Social Organization. Unlike many other indigenous subcultures embedded in a class-structured national society, the Saraguro are neither at the bottom of the hierarchy nor themselves divided into distinct classes. Nevertheless, strong status differences exist within Saraguro society, conferred by age, wealth, and community religious and political involvement. Wealthier Saraguro hire both Indian and non-Indian laborers, and it is not uncommon for poor townspeople to beg from wealthy Indians. Whereas Saraguro men tend to wield greater public power, women have significant control over household decisions and resources. Both men and women can acquire social power through religious and political activities. Rejection of traditional dress and hairstyles and marriage to a non-Indian incur loss of status and Saraguro identity.
Political Organization. The Saraguro maintain a strong ethic of household autonomy. Consequently, barrio political and economic groups tend to be highly fractious and unstable. Such groups have nevertheless been instrumental in rural development. Traditional cooperative work groups ( mingas ) are involved in public construction and maintenance projects.
Social Control. Although local police and priests attempt to enforce legal and moral standards, gossip networks remain the most powerful mechanism ensuring social restraint.
Conflict. The Saraguro have clashed violently with non-Indians since the Conquest. Today both the Saraguro and town residents publicly declare relations to be peaceful and amicable; however, both indigenous and blanco residents privately voice continuing mutual distrust and resentment. The traditional enemies of the Saraguro are the Jivaro (Shuar) Indians, who were displaced from their tropical-forest settlements by Saraguro colonists.