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Ritual Encounters

Ritual Encounters: Otavalan Modern and Mythic Community

Michelle Wibbelsman
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Ritual Encounters
    Book Description:

    This book examines ritual practices and public festivals in the Otavalo and Cotacachi areas of northern Andean Ecuador's Imbabura province. Otavaleños are a unique group in that they maintain their traditional identity but also cultivate a cosmopolitanism through frequent international travel. Ritual Encounters explores the moral, mythic, and modern crossroads at which Otavaleños stand, and how, at this junction, they come to define themselves as millennial people._x000B__x000B_Michelle Wibbelsman shows that Otavaleños are deeply engaged in transnational mobility and in the cultural transformations that have resulted from Otavalan participation in global markets, international consumer trends, and technological developments. Rituals have persisted among this ethnic community as important processes for symbolically capturing and critically assessing cultural changes in the face of modern influences. As religious expression, political commentary, transcendental communication, moral judgment, and transformative experience, Otavalan rituals constitute enduring practices that affirm ethnic identities, challenge dominant narratives, and take issue with power inequalities behind hegemony. Ritual Encounters thus offers an appreciation of the modern and mythic community as a single and emergent condition.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09287-9
    Subjects: Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Note on Orthography
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  7. Introduction: Otavaleños at the Crossroads
    (pp. 1-26)

    Imagine a place, nestled in the dramatic landscape of the Andes, where technology intersects with religion and myth, where an international highway cuts across pastoral landscapes connecting rural agricultural laborers to global communities and metropolitan centers, where the indigenous people of the area use systems of local barter and trade just as expertly as they participate in worldwide market trends. This place is Otavalo, a culturally and geographically unique area in northern Ecuador. It is home to Quichua-speaking highland indigenous people known as Otavaleños or Otavalo Runa, people who span an extraordinary heterogeneity of experience and yet maintain a strong...

  8. 1 Uku Pacha—The World Below
    (pp. 27-47)

    This chapter provides physical and historical bearings for the world that humans inhabit and shape through their actions. I situate Otavalo and Cotacachi geographically and provide a brief overview, based on secondary sources, of key historical circumstances that have propelled Otavaleños into myriad roles and occupations in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Historical precedents explain, in part, the dramatic transfiguration of the social topography Otavaleños navigate today. This historical sketch assigns time depth to an understanding of the diversity within contemporary Otavalan society, the variety of cultural and political influences in the valley, and the social and geographic dispersal of...

  9. 2 Return of the Migrants
    (pp. 48-71)

    In this chapter I consider the complexities involved in planning an annual festival known as Pawkar Raymi, and look at the various types of discourse that emerge in the multivocal spaces that the festival generates. The nature of dialogue among people reveals diversity of opinion, but also creative processes of consensus building necessary for working toward a common objective and living with difference. Here I focus on discursive practices of gossip, rumor, collaborative storytelling, joint conceptualization of ideas, problem solving, small talk, and conflict resolution. In addition to interactions during the Pawkar Raymi, my analysis considers organizing efforts that take...

  10. 3 Encuentros—Dances of the Inti Raymi
    (pp. 72-95)

    A human wall fifteen men across and dozens of rows deep advances at a slow trot toward the main square of Cotacachi,La Plaza de la Matriz. They are the San Juan dancers of the upper and lower moiety coalitions of local indigenous communities who have come to compete with one another in thetoma de la plaza(taking of the square) during the summer harvest festivals known as Inti Raymi. The sound of boots pounding against the pavement and collective whistling announce the strength and aggression of thesanjuanes, as the dancers are known in honor of Saint John...

  11. 4 Mythico-Religious Encounters—The Clash of Aciales
    (pp. 96-111)

    Once the San Juan dancers reach the main plaza in Cotacachi, small groups gradually join larger upper- and lower-moiety coalitions in preparation for a competition among moieties to win the church square. This chapter centers on the performance of violence in intercommunity dynamics and on human sacrifice as a conduit for mythico-religious encounters. By mythico-religious encounters I mean contexts wherein people exist alongside and interact with beings from other time-spaces. It is when the passage to other realms of experience is opened that the collectivity is fully conjured into being as a community in holistic terms. As practical circumstances lead...

  12. 5 Conversations with the Dead
    (pp. 112-138)

    Major holidays are opportunities for people to assemble. They are also occasions for the congregation of souls.Las almas, the souls, are said to return to the communities several times during the year. San Juan and San Pedro in late June are one such season in Otavalo and Cotacachi. One of the local researchers I worked with at Jambi Mascaric explained that people purchase new clothing in anticipation of the arrival oflas almasand then, on June 29, don their best outfits to greet the returning souls during a ritual visit to the cemetery. On the eves of San...

  13. 6 Stations of the Cross: The Eternal Return to Existence and Hence to Suffering
    (pp. 139-154)

    “The eternal return to existence and hence to suffering” refers to a phenomenon known astransmigration, which Mircea Eliade (1963:85–144) describes as the joining of the beginning to the end in a process that through memory constitutes a gradual return to the origin. For Eliade (1963:107) religious ceremonies are “festivals of memory.” He is careful to signal a difference, however, between memory (mnemne) and recollection (anamnesis), wherein “recollecting implies having forgotten” (“and . . . forgetting is equivalent to ignorance, slavery, and death”) (Eliade 1963:119). In chapter 5 I traced an analogous distinction in the ethnically inscribed practices of...

  14. Conclusion: Threshold People of Imbabura
    (pp. 155-156)

    “Religious man attempts to remain as long as possible in a sacred universe . . .,” writes Eliade (1959[1957]:13). The prominence of ritual celebration in the Imbabura area and the energy, creativity, and resources that Otavaleños pour into ritual activities suggest a concerted effort precisely toward this end.

    Communitas, the spontaneous and self-generating condition of human intimacy achieved through ritual experience, is generally described as an ephemeral condition that “breaks in through the interstices of structure, in liminality” and exists “at the edges of structure, in marginality” (Turner 1995[1969]:128). The steady sequence of indigenous celebrations in the Imbabura area, however,...

  15. Appendix 1: Glossary of Quichua and Spanish Words and Acronyms
    (pp. 157-164)
  16. Appendix 2: Calendar of Festive Rituals in the Imbabura Area
    (pp. 165-168)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 169-178)
  18. References
    (pp. 179-194)
  19. Index
    (pp. 195-208)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-213)