Salasaca - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Rights and obligations between consanguineal, affinal, and ritual kin form the basis of society, and the household is the central unit of social organization. The prestigious alcaldes maintain cultural and social continuity. There are temporary organizations such as the ayudana, which consists of four to six people within a nucuchi pura group; it is formed to clear a field or build a house. A minga (reciprocal labor-exchange unit), involving numerous participants, is called together by the teniente político (political lieutenant) to perform communal work.

Political Organization. The Salasaca community was legally established in 1962. In 1963 a junta campesinado (peasant council) was formed with an elected representative from each sector. The community became a parish in 1972, and a teniente político was elected to represent the government. The main functions of the junta campesinado are to maintain the irrigation system, to organize nightly patrols to guard the livestock, and, with the teniente político, to coordinate administrative and practical matters. The Salasaca do not pay taxes, a prerogative granted them by an Ecuadoran president after they purportedly saved his life.

Social Control. Order is maintained by surveillance of each other in daily interaction. Gossip is an important means of communication, and the Salasaca are ingeniously able to keep track of people's whereabouts by simply observing footprints on paths. Retaliations, transmitted by a type of witch doctor called a brujo, are a constant fear.

Conflict. Internal conflicts are usually settled within the community by the alcaldes, men in respected positions whose main function is to uphold the religious and social order. Serious crimes, perhaps involving outsiders, are handled by lawyers in the nearby town. There is an everpresent conflict between the Salasaca and the national society, and the violations on Salasaca and their territory are innumerable: the most serious are cattle theft and the building of roads and power lines that destroy their fields and houses. Agreements, if ever reached, have always been to the disadvantage of the Salasaca, an ethnic group regarded as culturally inferior by the mestizo population.

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