Otavalo - Sociopolitical Organization



Social Organization. There is scant information on aboriginal social organization, but it appears that age was respected. Genders were equal, but priests and hereditary leaders ( kurakas ) had high rank. Today wealthy weaving and merchant families are beginning to form an indigenous upper class.

Political Organization. The village ( parcialidad ) is an unofficial subdivision of the parish ( parróquia ), with no single authority. Instead, kinship and reciprocity bind the community. Each village has two mayors (alcaldes), appointed by the local political chief, and an elected council ( cabildo). The political mayor calls collective work parties for such jobs as road repair but has no formal mechanism for enforcement. Indians have the right to vote and participate in politics at the local, provincial, and national level. Some Otavalo are active in nationwide indigenous federations.

Social Control. The most common and effective mechanism for social control is the disapproval of one's family and community. Outside authorities such as the civil guard or town police are rarely, if ever, called in. Relatives and compadres informally mediate many marital and familial conflicts. Intractable conflicts, especially those over landownership or money, often end up in the local courts.

Conflict. The Caranqui and Cayambi forcibly resisted both the Inca and Spanish conquests. In the colonial era, there was an uprising in the Otavalo area against the Spanish in 1777. Through the 1970s and 1980s there have been conflicts with local haciendas over land, including the 1978 occupation of the Hacienda La Bolsa by Indians until they were dislodged by the army.


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