Ecuador – Dancing To Sad Songs

Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world is found in Ecuador. Other active volcanoes such as Sangay, Altar and Tungurahua are also found there. They are handsomely covered with permanent snowcaps on top of the crater. And at the foot of this volcano, many Indian tribes live peacefully.

Cotopaxi volcano

Our friend Juan Leon was born in the province of Tungurahua. He is a mestizo (mixed Indian and European origin), whose ancestors belong to the Salacasas Indians.

Ecuadorian people

In Ecuador today, mestizos form the majority of the population. The Indians form the second largest group. The different native Indian tribes are distinguished by their lifestyles and customs. Some of the Indian groups are the Otovalos, Salasacas, Puruhas, Canaris, Saraguros, Cayapas, Colorados, Chachis, Tsachilas, Shuar, Achuar, Onichos, Cofanes, Siones, Secoyas and Huaoranis. The third largest group, the white population, is mostly descendants from the Spaniards and a few European migrants. The blacks were brought in from Africa as slaves during the colonial era. Descendants of the mixed African and Indian races are called Mulattos. Spanish is the official language in Ecuador.

According to the CIA World Factbook’s data from 2021, the ethnic composition of Ecuador’s population is dominated by mestizos, who constitute approximately 71% of the total population. The indigenous population, consisting of numerous distinct ethnic groups, is the second-largest group, accounting for about 7.4% of the population. The major indigenous groups in Ecuador include the Quechua and the Huaorani. The white population, which is mostly of Spanish and European descent, accounts for about 6.1% of the population. The Afro-Ecuadorian population, descended from African slaves, represents approximately 4.2% of the population. The remaining 11.3% of the population includes various mixed race groups, such as Mulattos.

The immense solitude of the Andes and the pain that the oppressed Indians and Africans suffered at the hands of the conquerors are often expressed in haunting folksongs called ‘Yarabi’. Ecuadorian music is characterized by its sadness. “It is so sad, it makes us dance!”, says our friend Juan Leon, not really expecting us to truly understand. Paradoxically, it is these sad tunes that lighten up their fiestas and popular folk dances.

Ecuadorian music is characterized by its sadness. “It is so sad, it makes us dance!”, says our friend Juan Leon.

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