their traditional dress of brightly colored clothes, ponchos and felt hats. Some of the communities have continued with the manufacture of traditional crafts and cloth weaving, which are sold to supplement the income of the community. Although the Quichuas tend to remain in their close-knit communities, they are interested in the world beyond their boundaries. Some elements of Western style dress have started to become evident among the Quichuas, but it is still generally their desire to maintain their traditional manner of dress and way of life.
Visitors to Ecuador will find it to be a country of great natural beauty and diversity. There is no doubt that the hard working, friendly Quichuas of Ecuador contribute to the diversity of this interesting country.