The processes of ethnogenesis in the Andes of the sixteenth century were structured by the different approaches to ethnic identities taken by the Inca and Spanish societies that dominated the region in succession. The Incas enforced boundaries and restricted transculturation, favoring vertical integration of Andean peoples with the state; the Spaniards removed those barriers and emphasized commonalities, favoring a horizontal integration of social groups with each other. This structuring of ethnogenesis is illustrated by Saraguro, Ecuador, where people of disparate ethnic affiliation created a new ethnic identity within the changing contexts of colonial rule. Within these administrative contexts, the particular conditions pertaining to Saraguro, including the history of settlement in the region and the economic conditions during Spanish rule, motivated people to actively change their social identities. Ultimately, Saraguro ethnogenesis was one of the available options whereby indigenous populations could reinterpret existing Andean structures of ethnicity to address the radical challenges of the changing colonial conditions of the sixteenth century.

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