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Convocation of Congress of Agricultural Laborers and Peasants

Comrade-laborers of the country:

On February 8, 1931, there will meet in Juan Montalvo, Cayambe, the Congress of Agricultural Laborers and Peasants for the purpose of forming the Federation of Agricultural Laborers and Peasants of Ecuador which will defend the interests of rural laborers. The Organizing Committee of the Congress invites all agrarian syndicates, all districts, all leagues of peasants and settlers (colonos), all committees for the recovery of land and water for towns, to attend the Congress, sending one delegate for each fifty members. The travel expenses of the delegates will be paid by the respective organizations and the expenses of the Congress will be paid by the Committee. The Congress will last three days, ending with a native feast. The delegates must bring full powers and credentials.

The life of rural laborers is becoming every day more arduous. The Indians who were despoiled of their land by the Spanish conquerers and those who succeeded them have lived in the hardest servitude for four centuries. The Indians, negroes or montuvios (peons of the coast) who work on the haciendas as agricultural laborers or hirelings and those who receive as pay a piece of land loaned by the hacienda (huasipungo) and in addition, but not always a miserable wage (raya) have to work long days which vary, averaging eight to ten hours and reaching in certain oases fourteen hours and more. The wages which they earn range from 30 centavos up to two mores on the coast. The huasipungueros (those who receive a piece of land) earn from ten to thirty centavos. A good part of the wages is discounted on account of fines, for loss or death of animals, for shrinkage of grain, absences from work, or imaginary debt. Those who receive land (colons, finqueros, desmonteros, etc.) pay for the lots rented them by the hacienda annual rentals in grain or money, higher at times than the value of the land itself. huasipungueros and peons are frequently obliged to sell their products to the hacienda at ridiculous prices and on some haciendas they are obliged to spend all their money in the stores of the landlords. Punishments of every kind, degrading tortures and despotic treatment of the peons reign everywhere, reaching even assassination (remember the lizard-hole of Conde Mendoza). The peons are dismissed as well as huasipungueros at any moment and despoiled of their plantings. The peasants
who have small parcels of land and those holding land in common are despoiled of their land and water by the authorities of the haciendas and obliged by force to furnish free service. Rural laborers in general are exploited by the priests who collect tithes and first fruits and deprive them of their wages under pretext of priostazgos, baptisms, etc., by petty lawyers who involve them in costly and interminable law-suits, by the authorities who collect from them improper fines and oblige them to labor gratuitously on public and private works. When they seek justice against the abuses of employers and bosses, they do not get it and at times they are thrown into prison and fined for their insolence in protesting. Thousands and thousands of Indians and montuvios have been assassinated by owners of haciendas or police who always remain unpunished. There are almost no schools in the country and consequently ignorance . reigns. Laborers are treated as of an inferior race in the most despotic manner. Many towns have been despoiled of their communal land and water by the owners of haciendas and on the coast there are entire towns built on the haciendas which have been thrown into slavery by the owners of large properties who are unable to remedy the desperate situation of their ruined properties without exploiting and oppressing laborers.

The Congress of Agricultural Laborers and Peasants is going to meet for the purpose of unifying laborers and seeking the means of saving them from slavery. The principal questions which the Congress will consider are: Report of the Organizing Committee; discussion of the statutes of the Federation and its formation; program of demands to be made by laborers and peasants; struggle against unemployment; tactics of the struggle; assistance to laborers and peasants; miscellaneous questions and election of the Executive Committee of the Federation.

Congress of Agricultural Laborers and Peasants - Organizing Committee..

Source: Letter from William Dawson, Legation of the United States of America, Quito, to Secretary of State, Washington, February 27, 1931, Oficio no. 170, Record Group 59, 822.00B/27, National Archives Records Administration (NARA).

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