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    Land of winds > The land > Geography | Issue 17 (Jan.-Feb. 2014)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

Saraguro people's land

Saraguro people's land

The actual territory inhabited by Saraguro people comprises the northernmost part of the Loja province (south of the Ecuadorian Sierra), bordering with the provinces of Azuay, Zamora Chinchipe and El Oro. In particular, the Saraguro live in the parish of San Lucas (San Lucas canton) and in the parishes of Saraguro, Paquishapa, Tenta, Celén and Selva Alegre (Saraguro canton); these places are located some 70 km to the north of Loja, the province's capital city, and some 150 km to the south of Cuenca. The Saraguro have also populated regions of humid forest to the east, in the Yacuambi, Yanzatza and Nangaritza cantons in the province of Zamora Chinchipe, within the Shuar territory.

The main inhabited areas are situated at an altitude of 2.500 metres above the sea level. Saraguro communities are located in the shadow of mountain peaks rising up to nearly 4,000 metres, which like in all of the Andes, are sacred to the local indigenous people: Acacana (3,439m), Tambo Blanco (3,370m), Payama (3,598m), Piedras (3,365m), Chucahuiña (3,815m), Fierro Urco (3,788m), Condorshillu (3,484m) and Puglla (3,334m). Enclosed by these heights there are areas of bleak uplands covered with montane grassland, and pretty natural pools dotted around (Grande, Piedras, Chinchilla, Huatohuiña, Surihuiña). Saraguro territory places in the upper hydrographic basin of the Jubones river (which includes the rivers Uchucay, León, Oña, Naranjo, Paquishapa, Negro and Quinguiado) limited to the east by the Yacuambi river.

Saraguro people's land

Human activity (agriculture, forest product production) has significantly altered the natural environment, however, in the upper parts of the valleys and ravines with temperate climate there are forests of alder, elder, willow, walnut, pine and eucalyptus, while the lower parts, mostly in the eastern slopes, are occupied by cloud forest (e.g. the Huashapamba protected forest) with mullón, cedrillo, romerillo and sara trees, whose trunks are covered in orchids, bromeliads and mosses. The region's fauna encompasses little red brockets, foxes, pumas and a few spectacle bears in the upper parts, and tapirs (antas), pacaranas (guantas), common agoutis (guatusas) and a wide variety of birds and insects in the lower parts.

Despite some problems caused by mismanagement of land and resources, there is still fertile soil to grow potatoes, corn, beans, peas, wheat, barley and onions, and almost all type of horticultural crops are grown including aromatic plants. Saraguro people were (and some still are) subsistence farmers and herders, raising cows, sheep, pigs, hens and cuises (guinea pigs), and producing wool and cheese for home use.

Saraguro people's land

Tourist attractions in the region include visits to different areas of cloud forest (e.g. Huashapamba), the ascent of some of the finest peaks, archaeological sites (e.g. Ciudadela and Ingapirca ruins, Sinincapac caves...), wandering strolls around the high Andean pools and other natural surroundings (e.g Peña Blanca rocky slopes, the Piedra Voladora, waterfalls along the Paquishapa river, Huelemon moorland, or the Cerro de Arcos windswept rock formation). Urban areas have not lost the charm that distinguishes traditional architecture and historic environment (e. g the chapel of Shindar) and concentrate the production of traditional textiles (e.g. Las Lagunas is famous for its ponchos, blankets, and mantles, while Tuncarta is well-known for its wide-brimmed pressed wool hats). Finally, located in the area comprising the villages of Santiago, Manú, Yulug, Oña, Paquishapa, Saraguro and San Lucas, there are many Saraguro communities worth visiting and admiring along the way (Pichig, Pueblo Viejo, Bucachi, Vinoyacu, Oñacapa, Tuncarta, Las Lagunas, Ñamarin, Quisquinchir, Tambopamba, Yucucapa, Gunudel, Tenta, Gañil, Cañicapa...), where at festive seasons, visitors will be able to appreciate their traditional attire, eat local dishes and enjoy the music, which is traditionally played on the bombo (drum) and the violin.

Cantón Saraguro, in Wikipedia [es].
Loja province, in Wikipedia.
Book. "Los Saraguros del Sur de Ecuador", by James Dalby Belote [es].
Book. "Proyecto de desarrollo rural Saraguro-Yacuambi-Loja, Ecuador", by IICA/FIDA/MBS-SSDR [es].
Thesis. "La producción orgánica en la soberanía alimentaria de las comunidades indígenas del cantón Saraguro, provincia de Loja en la actualidad", by Ana Lucía Paqui Guamán [es].

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