Tsáchila people

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Tsáchila man guiding a forest walk near Santo Domingo de Los Colorados

The Tsáchila people of Ecuador live in the county of Santo Domingo in the province of Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas.

Legend of the origin of their ornamentation[edit]

Men of this ethnic group are easily distinguishable for an elaborate head decoration that they style by shaving the temporal areas of their heads and shaping the remaining hair into a helmet-like feature with a mixture of grease and [annato] sap/seeds which achiote. This tradition is believed to have been a paliative measure from a time when the tsachilas were exposed to the ravages of Smallpox. A Tsáchila Shaman asked a Spirit to guide them to a cure by ceremony and prayer. They were guided to an Achiote bush. They covered themselves completely with the red juices of the seed-pods and after a few days the mortality in the group was drastically reduced. They are forever grateful to this plant for the protection that it offered to the entire community from Smallpox. The shape of their hair style is fashioned to look like the seed pods.

Present day way of life[edit]

They speak the Tsafiki or Tsáchila language of the Barbacoan language family. Men wear horizontally striped cobalt blue/black and white skirts, and the women wear brightly colored horizontally striped skirts.

The Spaniards called them "Colorado" (meaning colored red) because they used to cover their entire bodies in the red juices of the achiote seeds, for prevention against Smallpox, but the Spaniards thought that their skin was indeed their true color.

Historical notes[edit]

The largest city of the canton is Santo Domingo de los Colorados and was named after these ethnic group. Most Ecuadorians consider the shamans of the Tsachilas holders of secrets of the rain forest and of healing powers that would heal whenever the western medicine had failed. For the most, this country legend was generated by the fame of Abraham Calazacom a tribal chief of the Tsachilas that led his tribe in the fifties and sixties. Their economic activity is limited to harvesting of native tropical products for traditiional medicine, specially the Tagua or Corozo nuts that are used to manufacture hand-crafts in many communities of Ecuador. They also cultivate tropical fruits including different varieties of the genus Musa (bananas), Pineapples, Papayas, Oranges, etc, as well as farming Cocoa plants.

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