ArtAndes Blog

Ecuador Blessings

Posted March 29, 2018 @ 1:10pm | by Melanie

Ecuador Blessings

Being part of a ceremony in the Andes is one of the most special invitations imaginable. I was very fortunate to meet Rene & LuzMilla Zambrano last November in Cusco while attending a cultural event that had an outreach to over 800 Indigenous guests, not only from the Andes, but as far away as Afghanistan and Laos. It was the Zambrano’s first time out of Ecuador, it set a course for them on how to better share their own cultural heritage of the Otavalo, Ecuador region.

The Zambrano’s, along with 20 other Indigenous families, have bought the 1820’s Hacienda and ‘Obrajes’ or workshops. The Obrajes were key enterprises in the developing economies of Spain’s American colonies, principally as sites where wool, cotton, and other fibers were carded, spun, and woven into textiles. While indigenous peoples had woven cloth for millennia, the obraje was an exclusively Spanish imposition.

From modest beginnings in the 1530s, obrajes developed over time into quasi-industrial enterprises, some with several hundred laborers, mostly Indian, under their roofs. Working conditions were typically harsh, with long hours, poor ventilation, frequent physical abuse, and low or nonexistent pay (Indian labor and tribute were required under encomienda and related institutions). Most obrajes were thus more akin to penal sweatshops than to workshops, as conventionally understood.

Fortunately after this long dark history, the Zambrano’s have turned the workshops into a Living Museum, Cultural Center and yes, they are still weaving, but under their own terms!

Part of our ceremony was to help rid some negative spirits still lurking around in the main building.  We put our best efforts forward!



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