Familia Awa © Jenny Chávez

The Awa

The Awa, also known as Qualquier are located in the northern Oriente between the Mira and San Juan rivers in the Carchi Province. In addition there are also Awa communities in the Imbabura Province of Esmeraldas and in Columbia. In total there is a population of approx. 1,000 in the Carchi area and 600 in Esmeraldas.

Their subsistence was based on slash and burn agriculture, hunting, fishing and gathering wild fruits etc. In actual fact, they combined these activities with cultivating crops and rearing domestic animals. Their social structure is based on patriarchal lineage. The oldest male or grandfather was the leader of the group, taking decisions on all the more important aspects affecting the life of the group. In general, these chiefs also took on the role of religious leader or shamans.

These communities have retained some of their cultural patterns including their continued use of natural medicine, rituals, myths, beliefs and the Awa language, used within their communities.