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Making Ecuadorian Histories

Making Ecuadorian Histories
Four Centuries of Defining Power

This pathfinding book investigates how archaeological knowledge is used for both maintaining and contesting nation-building and state-hegemony in Ecuador.

June 2004
This is a print-on-demand title. Expedited shipping is not available.
251 pages | 6 x 9 | 14 b&w photos |

In Ecuador, as in all countries, archaeology and history play fundamental roles in defining national identity. Connecting with the prehistoric and historic pasts gives the modern state legitimacy and power. But the state is not the only actor that lays claim to the country's archaeological patrimony, nor is its official history the only version of the story. Indigenous peoples are increasingly drawing on the past to claim their rights and standing in the modern Ecuadorian state, while the press tries to present a "neutral" version of history that will satisfy its various publics.

This pathfinding book investigates how archaeological knowledge is used for both maintaining and contesting nation-building and state-hegemony in Ecuador. Specifically, Hugo Benavides analyzes how the pre-Hispanic site of Cochasquí has become a source of competing narratives of Native American, Spanish, and Ecuadorian occupations, which serve the differing needs of the nation-state and different national populations at large. He also analyzes the Indian movement itself and the recent controversy over the final resting place for the traditional monolith of San Biritute. Offering a more nuanced view of the production of history than previous studies, Benavides demonstrates how both official and resistance narratives are constantly reproduced and embodied within the nation-state's dominant discourses.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. Ecuador's Political Hegemony: National and Racial Histories
  • 2. The Ecuadorianization of an Archaeological Site: National Identity at Cochasquí
  • 3. National Mechanisms of Appropriation: History, Territory, Gender, and Race at Cochasquí
  • 4. Between Foucault and a Naked Man: Racing Class, Sex, and Gender to the Nation's Past
  • 5. Alternative Histories: The Indian Movement's Encounter with Hegemony
  • 6. The Print Media's Contribution to National History: Who Owns the Past?
  • 7. Conclusion: Power, Hegemony, and National Identity
  • References
  • Index

O. Hugo Benavides is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Fordham University in New York City.


The Indians have had no voice for five hundred years. Little by little, they are feeling like protagonists in history.

—Luis Ricchiardi, Roman Catholic priest

In the 1990s Ecuador saw a reappraisal of indigenous identity that coalesced into the country's most important social movement since the turn of the century. The Indian movement, under the leadership of the Confederación Nacional de Indígenas del Ecuador (National Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, CONAIE) and the Pachakutik Nuevo País party, provoked a serious rupture in Ecuador's ideological belief that it had maintained its historical identity and its indigenous heritage. Since the 1990s the Indian movement has been able to paralyze the country for weeks on end, has forced two governments to reconsider their application of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) structural-adjustment policies, and successfully aligned itself with the military to overthrow Jamil Mahuad (in 2000).

The Indian movement is the most powerful of a number of social movements (and fragmented social subjects)—women's associations, the gay and lesbian movement, and ecological organizations—that are questioning Ecuador's traditional national identity within the wider cultural and economic concerns of globalization. Each of these groups has justified itself, in varying degrees, by assessing a history that situates the group in a powerful position vis-à-vis the nation and the state. In this respect, history has become a contested commodity and is as important in claiming national declarations as in securing international funds or planning mobilization strategies. History more than ever is being envisioned by these social movements, including the state, as being where it has always been—at the center of national hegemonic contention and articulation.

As a result of this national political battle, the claim of the nation-state and of the new social movements to pre-Hispanic identity as a powerful historical legitimization of national objectives is a debate of considerable importance, suspiciously and tellingly absent from most political and academic forums. Most archaeological sites in Latin America and pre-Hispanic archaeological discourses in general have traditionally been understood as having very little impact in terms of defining a country's national hegemonic discourse. At best, pre-Hispanic sites have been consistently given greater attention only when nation-state ideology and bureaucracy, for example, in Mexico and Peru, have explicitly constructed a national ethos around indigenous cultures to uphold a more modern sense of identity and citizenship (see Patterson 1995a; see also Mallon 1995).

This book takes a more radical approach by sustaining that most, if not all, pre-Hispanic sites and discourses are subtly, and sometimes quite explicitly, articulated in historical productions that are pivotal to the national production of the contemporary Latin American nation-state. These historical discourses, which are routinely subsumed under a myriad of contested interpretations, are so essential that, without them, no nation-state would be able to fulfill its hegemonizing role successfully.

Recent research documents the central place of history in the construction of nationalism and the nation-state (Anderson 1983; Domínguez 1986; Foster 1990; Fox 1990; Friedman 1992; Handler 1988; Herzfeld 1982, 1987; J. Hill 1988, 1992; Hobsbawm 1990; Lowenthal 1985; Malkki 1995). No nation can endure without a history that legitimizes its existence (Renan [1882] 1990). The past, including the pre-Hispanic one, therefore readily becomes a contested landscape in which actors compete for authority, representation, and power (Bond and Gilliam 1994). Archaeology is an important element in this competition because it contributes the material needed to construct these histories (Rowlands 1994). Thus, I maintain that the pre-Hispanic past is a contested terrain in which actors strive to embody national histories that contribute to the operationalization of the nation-state. I argue that historical invention is essential, not only for the nation-state itself, but also for all national communities and social movements that are contesting political authority and power. Furthermore, I maintain that contesting or alternative histories are not detrimental, but, rather, essential for the consolidation of any national movement, including that of the nation-state.

The role of historical memory and the pre-Hispanic past in the modern Latin American nation-state has received little critical analysis, however (see Patterson and Schmidt 1995 and Castañeda 1996 as two exceptions to this trend). This book addresses this complex relationship for Ecuador, that is, the mutual dependence of the pre-Hispanic past and the nation-state in the production of contemporary nationhood. It explores how the pre-Hispanic past informs the present and is transformed into authoritative national histories that are articulated by a series of identity components that compete in a constant hegemonic project in the making (Joseph and Nugent 1994). I ultimately question the notion of historical truth per se and point to the multilayered contexts in which all historical versions are, and must always be, produced.

My research included a yearlong ethnographic study (during 1997) of the archaeological site of Cochasquí (Lumbreras 1990) as well as analysis of other pre-Hispanic historical discourses such as those of the Indian movement and Ecuador's print media. At Cochasquí, I attached myself to the Programa Cochasquí (Cochasquí Research Program) team at the Consejo Provincial de Pichincha (Pichincha's Provincial Council). The Programa Cochasquí is the regional organization in charge of the administration of the archaeological site of Cochasquí. My research strategies included interviewing the personnel involved in the creation and maintenance of the site, interviewing members of the comuna (local community), examining the site archives, recording the guided tours, analyzing the site museum, administering questionnaires to the tourists, and participating in daily activities at the site.

The site of Cochasquí is just fifty-six kilometers north of Quito, Ecuador's capital, only an hour-and-a-half's drive north of the city. The site is also very close to a cluster of small landholders who make up the comuna of Cochasquí. The comuna itself comprises a series of barrios (neighborhoods), with the most important one being centrally located with respect to all the others and at a significant distance from the site itself. However, the site area is not easily accessible, since it is at a notable distance from the main highway (an eight-kilometer steady climb). Although it is a stone-paved access road (empedrado), the twenty-minute ride is quite demanding on car and kidneys; by foot it would be a two- to three-hour uphill hike, depending on one's speed and endurance (Mantilla N.d.).

The difficulty of getting to Cochasquí seems to add to the allure of visiting the site, an important element, as we shall see, in its social production. As an article in El Comercio (1997b) notes, visiting the pre-Hispanic pyramids at Cochasquí is almost literally "a trip to the past." Since its initial opening to tourists in the late 1970s, under the auspices of the Programa Cochasquí, the site has become one of the most frequented archaeological sites in the country, averaging around twenty thousand tourists a year—nationals, foreigners, and researchers from academic institutions (Programa Cochasquí 1997; see also Corporación Ecuatoriana de Turismo [CETURIS] 1972).

As initially described by the German archaeologist Max Uhle (1939: 5), "The ruins are located to the west of the old path (tradition has it that this was part of the royal Inca road that connected Otavalo to Quito) that comes down the Mojanda from the town of Otavalo and which was followed by Cieza in his trip to Quito. This is the most extensive and most important complex of archaeological ruins and mounds in northern Ecuador."

As a result of Uhle's initial research, as well as later excavations (Oberem 1980) and descriptions by the Programa Cochasquí, three archaeological components have been defined at the site: (1) fifteen pyramids (nine with and six without ramps); (2) over twenty funeral mounds and domestic mounds; and (3) a central "domestic" space of approximately four hectares, defined as the zona pueblo (town zone), between the southern mounds and the northern pyramids (Mantilla N.d.). In total, the present legal boundaries of the site exhibit five to six mounds, although over thirty round mounds have been defined at the site (Benavides Solís 1986; Wurster 1989). The pyramids have been labeled from one to fifteen going from east to west and north to south.

The three pyramids considered the most important are nos. 9, 14, and 13, in order of importance. By far the largest is no. 9: ninety meters long north to south, eighty meters wide east to west, and twenty-one meters high at its tallest point. It is also the one that has endured the most looting, suffering a severe cut in the early 1930s that detached the two hundred meter-long ramp from the body of the pyramid. The next-largest pyramid is no. 14, which also possesses the longest ramp (250 meters) and is the one most often selected for traditional and shamanistic rituals and ceremonies. (During my fieldwork, a wedding took place on this pyramid.) It is described by many as having the greatest "energy" of all the pyramids. Pyramid no. 13 is also interesting in that two hardened earthen platforms on its top, discovered during the 1962-1963 German excavations of the site, are open for public display.

The pre-Hispanic site of Cochasquí is a locus of constant dispute and negotiation. Far from being a monolithic historical monument, Cochasquí presents multiple histories that play an active part in the production of the site. As an archaeological and historical drama (local, regional, and national), Cochasquí has a full set of characters, some playing more important roles than others, but all equally involved in its "production" or "invention" (Anderson 1991; Hobsbawm 1990; Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983). The archaeological site of Cochasquí is produced in the same manner that any other historical site is produced (Bender 1998; Handler 1986, 1988; Handler and Gable 1997; Silberman 1982, 1989, 1995). That is, no single person, event, or even institution can ultimately be hailed as being exclusively responsible for the site's construction as such. Rather, a complex cast of characters and events is intricately involved and actively competing and negotiating in the maintenance and representation of the site. As Handler and Gable (1997: 9) describe Colonial Williamsburg, the site of Cochasquí can also be appreciated as a "social arena in which many people of differing backgrounds continuously and routinely interact to produce, exchange, and consume messages." Never-ending interaction and disputes define the ever-changing dynamics of the site.

This dynamic historical production is apparent in the multiple functions claimed for the site simultaneously by tour guides and tourists: (1) because of its size, the site is hailed as a major agricultural and urban center; (2) because of its panoramic view and control of surrounding areas, it is said to have been a military garrison; (3) because of astronomical research, it is seen as an observatory (Yurevich 1986); (4) because of its large size, it is considered a ceremonial center; (5) because of personal "religious" (spiritual) experience, it is a major ritual and esoteric center for UFO sightings. All functions, as we shall see, receive nearly equal attention and official sanction, depending on the context in which the narratives have been produced or are being told.

I do not look to exhaust the historical elements at work at the site or the complex interaction between the different pre-Hispanic narratives in Ecuador at any given time. Rather, my main objective is to provide an understanding of the multiplicity of histories inherent in the production of the archaeological site of Cochasquí and pre-Hispanic narratives that subtly inform Ecuador's national identity. To this end, this book examines how Cochasquí and other pre-Hispanic archaeological narratives are represented and offers different rationales for their maintenance of the nation-state in their furnishing of the raw material for the production of an Ecuadorian heritage and identity.

Theories of History, Nationalism, and Hegemony

I am concerned with assessing the part played by the pre-Hispanic past in Ecuador's national production. I view historical memory as closely aligned to the hegemonic structure that both supports and reinforces a national identity and the nation-state's contemporary status quo—that is, highly unequal class, racial, and gendered/sexual social structures. Since hegemony is not static or monolithic (Sayer 1994), one must locate the historical productions and cultural representations that serve the dominant structure at particular moments and not at others. Because of this specific historical and political problem, I examine the manner in which national communities are dynamically (and necessarily contradictorily) consolidated and maintained (Wylie 1995) and the essential role that not only a communal imagination (Anderson 1991) but also, more precisely, a historical imagination plays in this regard (see Comaroff and Comaroff 1992).

Culture is an integral part of historical imagination. As a pivotal component of communal memory and historical narratives, culture and cultural forms are inextricably intertwined with the different positions that look to, and must, imbue history with authority if it is to be successful (see Baldwin 1990: 480-481). It not so much that culture becomes a highly political tool as that it is already present as a highly political enterprise intersected by varying degrees of power, control, and mechanisms of domination (Foucault 1980, 1991). All national communities, social movements, and even the nation-state find themselves struggling over notions of cultural authenticity as a particular cultural form intimately linked to historical production.

It is because of this contested cultural dynamic that authenticity has become so widely accepted, even in the "First World," thereby allowing traditionally oppressed Indian groups finally to express their socioeconomic grievances in universal cultural terms. This "opening" has allowed Latin American social movements (Escobar and Álvarez 1992) to identify successfully with a global human rights agenda, but it is based not only on a platform of cultural authenticity but also on one that is enabled by a postmodern global developmental discourse (García Canclini 1992a, 1992b). As a result, the Indian movement and, more specifically, the CONAIE are but one of the many Latin American social movements that have been able to capitalize on this postmodern global turn of events. This global process also provides an insight into why the Indian movement, in Ecuador as well as in many other postcolonial nation-states, has been able to critically gain visible levels of political control and autonomy, even after five centuries of systematic physical decimation, economic exploitation, and racial oppression (see Hall 1997).

Archaeology's Nationalizing Enterprise

Being a nation implies getting your history wrong (Renan [1882] 1990), and in this respect, Ecuador is no exception. Historical invention, or "making history" (Patterson and Schmidt 1995), implies rewriting, changing, and transformation, that is, the representation of the past being described. This transformation takes place as a result of both the attitudes and the preferences of the people constructing, describing, and participating in the historical narrative (Castañeda 1995, 1996; Sider and Smith 1998; Trouillot 1995) and the level of support offered by an array of social institutions, such as the state, to the historical versions being created (Abrams 1988; Alonso 1988; Gable, Handler, and Lawson 1992; Handler and Gable 1997; Nadia L. 1995).

Both processes are equally present and effective at the site of Cochasquí and in the different versions of Ecuador's national histories. As I discuss in the following chapters, the institutional characteristics of Cochasquí, that is, state funding and state support of the site, provide a dominant structure that strategically solidifies a particular version of Cochasquí's past. This history, the program's (i.e., the official) version, is legitimized almost as soon as it is produced. This structure serves as a dialectical support system in which the official version is legitimated by the state while the nation-state and its history are legitimated by the program's version of history at Cochasquí (see Althusser 1977 for similar discussion).

The national appropriation of the archaeological site of Cochasquí is part of a greater narrative by means of which the Ecuadorian nation-state is able to represent a historical continuity that transcends time by being embedded in a communal ethos of homogeneity and essentializing naturalness (Alonso 1988; Foucault 1991). As discussed below, analysis of the national appropriation of the archaeological past at Cochasquí and discussion of the different national histories enable one to understand how Ecuador's history is afforded agency and takes a hegemonic stance (Mallon 1995). Ecuador, like all nation-states, must represent itself within a unique national history. However, as discussed above, no such singular national history exists at any particular moment or in terms of the historical elements being represented. Multiple versions of the past are "nationalized" according to the social, economic, and political agendas that are essential to the state's maintenance of the nation and its constitutive communities. Therefore, there is no single archaeological past—pre-Hispanic or of any kind—in Ecuador; rather, multiple pasts are integrated into diverse national narratives, which are then presented as a unique national history at particular political moments, in particular arenas and settings.

Exploring this process is complicated, however, since the incorporation of the archaeological past into Ecuador's history is not simply an issue of historical objectivity per se (as has been traditionally argued); instead, it is related to a larger web of social relations that condition and are conditioned by the nationalizing process itself. An example of this is the progressive stance taken by many Ecuadorian (Ayala Mora 1983; Benítez Vinueza 1986; Marcos 1986c) and foreign historians (Meggers 1966), who envision the nation's history as beginning with the indigenous occupation of the territory and not with the Spanish colonization of these same indigenous communities. The potential of this interpretation to disrupt the historical legitimization and internalized racial and class oppression of the majority of Ecuadorians by a small white/mestizo governing elite is evident (Ayala Mora 1985b). However, an Indian origin for the nation is not inherently disruptive and, in some ways, maintains the oppressive figure of the nation and the state.

In contrast, the traditional historical establishment (Andrade Reimers 1995; J. M. Vargas 1953, 1964, 1982) has adopted the idea of the indigenous origin of Ecuadorian history, but as an origin devoid of actual (and therefore contemporaneous) Indian historical subjects. In this sense, the establishment has constructed a narrative that lacks an actual and authentic genealogy (Muratorio 1994, 1998) and, instead, presents a narrative that claims continuity between a static and glorious Indian past and the sacred ideals of the contemporary nation-state.

In contrast, many Indian communities, activists, historians, and social researchers presented a different reinterpretation of this same process (Pakari 1994). Their rendering has reached a wider national audience through its dissemination by the Indian movement and the CONAIE (1989, 1997). In this alternative narrative, the Indians reconstruct their own historical continuity among indigenous communities, past and present. In this version, it is the white/mestizo groups that are historically illegitimate and simply represented as the oppressors and usurpers of history.

As I discuss in detail, historical interpretations are singularly constructed and have direct political implications for the contemporary makeup of the nation. The active struggles of the multiple hegemonic readings at Cochasquí and in Ecuador's different national histories display the eminently political nature of any reconstruction of the past. Both at Cochasquí and in the other national histories, the political dimensions and implications represented by different interest groups are essential to determining the structure of the narrative and its ultimate meaning. The political and socioeconomic contexts in which Ecuador's national histories are produced and narrated are essential for understanding how each of these histories is presented to a national audience within particular settings (Agoglia 1985; Ayala Mora 1985a; Quintero López 1997; Silva 1995).

As many have argued (e.g., Bond and Gilliam 1994; Kohl and Fawcett 1995; Kuklick 1991; Patterson and Schmidt 1995), the reconstruction of the past is not a neutral enterprise, but is, quite to the contrary, charged with implicit and explicit notions of cultural authority and authenticity, as well of as national and territorial legitimacy. In the process of reconstruction, the past will always offer certain groups natural rights and power over others and legitimize, or delegitimize, territorial conquest (Silberman 1995: 256). It is this same factor that has contributed to many nations' interest in archeology as a means of constructing a "modern" history to legitimize their national and state objectives. Clearly, archaeology is one of the most effective ways of inventing a modern nation's history (Foster 1990). Within contemporary Western discourse, systematic surveys, radiocarbon dating, and archaeological excavations have become synonymous with scientific truth. This fact in itself transforms any archaeologist into a potential nationalizing agent whose scientific analysis may enable the modern nation-state to construct a history that is accepted as valid at the local and international levels (Elon 1997; Silberman 1995; Silberman and Small 1997).

In a practical sense, the political malleability of all archaeological discourse is a direct result of the impossibility of ever fully knowing exactly what the past was really like (Hodder 1982, 1986; Shanks and Tilley 1987a, 1987b). Interpreting the past, either archaeologically or historically, is always a project of understanding the past as precisely and objectively as possible. However, no matter how objective the reconstructions might be, history is not and should never be confused with the "real thing." History is never the past itself, but is, instead, a present-day narrative and understanding of it (Handler and Gable 1997: 223).

It is precisely this contemporary characteristic of historical production—the relationship of the study of the past with the present—which allows for this dynamic production of multiple histories (Benavides 1994). Therefore, it is these multiple histories that question the very notion of "real historical facts," of historical reality, and of a quest for "real" history (Wylie 1995: 269). This questioning is not necessarily in the suprarelativistic sense of there ever having been a "real" past, but, rather, in the sense that what is offered as the history of that "real" past is not only invariably colored, but, above all, also sanctioned by contemporary elements of our own making, independent of the past we are describing and striving to represent (see, e.g., Handler 1988; Handler and Gable 1997; Kuklick 1991; Wylie 1995). As Alonso (1988: 37) suggests: "Historical description, 'what really happened,' is not the result of self-evidences which we gather and string together but instead, the product of a complex interpretive process which, like any practice, is inflected by broader social projects, by relations of domination which seep into the private sphere of even the most 'civil' of societies." This is very much the case in the discussion of Ecuador's national histories, where "national" signifies different, and even contradictory, elements and meanings of the country's past.

The relationship between history and nationalism has been the object of dutiful research (e.g., Anderson 1983; Bhabha 1990; Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983) which has focused especially on the emergence, development, and legitimating power of national histories (e.g., Alonso 1995; Herzfeld 1987; Joseph and Nugent 1994; Karakasidou 1997; Mallon 1995). This has led many scholars to agree with Hobsbawm (1990) that historians in many ways are what poppy growers are for heroin addicts: the providers of the raw material needed for the active construction of a product (see also Foster 1990). This is not a minor concern when you take into consideration the power of nationalism in shaping the political contours of the contemporary world, in Chiapas and Kosovo, among other places. This political reality has most likely contributed to increased research since the 1980s into the workings of nationalism (see, e.g., Anderson 1983; Gellner 1983; Hobsbawm 1990; A. Smith 1983, 1987, 1995; Wolf 1982).

It is within this vein that the archaeological underpinnings of nationalism and national identity have begun to become the focus of research. For Silberman (1997: 18) this interest in the national politics of archaeology has provided for "a sociology of knowledge that seeks to understand the social and political strategies underlying archaeological research and the subsequent utilization of archaeological data, that is, how archaeology is used by modern institutions and nations to create a socially meaningful understanding of the past." This sociology of knowledge has been made possible by an influx of different intellectual traditions, such as neo-Marxism, critical theory, poststructuralism, literary criticism, and cultural studies. These intellectual currents have encouraged the analysis of archaeology as a modern discourse constituting contemporary contentions and conflicts over cultural heritage and authenticity (Trigger 1995), a debate which is essential in terms of the modern representation of the nation-state (Kohl and Fawcett 1995). This archaeological discourse incorporates more than individual concerns; it includes those of archaeology as a discipline and those of archaeology as part of much larger social processes implicated by nationalism itself (Silberman 1997).

In many ways, the epistemological crisis of the last decade, brought about by the postprocessual movement in archaeology (Hodder 1986; Shanks and Tilley 1987a, 1987b), and highlighted by the World Archaeological Congresses (Layton 1989a, 1989b; Ucko 1987), has also made it easier to focus on archaeology's discursive constraints. However, the subtle relationship between the nation-state, different forms of nationalism, and archaeology, which is the focus of this book, needs further attention. Analysis may be lacking because scholars who carry it out, such as philosophers of science (Saitta 1988; Wylie 1992, 1995) and archaeologists (e.g., Gero 1990; Patterson 1995b; Silberman 1997; Vidal 1993), are shunned by the academic archaeological establishment for having abandoned the discipline's fieldwork base.

The analysis of archaeological research as a discourse has led several scholars (among them, Arnold 1990, 1992; Kohl and Fawcett 1995; Layton 1989a, 1989b) to assess the state's manipulation of archaeological research as a potentially powerful tool for ideological legitimization of its own agenda of domination and oppression. This view, however, has fortunately given way to a more dynamic understanding of archaeology's relationship with nationalism and the recognition that archaeology not only is instituted by fascist or dictatorial states, but also is a characteristic of any modern "democratic" nation-state or national movement contending for political survival (Patterson and Schmidt 1995; Scham 1998; Silberman 1997).

National Sites and Hegemonic Historical Narratives

The study of specific archaeological sites, such as Cochasquí, as part of the nation-state's agenda points to a broader understanding of archaeology's nationalistic implications and constraints (Bender 1998; Kuklick 1991; Peterson 1995). The invention of a national past in Ecuador exemplifies the routine manipulation (or collaboration) of archaeological knowledge as part of the representation of a homogeneous community and an authentic past—a representation that is essential for the political maintenance of the nation. It is this political context that makes the historical reconstruction of Ecuador's archaeological past a highly relevant national enterprise. As one of the largest archaeological sites in the northern Andean highlands, Cochasquí is a locus of subtle mechanisms of representation which are important to the regional and national maintenance of the Ecuadorian nation-state. The analysis of Ecuador's multiple histories enables one to understand the intricacies involved in the politics of the past and in the production of history (Trouillot 1995; Wylie 1995). The analysis of Ecuador's national past also provides evidence against the portrayal of archaeology as a neutral, free enterprise, solely concerned with the past, that is, of archaeology as a purely objective scientific approach, merely influenced by contemporary hermeneutic concerns (Moore and Keene 1983; Spriggs 1984; Wylie 1992). As Blakey (1995) states, the myth of being engaged in "real history" is in itself another form of domination, inherent in all postcolonial populations and nation-states that are struggling to free themselves from a colonial heritage (see also Blakey 1991).

This book suggests that, in many ways, the past is continuously under construction because of the nature of historical research and hermeneutics in general (Alonso 1988; Foucault 1991). The past, both the nation's and our own, is never the same as we originally saw and thought of it (see Hellman 1980; Kincaid 1997). My analysis suggests that variations in an archaeological discourse at a site and within national communities develop within specific historical, social, and territorial contexts.

Bender's (1998) analysis of Stonehenge exemplifies the context specificity of archaeological sites. She delineates Stonehenge's growing role as a status and class marker within the British nation and its ability to represent the nation's past. She explores how this past has become sacralized through the nation's investment in the site's importance and meaning. Only the aura of a nation explains the religious undertone in both the state's official and the alternative (new age) groups' claims of the site's importance. There is a fetishizing of the signifier (the archaeological site), which allows it to be more important than what it signifies (the nation-state's past) (Barthes 1972, 1982, 1992; Taussig 1992b). With the site now off limits to everyone, its representation of the past is no longer only an emblem; it has become more important than the past itself. Stonehenge has been constituted as the past, even though this substitution is produced by the privileging of a set of contemporary contentions (Bender 1998).

It is this partly "religious" aspect of archaeological heritage that has made Silberman (1997) interpret the visiting of national sites as a secular form of the traditional practice of religious pilgrimage. We can also appreciate this practice at Cochasquí. Within the modern-day representation of the nation-state, visiting sites that are presented as essential bearers of the national spirit is a form of national pilgrimage during which one's faith and belief in the national ideal are rekindled. These secular pilgrimages to archaeological sites imply a form of physical effort in which the visitors make an explicit physical action (penance) for an abstract, intangible (spiritual) goal, in this case, national archaeological/historical knowledge; allow visitors to participate in something more cohesive than their own existence—an imagined community, if you will (Anderson 1991); and after the visit, afford the ideological weapons with which to fight the traitors who question the nation's historical reasons for being and its existence (Silberman 1995). These elements, as we will see, are inherent in the tourist's visit at Cochasquí and are part of how the site's history is appropriated through one's physical effort to cohere to the contemporary representation of the nation-state.

Silberman (1995, 1997) also points to the fact that a commercial push for large national sites may make archaeological sites into a historical commodity thrown ruthlessly into the global market. It is not a coincidence that at sites like Cochasquí, small cabins for weekend tourists have been built (Leonor Buri, personal communication). This is also the case at sites such as Pompeii in Italy and Colonial Williamsburg in the United States, which seem to be the archaeological version of what Dávila (1997) calls "sponsored identities" in her study of commercial backing of Puerto Rican national cultural festivals.

Unlike Bender's (1998) analysis of a European site, Kuklick's (1991) analysis of an African site, Zimbabwe, documents the importance of both the site and its multiple interpretations for the country which chose to take its name from the site. Using the site of Zimbabwe, Kuklick examines the large signification value placed on archaeological sites in constructing a national ethos against colonial symbolisms, in this case, the name Rhodesia. As Kuklick elaborates, the use of the site to justify colonial rule is evident in the denial for decades of any evidence that might point to the construction of the site by one of the known indigenous national groups of southern Africa, the Bantu. The denial of this interpretation, even as a possibility, was so strong that when Rhodesian archaeologists elaborated an indigenous theory for the emergence of the site, they were fired from their posts and their theory was attacked as evidence of political infiltration of the archaeological enterprise:

The constant theme of the pamphlets, now, reflects totally unproved assumptions substantiating Pan-African claims that for centuries Rhodesia was the centre of a sophisticated Negroid "civilization." The political implications are clear; if the claims are justified, there should be no legitimate opposition to a Black take-over of the country. It is no accident that the banned nationalist groups refer to Rhodesia as "Zimbabwe." . . . Fortunately, the National Monuments Commissions and the museums (and their associated archaeologists, whether professional or amateur) fall under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and if that Ministry can ensure that the new Guide to Zimbabwe is a wholly factual presentation of the country's ancient history . . . it will at least remove yet another pretext for hostile political propaganda. (Unsigned October 1971 article from the Rhodesian paper Property and Finance, in Antiquity [1977]: 1; my emphasis)

What the writer of this article, and the Rhodesian government, did not understand is that archaeology, as part of history, is always a political venture (Blakey 1995; McGuire 1992; McGuire and Paynter 1991; Patterson and Schmidt 1995; I. Vargas 1995, 1990; Wylie 1995; Zimmerman 1989). That is, it was not the presentation of a new interpretation of old evidence which supported Bantu occupation of the site; instead, archaeological interpretations that had helped the white government stay in power had been a politically involved venture all along (Kuklick 1991). This is similar to the situation in Ecuador, where a minority of whites and mestizos benefit from the continuous retelling of the archaeological past in a myriad of forms, all of which, in one manner or another, serve to maintain the nation-state's agenda.

I argue for recognition that we have no evidence for believing in an ultimate archaeological truth or that the truth will finally win in some teleological sense; rather, the historical truth, like any truth (see Foucault 1991), is a product of conflict, negotiation, and contradiction and, as such, is implicated in constant change. This is true even though each time an archaeological interpretation reaches a hegemonic stance (see Mallon 1995), it presents itself as the truth and hides the hermeneutics of its own production and representation (Foucault 1991; Taussig 1992a). Only in this manner can archaeological truths be presented as historically self-evident and natural and legitimate the national ideals being actively produced and contested.

Analysis of archaeological discourse demands the withdrawal of hegemonic objective truths and awareness of the devices which have allowed these truths to flourish and claim their authoritative positions. In this regard, what is needed is not only an assessment of the truth, but also the production of knowledge that enables archaeological and historical truth to be presented as such. This was also the conclusion of the School of American Research's seminar on alternative histories and archaeologies (Patterson and Schmidt 1995). Ultimately, seminar participants preferred to use the concept of "making history" because it more accurately portrayed the reflexive stance inherent in any political positioning needed to fruitfully assess the master narratives, their analytical categories, and their knowledge claims from a variety of standpoints. One needs a reflexive strategy if one is interested in unmasking the conditions under which historical knowledge is produced and serves to legitimize political domination. This strategy is reflexive because it must incorporate the shifting political underpinnings inherent in the reconstruction of the past (Patterson and Schmidt 1995: 12-13).

History is never linear, nor does it inherently express causality by itself; instead, it is our own renderings of it, as defined by the hermeneutics of historical production, that structure historical accounts (Foucault 1991). In this sense, individuals and institutions, without exception, constantly incorporate archaeological interpretations into master narratives that reinterpret and meaningfully connect the nation's present with its past. The master narratives then overlook the breaks and discontinuities that make smooth transitions impossible and that therefore would delegitimize the whole national historical enterprise.

The need for historical continuity is particularly evident in colonial settings, where the new leaders are keen to present themselves as the natural heirs of the dominated group and territory (Kuklick 1991: 165). Colonialism always implies an artificial and violent break from the immediate past and a necessary legitimization of the new order as natural and ever-constant. In this enterprise, archaeological interpretations are used to obliterate the break and present a new, unproblematic extension of the archaeological past into the political present.

Cochasquí is no exception. It elaborates a complex discourse of colonial conquest, first, by the Incas over a thousand years ago;, second, by the Spaniards fewer than five centuries ago; and most recently, by the white/mestizo elite, whose position of political, economic, and social privilege is continuously reinforced. In this manner, national histories homogenize cultural diversity by "permanently removing generations of [local] history from the landscape and creat[ing] a national historic rootlessness under official state sponsorship" (Patterson and Schmidt 1995: 20).

Even though legitimated national renderings of the archaeological past, such as Velasco's history of the ancient Kingdom of Quito (see chapter 1), might be much easier and perhaps more gratifying to deconstruct, alternative versions, such as the CONAIE's historical claims of Indian authenticity, are also produced within similar constraints. All historical versions, in their own fashion and for their own gain, strive to overlook the discontinuities in their archeological rendering of the past. National archaeological narratives, official or not, are always about presenting a smooth history where there are only accidents; a continuous subject where there is only discontinuity; a homogeneous nationality where there is a heterogeneity of communities; and historical truth where there is only subjugated knowledge.

The Past, the Political Production of Cultural Authenticity, and Development

Anthropological studies of the role played by historical memory and archaeological knowledge initially addressed the question of representational politics from the standpoint of cultural exhibitions and museums (Clifford 1988, 1992; Gable, Handler, and Lawson 1992; Handler and Gable 1997; Haraway 1989; Price and Price 1995; Stocking 1985; Young 1995), including that of large international cultural fairs (Mitchell 1988; Muratorio 1994). These studies examine the issue of power, authority, and authenticity in the national display of cultural artifacts and the construction of homogeneous cultures (Rosaldo 1989). However, other work addresses archaeological research more explicitly (Beach 1998; Bender 1998; Castañeda 1996; Harke 1998; Morse 1994; Nadia L. 1995; Oyuela-Caycedo 1994; Patterson 1989; Peterson 1995; Silberman 1982, 1989; Wilk 1985). Bender's (1998) work at Stonehenge, Silberman's (1982, 1989) and Nadia's (1995) work in the Middle East, and Castañeda's (1996) work in the Yucatan peninsula highlight the close relationship of archaeology and nationalism in states that openly recognize the value of the former in legitimizing its religious, territorial, and political claims. Although it does not deal with archaeological knowledge per se, Rappaport's (1994) work in Colombia's Andean highlands demands particular notice because of her analysis of the communities' use of indigenous historical memory in the production of their identity. Her work allows one to begin to assess how historical memories, especially pre-Hispanic ones, are not only emblems of local resistance but also hegemonizing enterprises that make homogeneous notions of the local and the national, of resistance and domination, problematic, since these notions are intersected by complex discourses of history, culture, and power (see Dirks, Eley, and Ortner 1994).

In the following chapters, I take into account these works as I analyze how official, alternative, and local perceptions of the archeological evidence at Cochasquí and other pre-Hispanic narratives are used to construct particular pasts and histories that support the interests of the individuals and communities involved. In this regard, I am interested in the more common situation in which the state is not necessarily directly involved in archaeological research, yet benefits from the historical discourses without exposing its national interests, which are so problematic that they are erased, hidden, or denied. However, these pre-Hispanic discourses are not created in a cultural void; rather, they are caught within a wider global dynamic of a developmental paradigm. Within this developmental framework, it is impossible to think of, or to represent, the contemporary world and therefore its history, outside of this uneven cultural model. Postcolonial (Third World) nation-states are expressed as either communities lacking development or, in more positive terms, as in the process of developing, which places them in an inherently inferior position wherein they lack the elements that the developed (read "First") world already possesses and controls. It is not difficult to see the "coloniality of power" (see Quijano 1993) of this pervasive contemporary developmental framework (Heyer, Roberts, and Williams 1981). What is harder, though, is to understand how this neocolonial paradigm exerts its control, and how notions of power, domination, and resistance are intimately inserted into the communities' daily life (Escobar 1995; Ferguson 1994).

One manner in which this neocolonial power is articulated is within the mythical discourse of a pristine cultural authenticity. In this regard, the past serves as an invaluable tool. National communities, social movements, a whole array of fractured historical subjects, and the nation-state itself are actively immersed in representing and contesting notions of cultural authenticity that will validate their political existence. The nation-state has a primary stake in this contest, since losing would mean, and has meant, the disappearance of its hegemonic national production. However, before the nation-state is able to articulate its national discourse of cultural authenticity, the different communities must produce their own cultural traditions, which are, highlighted or not, reinforced, actively remembered, or forgotten by the state at specific junctures. The nation-state never actually expresses a static, homogeneous identity, since that would signify its death. Rather, it represents a monolithic identity while maintaining active deployment of validating alternative, even contradictory, traditions that will be unevenly and ambiguously expressed when needed. A critical revision of any nation-state's history is a testament to this ambivalent historical process (Bhabha 1990; Renan [1882] 1990).

If the nation-state is actively invested in regulating the representation of cultural authenticity, however, the different national communities are equally involved in a necessary dynamic reconfiguration that will enable their political goals. In Ecuador, this has meant the powerful reworking of an indigenous discourse that has, logically enough, both shaken and legitimized the contemporary nation-state. Groups like the CONAIE, Pachakutik Nuevo País, the women's movement, and gay, lesbian, and transgendered organizations have expressed themselves in terms of authentic cultural traditions. Through the reigning developmental discourse, they have obtained international assistance, aid, and political validation. In a sense, they have had no choice but to express themselves in culturally authentic terms, and yet, in another sense, they have been empowered to become "natives" by a developmental paradigm that needs natives in order to develop, and a nation-state that also needs natives to secure international funds. In this postmodern framework, homogeneous postcolonial nation-states are out of the picture, not because they have never existed, but because this reality would translate into an economic debacle and their political demise.

Because of these particular postmodern global processes, I have not limited myself to the site of Cochasquí, but have extended my analysis to other pre-Hispanic discourses, especially those actively deployed by the Indian movement in Ecuador. The alternative histories represented at Cochasquí and other histories actively deployed by the CONAIE present an interesting intersection of individual, local, regional, national, and global relationships that are neither neat nor merely binary. Rather, neocolonial forms of control and political power are exerted in a myriad of fashions, including in forms that are (or would seem) contrary to their own colonizing objectives (see Foucault 1990). This complex articulation of power and domination highlights the role of hegemony and history in the consolidation of national identities, and ultimately in the legitimization of the political power of the contemporary nation-state in Latin America. My analysis is directed toward understanding the hegemonic role of the past in the historical legitimization and modern functioning of the Ecuadorian nation-state so as to provide insights into similar processes throughout the continent.

Nationalism and Hegemony

The problematic articulation of hegemony, varying forms of nationalism, and national histories is central to my understanding of the role of the pre-Hispanic past in Ecuador's national production. My central argument in terms of the contested and dynamic nature of hegemonic domination is most indebted to Foucault's (1988, 1990, 1994, 1995) insights into the workings of discourse and control apparatuses in the appearance of modern European social institutions. In this regard, Wylie (1995), among others (e.g., McClintock, Mufti, and Shohat 1997), has pointed to the need of alternative national discourses for the "officialization" and legitimization of any nation-state's political identity. Histories, including alternative or neutral ones, might be stumbling blocks, but they are essential for the nation-state's hegemonic articulation.

Nationalism has been the object of research since it was recognized and analyzed in the nineteenth century (Renan[1882] 1990). The approaches used to research it have tended to be largely influenced by the political trends of the period (Bhabha 1990). In the 1980s there was a renewed interest in nationalism in the social sciences (Gellner 1983; Hobsbawm 1990; Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983; A. Smith 1983, 1987), including Anderson's (1983) influential Imagined Communities. In 1991 Anderson addressed many of the concerns raised by other scholars (e.g., Fox 1990; Lomnitz-Adler 1992; Malkki 1995). Although a political scientist, Anderson imbued his study of nation with an anthropological understanding. For him, the nation, like all other social phenomena, does not have an intrinsic empirical reality. It is "imagined," much as our kinship ties or gender roles are "imagined." It is the fact that this imagined reality would seem natural and fixed that is at issue and worthy of intellectual exploration. Assessing the form imagining takes then becomes the primary question, not whether the nation is "real" or a mere political façade.

With this original approach, Anderson was able to shift the discussion of nationalism to a more analytical level, which still begged for an interpretive model to explain the construction of the nation. Anderson proposed a model in which members of the elite, mainly through the print media and educational institutions, were the most influential and viable agents in the nation-building process. According to Anderson, it was the ruling elite's political project that allowed the nation to come into existence. Using Italy and other postcolonial and European nations as examples, he concluded that the idea of the nation was, and must be, present before there was a politically constituted nation-state (Anderson 1983).

In regard to Anderson's (1983) use of Spanish America as a vital element and quasi-precursor of European nationalism, Lomnitz-Adler (1992) has raised some interesting concerns. For Lomnitz, Anderson's definition of nationalism on the American continent suffers from at least three vital shortcomings: (1) his use of the term is not historically accurate in relation to the colonial period of the Americas; (2) he emphasizes horizontal webs of association in disregard of central, vertical ones, that is, hierarchical webs that are essential in the communities' organization; and (3) in many instances, he defines national sacrifice less as a result of national ideals than as exploitative hierarchical social relations and explicit physical coercion. Despite Lomnitz's insightful analysis, Anderson's work is still profoundly paradigmatic for assessing national productions of any kind.

Anderson's work is interesting in its connection with Gramsci's (1971) notion of hegemony. Anderson understands that national histories are not only necessarily self-deceiving, but also the backbone of every nation-state. Hegemonic national histories are constructed in such a way as to make them seem right and natural. Sustained by the state, these national histories take on mythic qualities that secure their atemporality and therefore allow for their adaptation to the nation's changing conditions. In this sense, history becomes a mechanism for suppressing time; this mechanism supports certain groups' authority over others and strives to neutralize other possible versions of the past (Herzfeld 1987; also see Fabian 1983).

Foucault's 1990 work outlines how these far-from-monolithic authoritative histories manage to incorporate many counter-hegemonic descriptions and internal contradictions. His work on European and Western social discourses of sexuality (1990), medicine (1994), science (1972), madness (1988), and prisons (1995) constructs a much more dynamic understanding of hegemony and its construction. His analyses move us away from a simple understanding of authoritative discourses and inform them with a much more nuanced array of players and active contestation. Although his analysis is Eurocentric (see Stoler 1996), it demonstrates that an authoritative discourse is never merely the creation of the ruling elite.

Asad (1985) argues that for a hegemonic discourse to be successful, the ruling elite and the rest of the population must be convinced of its reality. This concept implies that none of the groups involved, including the elite, could conceive of this discourse as a simple plan for domination.

Both Foucault and Asad seem to question and complicate Anderson's (1983) model of an elite that relies on a hegemonic information apparatus for inventing imaginary cohesion and sense of belonging. At the same time, the political reality of present-day national struggles, for example, in Chiapas, Mexico, and the difficulty isolated individuals or large-scale social movements like the CONAIE have in simply dismantling national discourses seems to further validate Foucault's and Asad's arguments.

This has led to theoretical reworking of the very concept of hegemony (Alonso 1988; Bommes and Wright 1982; Corrigan and Sayer 1985; Domínguez 1986; Popular Memory Group 1982; Scott 1985; Silverblatt 1988; Stephen 1989; Wright 1985), including by a significant group of historians concerned with Mexico's past (e.g., Joseph and Nugent 1994). For this group of scholars, the power of hegemony can no longer be understood exclusively as ideological control; more specifically, they look at it as it is expressed in its capacity to constitute itself as a regulatory system supported by contrasting state-formation processes. In this sense, hegemony is not a finished ideological product, but a constant struggle for domination, a dynamic nation-state project in the making. It works because it is not a single thing, but a set of multiple realities with different meanings that can adapt to the times and the people that are constructing and are immersed in it. In this manner, it incorporates everything around it, including the analytical work done to understand it (Bommes and Wright 1982; Foucault 1980; Roseberry 1994; Sayer 1994).

The application of this analytical model to Mexico's past (e.g., by Joseph and Nugent 1994) brings up both the nature of the relationship between nationalism and hegemony within a Latin American context and the question of postcolonialism. Most important, the application of Anderson's model (1983) to the Latin American reality is fraught with difficulties and tensions, which exposes some of the model's weaknesses (see Lomnitz-Adler 1992; Rowe and Schelling 1991: 24-27). So far, Carol Smith (1990) and Mallon (1995) have provided the most general critique of the application of Anderson's model to Latin America. Both seriously question the elite's unique interest in creating a national spirit, especially in places such as Guatemala and Peru, where the group has clearly been more interested in maintaining and, to a large degree, creating greater ethnic differences among the populations. For Mallon, the depiction of the impoverished in Peru as "traitors" is due more to issues of representation and power than to the elite's actual interest in a national ideal. In this sense, nonelite groups contribute to nation building in more dynamic and subtle ways than Anderson would have it. As the Ecuadorian case indicates, a fragmented nation-state is an economic and political asset in the international-development arena.

In a similar vein, Carol Smith (1990) argues that in Third World settings like Guatemala, the elite struggle for the construction of a coercive state that reinforces greater ethnic division. This divisive strategy is particularly evident when the elite benefits more from capitalist development than from a popularly supported state, in other words, in a state buttressed by the legitimacy of the nation. Smith's argument seems to warrant a rethinking of the relationship between state formation and nation building as being not necessarily straightforward. Rather, there would seem to be a greater need for understanding the history and processes involved in each of the state's and the nation's constructions as interrelated and not a single entity.

This postcolonial retuning of Anderson's debate has provided for a rich and interesting intellectual production (Chatterjee 1986, 1993; Harrison 1991; McClintock 1995; McClintock, Mufti, and Shohat 1997; Minh-ha 1997; Patterson and Schmidt 1995; Spivak 1988, 1992; Young 1995). Postcolonial theorists have reworked century-long discussions of race, ethnicity, and sexuality and infused them with a more sophisticated understanding of their roles in hegemonic constructions within postcolonial national contexts. In this sense, their work reiterates much of the national-liberation literature of Cabral (1974a, 1974b), Fanon (1965, 1966, 1967), Freire (1992), C. L. R. James (1933, 1938), Memmi (1991), and Ribeiro (1972, 1988), among others. Although postcolonial studies have been brought to the forefront in the 1980s and the 1990s, mainly by Indian scholars (Chatterjee 1993; Guha and Spivak 1985) and writers (Rushdie 1981, 1989, 1994; see also New Yorker 1997), and are intricately related to India's recent independence from colonial rule, they now also form part of a much larger cultural-studies agenda (Appiah 1997; Bhabha 1990; Gilroy 1987; Hall 1981, 1986). Even though Latin America gained political independence over a century and a half ago, many factors still reflect its close relationship with its colonial structure and mark its neocolonial economic and cultural dependency. In this regard, the application of postcolonial theory to Latin America is fruitful and timely, since the continent's reality presents many fascinating postcolonial aspects to explore (see Barbero 1987, 1993; Coronil 1997; Franco 1991; García-Canclini 1992a,1992b, 1993; Rowe and Schelling 1991).

The analyses of pre-Hispanic discourses developed at Cochasquí in the Indian movement and the national print media provide insights into the mechanisms of national production and hegemonic articulation. The pre-Hispanic discourses that inform Ecuador's political identity are traversed by processes of identity formation that struggle at different levels to present coherent cultural pictures. How are these different identity formations, which feed and affect Ecuador's national ethos, formed? How is some level of balance or even the appearance of stability created while identities are changing constantly? To address these questions, we must explore the identity-formation process that popularly expresses the postmodern condition of the "fractured subject" (Hall 1997). It is this process of identity formation, particularly contemporary categories of social class, gender and sexuality, and race, that forms the last point of the theoretical focus of this book.



“This book is an important read for all students of Latin American history and for all those interested in the subject of nation building and the formation of national identity.”
The Historian

“This is one of the most outstanding books that I have read on Ecuador. . . . It is a groundbreaking work that intertwines nation, race, gender, and sexuality to show how that which seems most natural and most ancient is in fact intimately linked to the production of power.”
Amalia Pallares, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Latin American Studies, University of Illinois, Chicago


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