Peasant Identity, Worker Identity:

Conflicting Modes of Rural Consciousness in Highland Ecuador

Marc Becker
Department of History
Illinois State University
Normal, Illinois

Prepared for delivery on the panel "Peasantries By Any Other Name: Rethinking Social Transformations and Struggles in Rural Latin America in the 19th and 20th Centuries" at the Twenty-second Meeting of the Social Science History Association, Washington, DC, October 16-19, 1997.

Draft--please do not cite without author's permission. Comments welcome.

On December 30, 1930, something happened in rural Ecuador which no one in that country had ever seen before. The Indigenous workers on the Pesillo hacienda in the northern highlands went on strike. No one was working, some Indians were in hiding, and others had gone to Quito to present their demands directly to the government. Centuries of abuse and exploitation led to a situation in which they worked long hours for little pay on land which belonged to absentee property owners. With the support and encouragement of urban Marxists, these peons now revolted against their masters. The government feared that the strike would spread to other haciendas. The strikers presented a list of seventeen demands which primarily concerned issues of raising salaries and improving work conditions. Victory proved slow in coming and was incomplete, but this strike created a model for rural protest actions which would be emulated throughout Ecuador during subsequent years.

This strike marked the beginning of significant rural social protest movements in Ecuador. The strike was not a small and isolated affair which only sought limited gains on a local level; it struck at the very heart of the land tenure system in Ecuador. The strike also represents the creation of new forms of identity among the rural dwellers who participated in this movement. Scholars have alternately considered the workers on these haciendas to be peasants (thereby emphasizing their economic relations with the rest of society) or Indians (implying ethnic relations with the dominant culture). The people within these movements, however, rarely used such labels to describe themselves. More common were terms such as trabajadores agrícolas (agricultural workers), obreros (laborers), trabajadores (workers), or peones (peons).

On a superficial level, these terms are merely a matter of semantic distinction which can be seen as synonyms for the same concept. On a deeper level, however, these labels uncover conflictive and evolving identities and modes of rural consciousness in highland Ecuador which reveal much about the nature of social relations in Ecuador. Recent historians who analyze peasants in Latin America have largely eschewed issues of terminology in order focus on deeper and more significant questions of power and the role which the peasantry played in nation building.(1) But has this led us to unjustifiably collapse diverse economic modes of production into a simplistic catch-all category of "peasant"?

My intent in this essay is not to review the history and developments in the field of peasant studies.(2) Nor is my goal to examine in detail the variety or typologies of "peasants" in Latin America or throughout the third world. I do not wish to argue that the example of Cayambe, Ecuador, is normative or even common for other areas. Rather, through problematizing the terminology we use in discussing rural segments of the population and utilizing the example of Ecuador we can gain a clearer albeit more complex understanding of the role which peasants played in movements for social change and the forms of consciousness which emerged from this situation.

Land tenure and labor relations on state-owned haciendas

Economic patterns played a major role in determining the evolution of rural consciousness in Ecuador. This essay examines these modes of consciousness in the context of labor conflicts on the Pesillo hacienda in the canton of Cayambe in the northern Ecuadorian highlands. Since the sixteenth century, the Catholic Church maintained almost exclusive control over this region. The Pesillo hacienda has its roots in a small land grant in 1560 from the Spanish crown to the Merced order. Over time, the Mercedarians expanded the size of the hacienda and came to control a wide and ecologically diverse area of northern Cayambe. Pesillo developed into the largest hacienda in Cayambe, and in 1945 it encompassed 20,668 hectares of land or almost fifteen percent of the canton.(3)

The 1895 Liberal Revolution began a large-scale attack on the Church's wealth, power, and influence in Ecuadorian society and sought to subject the Church to secular control. The 1908 Ley de Beneficencia (Law of Charity) declared in its first article that all of the property of religious communities belonged to the state. The intent of this law was to utilize the property of the Catholic Church to the benefit of the general society, instead of only for the enrichment of the Church. This legislation created an administrative board (called the Junta Central de Asistencia Pública) in the capital city of Quito to administer this property. With this act, the government expropriated the Pesillo hacienda as well as others which belonged to religious orders. Thus began direct governmental administration of haciendas in Ecuador.(4)

Despite changes in land ownership, labor relations based on the colonial encomienda system remained in effect until a military government enacted agrarian reform legislation in the 1960s. In the twentieth century, these land tenure and service tenancy patterns carried the name huasipungo, a system of sharecropping to which highland peasants were subjected.(5) In a land-labor exchange, the tenant farmers (called huasipungueros) worked on hacienda land three to six days a week in exchange for small subsistence plots (called huasipungos) usually one to four hectares in size, access to pasture land for a small number of animals, and a meager cash wage. The amount of this wage varied from hacienda to hacienda and was a constant source of agitation, but it generally rose from an average of five centavos in 1895 to three sucres by the time of agrarian reform in 1964. During this time the value of the sucre steadily declined, so that the actual increase in salary was much smaller and in reality the real value of wages fell by a third. Throughout this entire time, an increase in wages remained the most continual and repeated demand of the rural work force.

In addition to their salaries, huasipungueros also received small garden plots as partial recompense for their labor on the hacienda. The huasipungueros did not actually own their plots of land; the plots were part of the hacienda and on loan to the workers. This was often the least productive land on a hacienda and generally could not produce sufficient foodstuffs to feed the workers much less produce a surplus to sell. Nevertheless, as Jorge Icaza vividly portrayed in his novel Huasipungo, the workers became very attached to their plots and treated them as their own, and were willing to revolt if the landowners attempted to take these plots away.(6)

Other forms of agricultural labor existed in Cayambe in the first half of the twentieth century. Most significant were "free laborers" who worked for wages on the haciendas but did not have access to a huasipungo plot. Even though free laborers earned more, many Indians were willing to work for lower wages in order to have their own plot of land.(7) According to a study from the 1940s, it was because of a great love for the land which flowed in their blood. It was a central part of their Indigenous culture and ethnic heritage. They would rather have the small plot of land and only earn seventy-five centavos a day than be without the plot (and the attachment to their cultural heritage) and earn the six sucres of a free peon.(8) In addition, most workers preferred the security and independence of having a plot with subsistence crops which could sustain them through difficult times, rather than relying exclusively on the contingent nature of temporary employment as day laborers on the haciendas. Bauer notes that "the ultimate threat against unsatisfactory tenants was often dismissal from the hacienda."(9) Despite the continual agitation for higher salaries, these workers continued to place a high value on their small huasipungo plots.

Agrarian reform was not one of the demands of the 1930 strike at Pesillo. This idea was only introduced after the strike as a principle demand of the Communist Party. Ironically, the Communist Party which was built on a working-class identity pushed for the most basic of peasant demands: land. Naturally, this raises the question of whether Marxists sought to foster a peasant or worker identity among the exploited peons on the hacienda. What kind of identity would the people on the haciendas come to embrace? What emerges out of this situation were complex and conflictive forms of identity which are difficult to catagorize but reveal much in the way of the formation of rural consciousness in highland Ecuador during the first half of the twentieth century.

A question of definitions

Because they lived in rural areas, were engaged in agricultural labor, and occasionally are referred to in Spanish as campesinos, many people have made the assumption that the workers on the haciendas in Pesillo and throughout Ecuador were peasants. But what is a peasant? Is this a proper use of this term? It is difficult to establish a precise definition of the word "peasant," and, as Sidney Mintz noted in a 1973 essay in the Journal of Peasant Studies, this issue has invoked a lengthy debate.(10) Issues of self identity, created identity, and situational identity further complicate these definitions. Years later, indicating that this debate is nowhere near an end, John Coatsworth observed that peasants "have been so variously identified that a generally accepted definition has yet to be produced."(11) In his classic study Peasants, Eric Wolf defined peasants as

rural cultivators whose surpluses are transferred to a dominant group of rulers that uses the surpluses both to underwrite its own standard of living and to distribute the remainder to groups in society that do not farm but must be fed for their specific goods and services in turn.(12)

Similarly, Douglas Kincaid in a study of peasant revolt in El Salvador identified peasants simply as "rural cultivators from whom an economic surplus is extracted in one form or another, freely or coercively, by nonproducing classes."(13) In a later study of peasant resistance, Wolf presents a broad definition which includes tenants and sharecroppers but excludes landless laborers. Peasants, according to this definition, are those who are "existentially involved in cultivation and make autonomous decisions regarding the processes of cultivation."(14) Others have further broadened the term to include virtually anyone involved in agriculture from hunters and gatherers through small landholders, irregardless of the economic mode of production involved.

On the other hand, some scholars favor tightly restrictive definitions which limit peasants to those of medieval or early modern Europe. Henry Landsberger noted that the situation in Latin America differs "so profoundly from the European feudal situation as to make the analogy misleading."(15) If this were to be accepted, we should never use this term in referring to people engaged in agricultural work in Latin America. Nevertheless, the term has become so commonly used we can hardly avoid it.

Historically, Karl Marx's perspective on the peasantry has further complicated a study of rural populations in Latin America. Marx considered the peasantry to be "not revolutionary, but conservative." He proceeded to note that "nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history."(16) In the 1970s, reacting to Marx's charge that peasants were like a "sack of potatoes," a large body of literature emerged which argued that peasants were more revolutionary than was sometimes thought.(17) This historiographic trend challenged the conventional interpretation of peasants as a pre-capitalist and politically anachronistic group which was only concerned with defending their traditional values and institutions. Indeed, Marx's European perception of the peasantry is a poor fit for the situation in Latin America. He describes them as a group with a mode of production which "isolates them from one another instead of bringing them into mutual intercourse." Since "the identity of their interests begets no community . . . they do not form a class." They are incapable of representing their own interests; they must rely upon others, who then become their masters."(18) If this were indeed the case for peasants in Ecuador, would they be able to develop the revolutionary consciousness necessary to lead to a strike such as the one at Pesillo?

Thus, although the rural Indigenous population of Cayambe and elsewhere in Ecuador and throughout Latin America are often called "peasants," this can be a very inaccurate label. Given land tenure patterns in Cayambe, it was common for campesinos to speak of themselves as trabajadores agrícolas (agricultural workers) which can be taken to mean a rural proletariat. In addition, although contemporary press reports from the first half of the twentieth century would sometimes refer to this population as campesinos, other terms were also employed. For example, a report on a rural strike on a hacienda in northern Cayambe called the Indians obreros ("workers").(19) A congress which was planned for February 1931 in Cayambe but which governmental repression prevented from taking place planned to create a Confederation of Agrarian Workers and Peasants (Confederación de Obreros Agrarios y Campesinos), which emphasized both labels. Similarly, press reports from a 1954 strike on the Pitaná hacienda in southern Cayambe used the terms trabajadores (workers), trabajadores agrícolas (agricultural workers), peones (peons), and indígenas (Indigenous peoples) interchangeably, but never described the strikers as campesinos. Anthropologists who studied this Indigenous population utilized a similar vocabulary. For example, Aníbal Buitron and Bárbara Salisbury Buitron introduced their book on campesinos in the province of Pichincha in the 1940s as a study of the life of trabajadores agrícolas (agricultural workers).(20)

These issues are further muddied in an English-language study by the Spanish-language term campesino which is often imprecisely translated as "peasant." The term is not an ethnic marker; a campesino could be white, mestizo, Indian, or even a foreigner. More often, it is used as a designation of rural residence, which could "include both landless agricultural workers and the owners or operators of small-holdings,"(21) and perhaps even, in its broadest sense, those not engaged in any form of agricultural labor. Gary Wynia defines campesinos as

the mestizo, Indian, and Negro subsistence farmers and laborers who populate rural Latin America. Nearly all of them earn barely enough for their physical survival and enjoy few opportunities for improving their condition.(22)

Wynia proceeds to define four groups of campesinos: colonos who work as sharecroppers or tenant farmers on latifundios, migrating wage laborers, plantation workers, and those engaged in subsistence agriculture. Even these categories are not easily isolated from each other, or necessarily mutually exclusive. "Peasants" in Cayambe experienced the debt peonage of colonos but also engaged in wage labor and faced the problems of low levels of technology and inefficiency which dogged subsistence agriculturalists. But campesino does not necessarily imply an economic role in society. More literally, campesino was simply a "rural dweller" or a person who lived in the countryside ("campo") and worked the land. The term conveys a sense of social status more than an economic role or ethnic identity. There is no Spanish term which implies the relation to the means of production indicated in the English term "peasant," nor an English term which indicates the possible range of identities which the Spanish word "campesino" encompasses. As a study of agrarian reform in Latin America in the 1960s noted, "the fact that modern English has no exact equivalent of this concept [campesino] tells much about the different social structures in the English-speaking countries and Latin America."(23) This has led several scholars to skip entirely the issue of translation in favor of the Spanish term. In his study of the Mexican Revolution, John Womack refrains from using the word "peasant" because "what they were is clear in Spanish: campesinos, people from the fields."(24) Jeff Gould similarly rejects terms such as "rural proletarian," "peasant," and "semiproletarian" in favor of retaining the Spanish "campesino" on the basis that it was "the word used by the subjects of this study to describe their own social condition and class."(25) Although such a gloss sidesteps issues of translation, it does not shed much light on the complex forms of identity which rural workers possessed.

Even in the small country of Ecuador, we encounter a wide variety of "types" of peasants. The common stereotype is of a poor, marginalized Indian living in the highland region and working a small plot of land. As indicated above, however, campesinos can be (and are) mestizos or even whites and engaged in a variety of forms of land tenure patterns and labor relations. Furthermore, in the coastal region the lack of strong ethnic cohesion and the presence of a strong export economy created unique conditions and a peasant often labeled with the term montuvio.(26) Nevertheless, as John Uggen has demonstrated in the coastal zone of Milagro, montuvio "peasants" involved in an export economy engaged in similar forms of protest actions as Indigenous "peasants" in the highland region of Cayambe.(27) It is perhaps a mistake to try to collapse these disparate forms together. As Michael Redclift noted over twenty years ago, "All too often attempts are made to assess the revolutionary potential of the Latin American 'peasant' without distinguishing clearly enough between sections of the rural population, and placing them within the context of the land-tenure system."(28)

There have emerged various efforts to bridge the conceptual gaps which this terminology produces. Some scholars have noted that these workers were not truly peasants but formed a type of rural proletariat. They were more likely to struggle for common class interests rather than individual economic needs. Particularly in Cayambe by the 1920s, where most of the rural population worked as wage laborers on haciendas, there was already a process of proletarianization in place. Some have spoken of a "semi-proletariat" to indicate a poor, exploited group of people who are "neither entirely landless nor purely wage laborers nor all renters but some combination of the three." Rural mobilization, therefore, resulted from "their peripheral location in the agro-export economy and shared oppression by the landowning classes."(29) The term "semi-proletariat" is not a relatively recent academic construction. Pedro Saad, the Secretary General of the Ecuadorian Communist Party, used the term campesinos semiproletarios in a 1961 essay. He described them as huasipungueros, arrimados, and campesinos who were so poor that they could only afford to rent a plot of land so small that it could not produce enough to support themselves. For this reason, these workers also had to find jobs elsewhere for part of the year. The implication is not that they embrace this lifestyle by choice, but it was the result of land tenure patterns which resulted in a small group of landlords monopolizing the majority of cultivatable land.(30)

In a study of a similar situation in Chimborazo in Ecuador's central highlands, Mark Thurner eschews the term "peasant" in favor of "peasant-worker." Although more cumbersome, he utilizes this label

because it depicts the twentieth-century hacienda peasant's dual circumstance more accurately than either "peasant" or "worker" alone, and it is more descriptive than "semiproletariat." They have been workers and peasants in a political sense, since throughout the Ecuadorian Andes they struck for unpaid and higher wages but were usually content to accept payment in land from their landlords.(31)

Another term which activists within rural movements recently have commonly employed is campesino-indígena. It is usually used as an adjective rather than a noun, and thus generally does not represent a hybrid or hyphenated identity. Rather, it is often used to describe an organization (such as a Federación Campesino-Indígena, or Peasant-Indigenous Federation) or the nature of a movement. Nevertheless, even with this problem of terminology it is revealing to examine when organizations, political activists, and intellectuals discussed these issues in terms of a peasant, Indigenous, or proletarian population.

Overlay on top of these economic roles the broader issue of political consciousness and the term "peasant" becomes even more vague. Peter Guardino summarizes a stereotypical perception of peasants "as creatures predisposed to tradition, with political horizons limited to the boundaries of the village, who intervene in history sporadically and unsuccessfully to express economic grievances."(32) What happens, then, when "peasants" such as those in Cayambe become acutely aware of the broader political world, their oppressed role in that system, and then seek out relations with other actors in order to elicit changes in those power relations?

Marxists and Indians

There is a difference between protecting real or perceived personal economic interests and organizing to defend group interests. The strike at Pesillo reveals the formation of a group identity which was much broader than individual or immediate concerns. It was an open question, however, of what kind of identity would be formulated on the state-owned haciendas. Urban leftists entered the dynamic and began to play a major role in helping define the nature of identities which would be created there. Through their influence we see the formation of class consciousness.

Urban socialists and rural activists enjoyed congenial relations beginning with the formation of the first peasant sindicatos (syndicates or unions) and the Ecuadorian Socialist Party, both of which took place in 1926. Jesús Gualavisí, an Indian leader from Cayambe, played an active role in the congress which founded the Socialist Party and later served on the Central Committee of the Ecuadorian Communist Party. In turn, urban leftists often traveled to Cayambe to support rural struggles on the haciendas. Ricardo Paredes, the founder and leader of the Socialist Party, took an active interest and role in these endeavors. During the 1930s, Indians from Cayambe repeatedly traveled to Quito to present their demands to the central government. In Quito, they relied on urban leftists to provide them with logistical support and to translate their demands into a format which the government could understand.

Latin America lacked the advanced capitalist economic formation which characterized the nineteenth-century Western European world which Karl Marx critiqued, as well as the large homogenous urban working class which Marx had tagged as the basis for a social revolution. Nevertheless, Marxists in Ecuador critiqued their national reality and interpreted the rural work force as the basis on which a revolutionary movement could be built. During a period in which illiterate rural workers were legally excluded from citizenship rights which included voting, Ricardo Paredes ran for president of the republic and presented himself as the "candidate of the workers, peasants, Indians, and soldiers." He promised bread, work, land, and liberty for the people. Agrarian reform headed the party's list of demands and became one of the principal goals of Indigenous organizations for the remainder of the twentieth century.(33) There was a good deal of confluence between the Communist Party platform and demands which Indigenous organizations presented. The two forces were to become natural allies in a unified struggle against the Ecuadorian oligarchy.

The huasipungo plots which the hacienda workers received were highly treasured for both cultural and economic reasons, and workers would fight to retain them. The land demands which they developed, however, were quite different from the traditional land demands which most peasants would make. Rather than favoring the division of the hacienda into smaller individually owned and worked tracts of land, the peons at Pesillo envisioned transforming the hacienda into a worker-owned and operated cooperative in which everyone would share in the wealth of the production. Although this communal tendency is entirely consistent with what we know about Indigenous culture, it runs counter to our traditional understanding of peasants and small farmers motivated by personal and individual concerns. The predominance of salary over land demands, together with the type of land demands which workers at Pesillo eventually made, challenges the notion that this rural population had a peasant consciousness.

A peasant by any other name?

A common theme within peasant studies, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, was a preponderance of theories attempting to explain peasant uprisings. The revolts were often understood as responding to external conditions such as landlessness, exploitation, agrarian capitalism, or proletarianization.(34) Scholars such as Sidney Mintz and Jeffery Paige who have studied peasants in Latin America claim that although land ownership tended to make peasants more conservative, agricultural workers engaged in wage-based labor were more likely to revolt. Thus, Mintz contends that in Cuba it was a rural proletariat and not a peasantry which led the 1959 revolution.(35) Subsequent studies have perhaps more commonly suggested that semi-proletarians are the ones who will revolt. Jeff Gould's work on rural Nicaragua which focuses on the economic role of rural actors, however, blurs the distinction between a peasantry and rural proletariat which further complicates the process of understanding the roots of rural revolts.

Where does this leave the discussion of the huasipungueros who revolted on the Pesillo hacienda in December of 1930? John Coatsworth concedes that standard definitions of peasants would have to exclude service tenants and wage laborers on haciendas, but doing so would unnecessarily restrict discussions of rural social movements. In order to properly understand the dynamics at work in these rural populations, we have to consider their role.(36)

A rural context with very similar social and political dynamics emerged at this same time in El Salvador, far removed from what was happening in Ecuador. In 1932, communist leader Agustín Farabundo Martí led an insurrection in which peasants, including Indians working on coffee plantations, attempted to overthrow the landholding oligarchy. The revolt was a failure, with perhaps as many as 40,000 peasants killed and "Indian" irrevocably equated with "communist" in the minds of the dominant culture. Most historians have looked back on this revolt as an unmitigated failure. Rather than looking at its outcome, however, it is instructive to briefly consider the forces which led to its instigation.

Héctor Pérez Brignoli observes that common ideals united peons, Indian peasants, and communist leaders in this rebellion. He then asks whether this uprising was "the stifled prelude to a 'modernizing' revolution, or perhaps the last gasp of some 'primitive' revolutionaries doomed to failure?"(37) This is the language that has divided two generations of scholars studying the actions of peasants. Anthropologists previously had commonly and romantically viewed peasants as primitive people holding to the past. Revolts such as the 1930 strike in Cayambe and the 1932 uprising in El Salvador would therefore become reactionary affairs with peasants desperately holding to the past and attempting to defend their eroding land base and autonomy.

The presence of communist leaders in both of these situations, however, challenges this conservative interpretation. Elites from this period attempted to cast the role of leftists as outsiders who preyed on the ignorance of the masses. Scholars later viewed communist interactions with peasant populations as heavily tainted with paternalistic overtones, outsiders cynically manipulating a situation for their own selfish political gains, and elites tainted with the same racist attitudes as that of the dominant culture they were attempting to overthrow. But what if neither of these interpretations is correct? In the Salvadoran case, Kincaid concludes that although "Indian communities derived important organizational and political support . . . from their association with the Left," outside observers should be careful so as not to overstate "the degree of leftist political or ideological control over Indian groups."(38) Similarly, I argue in detail elsewhere that both urban Marxists and rural Indian leaders in Ecuador were motivated to work together to achieve common goals.(39)

What does it do to our traditional perceptions of "peasant" populations if they are acting on an equal footing with leftist leaders? In the case of Cayambe, we can extract a series of conclusions from this discussion. First, huasipungueros on the Pesillo hacienda embraced a series of demands (salaries and working conditions) entirely consistent with those of working-class labor unions. Second, although through the influence of the Communist Party these peons came to make land demands, these were not the traditional requests for individual plots but rather they pushed for a broad program of agrarian reform which addressed issues of the means of production. Finally, far from being reactionaries and isolationists, these rural workers made ideological demands including that of citizenship which was not intended to be a modernizing force in society but rather a transformational one. The goal was not simply to improve their status in life, but to fundamentally rework social, economic, and political relations throughout society with a goal toward justice and equality.

Mitchell Seligson has encouraged us to "move away from the notion that a particular type of peasant is the most revolutionary."(40) In a sense, perhaps he was correct. Fundamentally, it was not economic or social conditions of exploitation or marginalization (as many historians would assume) which pushed the workers on the Pesillo hacienda to revolt. Rather, the 1930 strike took place in the context of an acute awareness that economic and political forces beyond their immediate environs were controlling their destinies and were having a fundamentally negative impact on their desire to improve their position in society. This understanding led them to look for ways to force fundamental changes in their social relations with outside society and the international capitalistic order. The distinction here is one that E.P. Thompson noted in his landmark study The Making of the English Working Class; "class" is the result of an economic relationship but "class consciousness" is not, nor is class consciousness an automatic result of a class society. Rather, class consciousness is the result of human intervention in order to address the inherent inequalities in a class-based society. It is that human intervention that we see in the creation of identities on the haciendas in Cayambe.

Rather than admitting that peasants can be revolutionary, some Marxists have denied that salaried agricultural workers are peasants, but rather are part of the proletariat. Traditional peasant definitions have looked at person's social status and type of work, rather than considering a relationship with production which is necessary for a class definition. Agricultural workers who are part of the proletariat have directly experienced the alienation and irreconcilable contradictions with capitalism, and therefore are able to gain a working-class consciousness. Attempts to assign such levels of consciousness to other sectors of the peasantry are rejected as a "romantic attachment to peasant radicalism."(41)

What type of identity or consciousness did the workers on these haciendas posses? Primarily and undeniably, they were Indians. All external indicators (dress, language, type of housing, type of work, etc.) as well as specific ideological statements point in this direction. In addition, as noted above, specific terminology (such as "trabajadores agrícolas") indicate the presence of forms of a worker and perhaps proletariat identity. Furthermore, organizing together with urban Marxists against the dominant economic and political elite including the hacienda owners betray the presence of a class consciousness in which the huasipungueros understood that their interests were opposed rather than complementary to those of their employers.

So, were these workers on the haciendas in Cayambe peasants? That depends entirely on how widely we wish to cast our interpretations and what we wish to include under that rubric. Can we cast a term so broadly that it becomes meaningless? Or were there indeed elements of a peasant identity within these workers on the hacienda? Their attachment to the land, their sense of place, and the social function of that space(42) was so profound that it can not be separated from their other forms of identity. And, indeed, if they already possessed conflicting modes of rural consciousness including that of Indian, worker, and communist, what is to keep them from also embracing other forms including that of peasant? In fact, it is not only these composite or perhaps hybrid forms of identity that make Cayambe such an interesting case study for the formation of rural consciousness but it is also what makes humans so interesting creatures to study.


1. Peter F. Guardino, Peasants, Politics, and the Formation of Mexico's National State: Guerrero, 1800-1857 (Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 1996) and Florencia E. Mallon, Peasant and Nation: The Making of Postcolonial Mexico and Peru (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995) provide two excellent and solid examples of such work.

2. For a recent example of such an examination, see William Roseberry, "Latin American Peasant Studies in a 'Postcolonial' Era," Journal of Latin American Anthropology 1:1 (Fall 1995), 150-77.

3. Galo Ramón Valarezo, "Indios, tierra y modernización," El regreso de los runas: la potencialidad del proyecto indio en el Ecuador contemporánea (Quito: COMUNIDEC-Fundación Interamericana, 1993), p. 152. For summaries of the history of Pesillo as well as land tenure patterns and labor relations in northern Cayambe, see Mercedes Prieto N., "Condicionamientos de la movilización campesina: el caso de las haciendas Olmedo-Ecuador (1926-1948)" (Ph.D. diss., Tesis de Antropología, PUCE, 1978); Mercedes Prieto, "Haciendas estatales: un caso de ofensiva campesina: 1926-1948," in Ecuador: cambios en el agro serraño, ed. Miguel Murmis and others (Quito: Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO) - Centro de Planificación y Estudios Sociales (CEPLAES), 1980), pp. 101-30; and Muriel Crespi's essays, "Changing Power Relations: The Rise of Peasant Unions on Traditional Ecuadorian Haciendas," Anthropological Quarterly 44:4 (October 1971), 223-40; and "St. John the Baptist: The Ritual Looking Glass of Hacienda Indian Ethnic and Power Relations," in Cultural Transformations and Ethnicity in Modern Ecuador, ed. Norman E. Whitten, Jr. (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981), pp. 477-505.

4. "Ley de Beneficencia (1908)," in Enrique Ayala Mora, ed., Nueva Historia del Ecuador, Volumen 15: Documentos de la historia del Ecuador (Quito: Corporación Editora Nacional, 1995), p. 232. Crespi notes that governmental records place the expropriation in 1904 and an archivist at La Merced Monastery in Quito placed it in 1906, although the law authorizing such expropriations was not promulgated until 1908. Crespi, "St. John the Baptist," p. 501.

5. Huasipungo (sometimes spelled "guasipungo" in the historical literature) is a Quichua term comprised of huasi (house) and pungo (door), but the roots of this term have been lost. The usage of the term is unique to Ecuador, although the system it represents is not. In other countries, similar rural workers engaged in debt-peonage (or perhaps more accurately share-tenancy) forms of labor relations are called terrazueros (Colombia), inquilinos (Chile), yanacunas (Peru), colonos (Bolivia), etc. See Udo Oberem, "Contribución a la historia del trabajador rural de américa latina: 'conciertos' y 'huasipungueros' en Ecuador," in Contribución a la etnohistoria ecuatoriana, ed. Segundo Moreno Y. and Udo Oberem (Otavalo, Ecuador: Instituto Otavaleño de Antropología, 1981), pp. 301.

6. Jorge Icaza, Huasipungo, Colección Ariel Universal No. 3 (Guayaquil: Cromograf S.A., 1973).

7. Moisés Sáenz, Sobre el indio ecuatoriano y su incorporación al medio nacional (México: Publicaciones de la Secretaría de Educación Pública, 1933), pp. 54-56, as well as chapter three ("El problema del Indio," pp. 101-162) in which he discusses questions of land and labor in the highlands. Also see Prieto, "Haciendas estatales," p. 106, and Muriel Crespi, "The Patrons and Peons of Pesillo: A Traditional Hacienda System in Highland Ecuador" (Ph.D. diss., Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1968), p. 68.

8. Aníbal Buitron and Bárbara Salisbury Buitron, Condiciones de vida y trabajo del campesino de la provincia de Pichincha (Quito: Instituto Nacional de Previsión, Dept. de Propaganda, 1947), p. 38.

9. Arnold J. Bauer, "Rural Workers in Spanish America: Problems of Peonage and Oppression," Hispanic American Historical Review 59:1 (February 1979), 41-42.

10. Sidney W. Mintz, "A Note on the Definition of Peasantries," The Journal of Peasant Studies 1:1 (October 1973), 91-106. Also see "'Peasants' and their definition" in Henry A. Landsberger, "Peasant Unrest: Themes and Variations," in Rural protest: peasant movements and social change, ed. Henry A. Landsberger (London: Macmillan, 1974), 6-18.

11. John H. Coatsworth, "Patterns of Rural Rebellion in Latin America: Mexico in Comparative Perspective," in Riot, rebellion, and revolution: rural social conflict in Mexico, ed. Friedrich Katz (Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1988), 22.

12. Eric R. Wolf, Peasants, Foundations of Modern Anthropology Series (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966), pp. 3-4.

13. Douglas A. Kincaid, "Peasants into Rebels: Community and Class in Rural El Salvador," in Constructing Culture and Power in Latin America, ed. Daniel H. Levine (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1993), p. 145.

14. Eric R. Wolf, Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1969), p. xiv.

15. Henry A. Landsberger, "The Role of Peasant Movements and Revolts in Development," in Latin American Peasant Movements, ed. Henry A. Handsberger (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1969), p. 3.

16. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, "The Communist Manifesto," in David McLellan, ed., Karl Marx: Selected Writings (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 229.

17. Karl Marx, "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte," in McLellan, ed., Karl Marx, p. 317. For the 1970s literature on peasants, see, for example, Wolf, Peasant Wars of the Twentieth Century; Howard Handelman, Struggle in the Andes: Peasant Political Mobilization in Peru (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1975); Jeffery M. Paige, Agrarian Revolution: Social Movement and Export Agriculture in the Underdeveloped World (New York: The Free Press, 1975); and Brian Loveman, Struggle in the Countryside: Politics and Rural Labor in Chile, 1919-1973 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976).

18. Marx, "Eighteenth Brumaire," pp. 317-18.

19. "Se soluciona el problema creado por los indígenas sublevados en las haciendas Pesillo y Moyurco: compromiso entre patrones y obreros," El Comercio, January 8, 1931, 1.

20. Buitron, Condiciones de vida, p. 8.

21. Solon Barraclough, ed., Agrarian Structure in Latin America: A Resume of the CIDA Land Tenure Studies of: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, D.C. Heath and Company, 1973), p. 297.

22. Gary W. Wynia, The Politics of Latin American Development, 2nd ed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), p. 64.

23. Barraclough, Agrarian Structure, p. 297. The reverse problem is also true, as exhibited by María Cristina Farga Hernández' lengthy discussion of the largely English-language literature which she introduces with the question ¿Qué son los campesinos? M. Cristina Farga Hernández and José Almeida Vinueza, Campesinos y haciendas de la Sierra Norte, Colección Pendoneros, Serie Antropología Social, No. 30 (Otavalo, Ecuador: Instituto Otavaleño de Antropología, 1981), 30.

24. John Womack, Jr., Zapata and the Mexican Revolution (New York: Vintage Books, 1968), p. x.

25. Jeffrey L. Gould, To Lead as Equals: Rural Protest and Political Consciousness in Chinandega, Nicaragua, 1912-1979 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1990), p. 7.

26. See José de la Cuadra, El montuvio ecuatoriano (ensayo de presentación) (Quito: Instituto de Investigaciones Economicas de la Universidad Central del Ecuador, 1937).

27. John F. Uggen, Tenencia de la tierra y movilizaciones campesinas: zona de Milagro, Ecuador 1 (Quito: Andean Center for Latin American Studies (ACLAS), 1993).

28. Michael Redclift, "Peasants and Revolutionaries: Some Critical Comments," Journal of Latin American Studies 7:1 (May 1975): 135.

29. Jeffery M. Paige, "Land Reform and Agrarian Revolution in El Salvador; Comment on Seligson and Diskin" Latin American Research Review 31:2 (1996), 133. On semi-proletarianism, also see Carlos Rafael Cabarrús, Genesis de una revolución : analisis del surgimiento y desarrollo de la organizacion campesina en El Salvador (Mexico, D.F: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social, 1983).

30. Pedro Saad, "La reforma agraria," Bandera Roja (Guayaquil) 1:1 (January-February 1961), 33.

31. Mark Thurner, Hacienda Dissolution, Peasant Struggle, and Land Market in Ecuador's Central Highlands (Canton Colta, Chimborazo Province), LTC Research Paper 99 (University of Wisconsin-Madison: Land Tenure Center, 1989), p. 34.

32. Guardino, Peasants, p. 6.

33. Elías Muñoz Vicuña, Masas, luchas, solidaridad, Colección Movimiento Obrero Ecuatoriano; No. 8 (Guayaquil: Universidad de Guayaquil, 1985), p. 49.

34. Mitchell A. Seligson, "Agrarian Inequality and the Theory of Peasant Rebellion," Latin American Research Review 31:2 (1996), 151.

35. Paige, Agrarian Revolution; Sidney W. Mintz, "The Rural Proletariat and the Problem of Rural Proletarian Consciousness," The Journal of Peasant Studies 1:3 (April 1974), 291-325. Also see Theda Skocpol, "What Makes Peasants Revolutionary?," in Power and Protest in the Countryside: Studies of Rural Unrest in Asia, Europe, and Latin America, ed. Robert P Weller and Scott E Guggenheim (Durham, N.C: Duke University Press, 1982), 157-79.

36. Coatsworth, "Patterns of Rural Rebellion in Latin America," 22.

37. Héctor Pérez Brignoli, "Indians, Communists, and Peasants: The 1932 Rebellion in El Salvador," in Coffee, society, and power in Latin America, ed. William Roseberry, Lowell Gudmundson, and Mario Samper K. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), 234.

38. Kincaid, "Peasants into Rebels," pp. 128-29.

39. Marc Becker, "Class and Ethnicity in the Canton of Cayambe: The Roots of Ecuador's Modern Indian Movement" (Ph.D. diss., University of Kansas, 1997).

40. Seligson, "Agrarian Inequality and the Theory of Peasant Rebellion," 152.

41. Timothy F. Harding, "Critique of Vanden's 'Marxism and the Peasantry...'," Latin American Perspectives 9:4 (35) (Fall 1982), 99. This article was in response to Harry E. Vanden's claims of a potentially revolutionary peasant class in Latin America in his essay, "Marxism and the Peasantry in Latin America: Marginalization or Mobilization?" Latin American Perspectives 9:4 (35) (Fall 1982), 74-98.

42. On this issue, see Cynthia Radding, Wandering Peoples: Colonialism, Ethnic Spaces, and Ecological Frontiers in Northwestern Mexico, 1700-1850, Latin American Otherwise: Languages, Empires, Nations (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997).