Conflicts on the Zumbahua hacienda in the highlands of the South American country of Ecuador in the 1930s and 1940s present insights into the nature of rural social relations. Both wealthy landholders and Indigenous agricultural workers experimented with discursive elements as they attempted to draw state authorities to their side. Following their debates also inverts the normal view of power relations. The landholder, General Francisco Gómez de la Torre, presented himself as a victim, while his workers used various combinations of class and ethnic discourse to mobilize their base and gain sympathy from outsiders. The failure of government officials to support Gómez de la Torre exposed significant cracks in the ruling structures, which Indigenous workers learned to exploit. These conflicts reveal that the Ecuadorian government was not as hegemonic as is sometimes assumed; it was an arena of competing projects and interests with political officials often at odds with one another. At the same time, subaltern resistance was also not homogeneous, and divisions between Indigenous workers challenge a simplistic picture of a unified counter-hegemonic discourse. As a result, state power formed a showcase for many different groups to present and contest their social and economic interests.

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