Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Life of Amazonic Kichwa people


Kichwa culture is oral.

The stories and histories are told, not written down.

Teaching is done by telling and showing, moving around and practicing.

Not by copying or reading and writing.

People can sit down and be quiet.

It's a skill you need to be able to concentrate on what people are telling you.

They even have quite incredible auditory memory skills since it is the way information has always entered.

They also usually have a beautiful handwriting, are skilled illustrators and artists, and take care of the presentation of their work.

Singing and dancing are other important cultural ways of information input.

The songs tell about history, important people and cultural events, animals, weather, environment and other culturally pertinent facts.

They tell people how to live and act, in the proper way, the Kichwa way.

The dancing also tells stories and histories.

They are highly choreographed to express cultural information with an interesting story that the people will recognize.

It is normal to role-play different important events in people's lives, like marriage, and the audience lives in the story, all through it.

The humor is integral to all this and very earthy.

Jokes, especially about sexuality, are very much appreciated and people capable of telling good jokes are celebrated.

As much as people able to tell a good story, dance a good dance, sing a good song or play good music.

The games played are a practice for cultural skills, like hunting for men or taking care of home and children for women.

About fifty years ago, when most of the elementary schools in the Amazon area of Ecuador were founded, they were mostly religious Catholic schools and only in Spanish.

Why is this important?

Because schools were seen as a vehicle to turn the Kichwas from their savage ways into Spanish speaking Catholic Christians.

Speaking Kichwa was prohibited, school uniforms were obligatory, cultural references were minimized and the punishments were severe.

At the same time, the segregation was the practice.

On one side were the colonial children, the children of mestizos from the Andes, and on other side the Kichwa children from the Amazon, los indios.

The colonos, the so-called white children, ate one meal, with chicken and occasional meat.

The Kichwa children had another meal, without any kind of meat.

The Kichwa child caught speaking in Kichwa, his or her own language, was beaten and told never to do it again.

Worse was if you were found following your cultures savage, pagan ways, communing with demons, as it was called.

The children were taught a limited, stumped Spanish and also limited and stumped reading and writing skills, in Spanish.

And some basic math.

Then they were ready to serve their betters.

Twenty-five years ago Kichwa speaking school system was founded and along it the first non-Christian schools meant for Kichwa children.

There were no University trained Kichwa teachers.

There was no written Kichwa language.

But there was a will to be overcome and succeed.

First Kichwa High School graduates were born.

Then the first Kichwa University graduates.

But there was no work for them.

You could be a lawyer, engineer or doctor, no one would hire you because you still were an indio.

Only way to get hired in the Amazonic region was to work for Kichwa education system or in special community programs for the Ecuadorian government.

Or you could go to the big cities and towns in the Andes and pretend not to be a savage from the jungle.

That is still the image in the Ecuadorian mind.

A naked warrior with his nose pierced and face painted, standing with a spear in his hand and parrot feathers in his hair.

Something other, something to be scared of.

How can you work in an office and tell to your coworkers that is you, or your father, brothers and uncles.

That the picture was taken in your village and your home isn't that far away.

Amazonic Kichwa culture is in a crisis.

So much has been forgotten in the oppression.

So much has been thrown away because of the shame.

And still there is pride and will to continue the ancient ways and live like the grandparents have always lived.

It is a hard way to mix Ecuadorian Spanish speaking culture with Amazonic Kichwa culture.

The modern technology with ancient technologies.

The outside beliefs with the Kichwa way and the outside languages with the Runa Shimita, People's Language.

40 comments:

  1. Wow, what an interesting post. I absolutely LOVE learning about other cultures and their traditions and I definitely learned a few new things today!

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  2. A great reason why I LOATHE evangelical religion. Preach tolerance instead. I feel that oral history is how legends are started; it's like a game of telephone.

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    1. I'm sad to hear that, Lindsey. I know that there has been, and still is, a lot of abused in the name of religion. But that is not the true Christianity. True Christianity is Christ centered and everything else comes second. When people preach about something else, even if it is a good thing, first and Christ second, then it is not true Christianity.
      Another very important thing is the fruits, what kind of results we get. And if the results are abuse, opression, broken lives and hurt people, then it is not true Christianity but people appearing to be Christians and abusing Christ's name to do their will.

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  3. This was such a great post, it is always so interesting hearing about other cultures, and how the world lives.

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  4. It's amazing to see the differences. We are so spoiled here we forget that the rest of the world lives differently. thank you for a new perspective.

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  5. Fascinating! Sounds like I need to spend some time with them. I'm a terrible listener. :(

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  6. Amazing pictures. Thank you for sharing this. I visited Honduras many moons ago. Seeing people living like this is life changing.

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  7. This is a really neat post. I love the pictures.

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  8. Thank you for sharing this story! I had no idea this culture existed.

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  9. What a neat culture and beautiful photos! Some of those pictures make me extremely grateful for everything I have.

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  10. I love how much is expressed through the dance. This was such an interesting piece, Joanna.

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    1. Thank you so much, Liz, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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  11. Thank you for sharing these pictures and part of the culture! Very interesting!

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  12. It is so sad to hear of cultures that have been shoved down in the name of religion. We should embrace and support every culture!

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  13. I love learning about other cultures! It's amazing how other people live, learn, and pass along culture. It's so different from what I am accustomed to. Thanks for sharing this and sharing your beautiful pictures!

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  14. Your pictures are always so up close and personal without seeming intrusive. Great post.

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    1. Thank you, Valerie. I consider it a gift from the people here. Not everyone everywhere likes to be taken pictures and Amazonic Kichwas don't apreciate it that much either but it has been amazing how they have let me in their culture and document it. I'm thankful for it every day.

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  15. It's so interesting to learn about such a different culture then my own through your stories and pictures.

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  16. It is great learning about other cultures. That naked kid reminds me of growing up in Jamaica....not that uncommon where I am from

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  17. I'm intrigued by this post. It's always neat to see raw photos of a cultural I'm not too familiar with.

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  18. It is always so interesting hearing about other cultures, and how the world lives. Thanks for sharing this post with us!

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  19. Fantastic photos! I love to hear about other cultures. Learning about how others learn, eat, and survive is just very interesting. I think we're always intrigued by seeing how others do things differently than we are used to.

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    1. Thank you, Jenni. Yes, it is interesting to compare your life with others and maybe consider what I would do in a similiar situation.

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  20. very interesting photos. thank you for a sharing a culture i would otherwise never see

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  21. I loved hearing about a new culture. Keep doing Christ's work!

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  22. Great post! I love learning about other cultures. Oral history is so important. I am always sad I didn't realize this sooner. I'm sure my grandparents had so much to share.

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  23. I love this post. I always love learning about other cultures! I went on mission trips to Costa Rica, Spain, and Panama and it was always so interesting to immerse myself in their cultures.

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  24. What an interesting post. I like learning about other cultures.

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  25. I love your photos and learning about other cultures- so many things out there to learn.

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  26. What a great culture! Wanna visit ecuador someday

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  27. This post was so beautiful on so many levels.

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  28. Wow, how fascinating. I love learning about other cultures.

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  29. I love the pictures you take. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

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  30. What a vivid look into their lives. A great story!

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  31. This is a great look into their lives and stories. The photos are amazing!

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  32. What beautiful pictures. I would love to visit this part of Ecuador one day.

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  34. Very interesting post and great pictures! I love that they appreciate and value humor :)

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  35. I love oral storytelling and envy cultures who share stories. Great post.

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  36. That's so interesting. There really is so much to learn from different cultures and people.

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