In Their Own Words: Women Authors in Ecuadorian Literature
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For an outsider, perhaps the South American country of Ecuador is best experienced on an old bus laden with luggage and pineapples careening on rock roads around volcanoes, whizzing through backyards of steamy jungle pueblos, and dodging traffic in the polluted and sunny streets of Quito. Such drastic diversity cramped in such a small space has created some necessarily diverse cultures and methods of surviving. The nature, politics, and peoples of the Andes are a fascinating but volatile combination jostling around in a small space. There are bound to be occasional explosions. This can be seen in the country's art, which displays the results of the crash and bang of struggling components. Perhaps the volcano Pichincha, which looms over the city of Quito, possibly erupting at any time, has added a sense of urgency that surges through the outwardly placid lifestyle of the Quiteiios; one of the places this urgency breaks through is in the country's art. The core of artists in Ecuador today is small and for the most part unknown by the society at large, yet they are a force in the naming and shaping of Ecuador; they are the note-takers, the watchers, the revealers of past and present ugliness, the memories of part and present beauty, and the predictors of the future. They are the visionaries. It is this power of artists to be a voice and to create an identity that makes them such a vital and appealing means for furthering the cause of oppressed peoples. Since the Spanish Conquest of the 1500s, tension has existed between the Spanish and the indigenous cultures. People of Spanish descent have written much of the literature of the three hundred years following The Conquest, yet the formality of European forms of expression conflicted with the voice of the majority of the country's inhabitants. The indigenous people could not shed the languages, songs, myths and cultures which had been given to them by their ancestors. Eventually, the strength of the indigenous culture won. Beginning in the late 19th century, writers of mixed Spanish and indigenous ancestry, like Jorge lcaza, began returning to the myths and oral story-telling techniques of the indigenous cultures and incorporating them into modem literature. In lcaza's Huasipungi, he rebels against the tradition of Spanish literature in Ecuador and uses colloquial speech and lower class characters to display the abuse of the indigenous in Spanish haciendas.