Tejedoras Chachis © Patricio Gaybor

The Chachi

Also known as Cayapas, these people are found in the west of the Esmeraldas Province, with a current population of 4,000 people. According to Carrasco (1983-1984) they lived in a tropical zone irrigated by various rivers including Cayapa, Santiago, Crizole and the Canande. Their principal centres are Zapallo Grande, Tzejpi or Pichiyacu, San Miguel, Onzole and Punto Venado.

According to their tradition, these people originated from Imbabura Province, where they fled from Incan and Spanish conquerors, led by their shamans to where they live today. Traditionally, these people have depended on agriculture, hunting and fishing for their subsistence. However, due to colonization and the growth in commercial timber businesses, their territory is threatened, stripped of timber causing a deterioration in the ecology (including contamination/pollution of rivers, indiscriminate felling of trees, disappearance of wildlife etc…) This pressure has meant that the Chachis have had to look for an alternative, complimentary income such as the sale of their labour to the wood businesses for derisory salaries, the construction of canoes and commercialisation of traditional basketware.

Source: Lilyan Beritez – Alicia Garcés. Culturas Ecuatorianas Ayer y Hoy