Archaeology, Globalization and the Nation: Appropriating the Past in Ecuador

  • O. Hugo Benavides

The political use of the pre-Columbian past has a long tradition in Latin America. Nationstates such as Mexico and Peru have a vast array of monumental archaeological remains that have been incorporated into the normative western histories each of these political formations has imagined for itself. Ecuador, too, has pyramids and mounds, which have been readily incorporated into the imaginary of the nation and have been deployed ideologically to legitimize its political forms of governance. However, unlike the greater areas of Maya, Aztec and Inca ruins, Ecuador’s imaginaries about its pre-Columbian past are less dependant on monumental evidence. Rather, like the other nation-states of South America (with the exception of Peru) Ecuador is more interested in asserting: 1) an Indigenous origin of the nation (however mythical this might be); 2) a European onslaught that overwhelmed native cultures (however favorably this might be understood); and 3) a modern (or postmodern) reconfiguration of a cosmic racial nation. It is also in this form that race, and particularly a mestizo racial production of it, is to a large degree the hidden scripture of the appropriation of the past in Ecuador, as well as the rest of South America.

The paradigm of an Indian origin, a European conquest, and a new racial body resulting from this mix denies not only the ethnic diversity of the Indian and European populations but most singularly denies the African contribution to the continent. It is in this manner, and not surprisingly, that the appropriation of the pre-Columbian past serves the same racializing interest that the Ecuadorian nation-state has embodied since its original national inception of 1830—that of constructing a white, western subject with mythical indigenous ancestry and minimal recognition of an African heritage. It is in this context that archaeological discourses are contested landscapes in which groups and communities vie to reconstruct a past that not only legitimizes their existence but also gives reason and value to their own historical heritage and legacy.


Tour Guide Indian Community National History Homosexual Activity Archaeological Discourse 
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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • O. Hugo Benavides
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyFordham UniversityBronxUSA

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