Salasaca - Orientation

Identification. "Salasaca," the name of an ethnic group of Ecuador, is derived either from the name of the zone to which they were sent as mitimaes (settlers) from Bolivia, or from two common surnames, "Sala" (a Panzaleo name found in eastern Ecuador) and "Saca" (a Puruhayes name found in the west of the country). The Salasaca notion of being a culturally distinct group is clearly expressed in their manner of dress. The men wear white trousers, white shirts, and black and/or white ponchos. The women wear black skirts, black blouses, and brightly colored shawls fastened with a silver needle. Both men and women wear belts. Women may wear several belts, the combined length of which may be 20 meters. For everyday purposes, most people wear highland hats. For special occasions, however, white felt hats with wide brims are worn. T-shirts may be worn instead of traditional shirts and blouses.

Location. The Salasaca zone, which is about 12 square kilometers in extent, is situated at 1.3° S. and 78.4° W. It is a plateau, 2,500 to 2,900 meters above sea level, in Tungurahua Province of central Ecuador. Rainfall is between 50 and 100 centimeters a year, and the average yearly temperature is between 12° and 18° C. The climate is one of relatively warm days and chilly nights.

Demography. According to the National Population Census carried out in Ecuador in 1974, the Salasaca numbered 4,236. A more recent census, conducted in 1982, counted only those Salasaca who lived along the main road. Because Salasaca are reluctant to take part in censuses, the actual population can only be estimated; it was approximately 8,000 in 1989.

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