1. what is an indian?
1. The use of a capital ‘‘I’’ in reference to Indigenous peoples is intentional and based
on (and in respect for) a preference specified by the board of directors of the South
and Meso American Indian Rights Center (saiic) as a strong a≈rmation of their
ethnicities. It is not intended to essentialize identities; indeed, the use of the plural
‘‘peoples’’ recognizes a broad diversity not only in Ecuador but throughout the
Americas. These identities, as this book illustrates, were socially constructed,
variously produced, historically contingent, and di√erently experienced. There
are important legal and political distinctions between terms such as campesinos
(peasants), pueblos (peoples), ethnic groups, communities, and nationalities in
referring to the Indigenous inhabitants of the Americas, but for the most part an
analysis of this language extends beyond this text. As Mercedes Prieto notes,
historically ‘‘there was no single or normalized expression to refer to the indige-
nous population; ambiguity was prevalent’’ (Prieto, ‘‘A Liberalism of Fear,’’ 62).
The conflictive and ambiguous nature of language is a common problem for all
who write about colonized peoples. Historically, indio (Indian) has been a deroga-
tory term, but native peoples in the Americas increasingly have subverted the
colonial term in their liberation struggles. It is used in that spirit here.
2. See, for example, Albó, ‘‘El retorno del Indio’’; Almeida, Sismo étnico en el Ecuador;
Cornejo Menacho, ed., indios; León Trujillo, De campesinos a ciudadanos di-
ferentes; Meisch, ‘‘We Will Not Dance on the Tomb of Our Grandparents’’; Mor-
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