Since Emilio Estrada Icaza dedicated his intellectual and financial resources to the study of the remains of pre-Hispanic civilizations in the coastal region of Ecuador, he accomplished more in a few years than all of his predecessors were able to do, since the days of Monseñor Federico González Suárez, Marshall Saville, and Paul Rivet. Not that anybody wishes to minimize the certainly positive contributions of the earlier investigators; but not until Estrada did we obtain an overall picture of coastal archaeology, starting with the early Valdivia culture which Estrada discovered in 1956.
The present volume, although small, includes the conclusions that Estrada reached in his previous publications and has a far greater importance than the number of pages would indicate. On the one hand, it refutes those Quito literati who consider their city as the cradle, since pre-conquest times, of Ecuadorian nationality. Such a credo is principally based on the writings of Father Juan de Velasco—a late 18th century author of excessive imagination—and of the Inca Garcilaso, who—to demonstrate the legitimacy of Inca conquests that Viceroy Francisco de Toledo showed as stemming from usurpation—described the native tribes of coastal Ecuador as naked savages whom the Incas had to civilize. These false concepts—clearly contrary to available historical evidence of the days of Spanish conquest—are now definitely refuted by the archaeological findings of Estrada. They also confirm previous evidence of lack of Incaic influences on the Ecuadorian littoral.
On the other hand, Estrada is the first one to describe the Milagro-Quevedo culture in the Guayas basin. This culture belonged to the Chonos of Conquest days, whose present-day descendants are the Cayapa-Colorados. There are many 16th-century sources that mention the Chonos; but since neither Cieza de León, nor Garcilaso, nor Father Velasco mentioned them, they have been thoroughly suppressed by 20th-century authors, with few exceptions, the most notable being Jacinto Jijón y Caamaño. Now, it happens that Milagro-Quevedo has Amazonian connections. At the same time, maritime connections between Mesoamerica and the balsa-seafaring cultures of coastal Ecuador are now generally considered as past the point of speculation. Consequently, the archaeology of a region where, among others, Huasteca influence met those proceeding from the mouth of the Amazon River, must be of utmost interest.