May 29, 2010 Ecuador: Day 9
We have officially been here in Ecuador for over a week, and there is so much to share. Everything is going really well, and I have seen so many positive things.
I thought I would share a little more about the culture of the Tsachila people group. About a hundred years ago many of the Tsachila people had been wiped out by small pox and other diseases brought in. The Tsachila began to paint their entire bodies with a berry called achiote. They believed that painting themselves all red protected them from the diseases that were killing them off. Over time they stopped painting their entire bodies and began using the berry to only color the hair of the men, which they still do today. The red also signifies life.
They also paint their bodies with another fruit that is black. The “paint” lasts for several days on the skin. They paint lines on their bodies. They also paint black lines on their faces signifying death, black dots to remember the dead and black zig zag to represent the mountains around them. They used to paint black and white lines on their legs because they believed it would protect them from a poisonous snake that is black and white.
The men traditionally wear a black and white striped skirt and paint their hair red. The women wear very colorful skirts. Instead of painting their hair red, they wear colorful ribbons signifying life.
Like many indigenous groups, the Tsachila live on land that the government has given them. They farm yucca, plantains, cocoa, lion, and a few other vegetation. The women spend the day working on weaving and other arts and crafts while the men do heavier work. They are a people of very humble means with a rich heritage of tradition. Over the past several yeas they have had more tourism for income as well.