Temporary tattoos on the face are some of the characteristics of midwives, who occupy a privileged place in the hierarchy of indigenous peoples. One hundred, 75, 46 and 23 years old.
These are the ages of four women from the San Jacinto community, located in the province of Pastaza, who have earned the nickname of “guardians of the Pachamama”. Every weekend hundreds of tourists from different parts of the country and abroad come to the sector.
The place, which belongs to the Tarqui parish, is three hours from Ambato and five from the capital, and offers various options for rest, fun and family learning. Although the entrance to San Jacinto is free and the locals are hospitable, this female quartet is in charge of receiving visitors, with whom they perform a welcome ritual.
A replica of the facial painting is placed on the face of the women who visit the ethnicities of Pastaza. Despite the differences in age, height and color of their hair, women wear similar outfits and wear a unique identity feature.
It is a temporary tattoo on the face. For foreigners they are only black lines drawn on the forehead, cheeks and nose; but this feature has an important meaning. “It is a symbol of authority and respect granted by the community.
The ‘guardians’ carry in their hands spears made with local woods, when the tourists arrive they dance around to try to guess and interpret the intentions of the visit, “said Omar Bejarano, a Chilean anthropologist resident in the Mecca canton of Pastacense.
After the striking dance the “guardians” take out of their shigras (bags made with vegetable fibers), necklaces, and deliver one to each visitor. This scene is a part of the customs of the inhabitants of San Jacinto, one of the most striking but at the same time intriguing districts of Pastaza, where the feminine leadership is still valid, which in antiquity was not only practiced in this province, but also throughout the Amazon.
Validity of matriarchy
The privilege of welcoming those who come to the village has always fallen on women, said Bejarano, for whom this is proof of the validity of matriarchy. “Little is known about the social mechanisms that our ancestors had before the colony. The truth is that in Amazonian ethnic groups, as well as in some of the Sierra, women held the reins not only of households but of the community because of their capacity for analysis, organization and inclination for dialogue, “said Bejarano. Luz Santi Simbaña, Mariana, Josefa and Lorena, respectively, are the names of the characters mentioned at the beginning of this story.
The eldest is Luz, who is the mother of Mariana, grandmother of Josefa and great-grandmother of Lorena. Every Saturday she summons her daughters to the village gate in order to prepare the welcome ritual.
“By mastering ancestral knowledge, the midwife can interpret the true intentions of visitors. She said that on several occasions she detected bad vibes in one of the tourists, but she let him in to check her feeling; and indeed said person tried to do something against our principles, such as taking out faunal species, “said Ricardo Andi, a resident of San Jacinto.
He is also a relative of Luz, and recognized the authority of this noble woman, who is the root of a family composed of five generations. “In our villages there is no dispute between the male and female gender for dominance and authority, as it does in the mestizo and white culture.
However, we understand that there are roles that nature gave to both groups, “Andi added. For political and organizational purposes, in San Jacinto there is a council of leaders composed of men and women. However, the figure of greater hierarchy and wisdom is still the old Luz Santi.
Other characteristics of matriarchy in the Amazon are the ability of midwives to advise, officiate ceremonies, such as the initiation of adult life and open the hunting season, attend births, and organize assemblies and community sessions.
Founder of Pastaza
Luz Clara Santi Simbaña was born 101 years ago in Puyo, capital of the province of Pastaza. She is also known as the founder of this city, because in her youth she participated in the political delimitation of the urban area.
“In 1932 she accompanied her parents to a convention of indigenous peoples of the region, in which it was agreed to protect nature; In addition, indigenous participation was resolved in the construction of the city and monitoring of responsible use of natural resources, according to our worldview, “explained Luisa Chango Santi, daughter of” Mamita Simbaña “, as they know Luz locally.
The old woman has roots Shuar, Achuar and Kichwa, blood mixture to which is attributed the bravery and temperance of his character. “These nationalities respect the Pachamama, so my grandmother defends our natural resources until today. And this example is our greatest reference of respect, first to our mothers, sisters and wives, and also to the nature that is feminine, “said Pedro Tapuy, grandson of the leader.
On the anniversary of the provincialization of Pastaza in 2015, the authorities granted recognition to Luz Santi Simbaña for her example of courage and leadership. Guardian of the Kichua language and founder of Pastaza, are some mentions that she received. (I)