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Fellowships and Awards


I. Project Abstract

During the first half of the twentieth century in the South American country of Ecuador, semi-professional or petty lawyers known as tinterillos (literally “ink-spillers”) assumed a seemingly ubiquitous presence in rural communities. The purpose of this research is to use tinterillos as an medium through which to examine how power relations are negotiated between fundamentally different cultures and across deep class divides. An objective is to gain a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of the roles that intermediaries play in mediating interactions between two different cultures. These insights will be gained through a methodology of historical research in archival collections in Quito, Ecuador. The timetable for the project includes a research trip to Ecuador for the month of July 2008. The impacts of this project on the University include improving my teaching by bringing added content, concepts, and interpretations to the classroom, and more broadly contributing new insights and interpretations on cross cultural contacts to campus. The outcome of the results of this research will be disseminated through academic conference presentations, and publication in the peer-reviewed journal Hispanic American Historical Review and elsewhere.

III. Project Narrative

In May 1929, a group of Indigenous agricultural workers arrived at the Ministry of Social Welfare offices in Quito, Ecuador, with complaints that they suffered abuses on the Zumbahua hacienda. Alberto Moncayo, the hacienda’s renter, claimed that outsiders were manipulating the situation for their own gain, but agreed to let the provincial governor G. I. Iturralde negotiate a settlement. “Now the situation is absolutely calm,” the governor reported. “I have discovered the tinterillo, the instigator of this situation, and he will be punished severely.”1

The tradition of semi-professional or petty lawyers known as tinterillos (literally “ink-spillers,” or “quishcas” in the Indigenous Kichwa language) mediating legal or cultural conflicts can be traced back to the colonial period and even to Spain. During the first half of the twentieth century, tinterillos assumed a seemingly ubiquitous presence in rural communities (Muratorio 1977). Often local elites with a bit of education, the tinterillos commanded respect among a largely illiterate Indigenous population because of their ability to read, write, and handle documents. Nevertheless, these intermediaries exploited their privileged position to their own economic, social, and political benefit. They identified with the elite, and echoed common racist attitudes that perceived Indians as backwards and incapable of redemption. In negotiating relations between rural peoples and the government, tinterillos often served to legitimize elite interests (Cadena 2000). Despite their significance, tinterillos have received very little serious analysis in the scholarly literature. Michiel Baud (1998: 252), one of the few historians to examine their actions, notes that “since their texts are the basis of our historical analysis, we need to know more about their social origins and their relations with the Indian petitioners.” This research project will uncover their social origins and interactions with marginalized populations.

The purpose of this research is to examine how power relations are negotiated between fundamentally different cultures and across deep class divides. While I have come across scattered references to tinterillos in my previous archival investigations and have pondered how they represent one of several different models for mediating intercultural relations (Becker 2006), I have never had the opportunity or resources to conduct a serious and systematic study of their extent or significance. This project will bring to light a little known but historically significant phenomenon of intermediaries in the South American Andes using their skill sets to influence political developments.

The objective of this research is to understand the roles that tinterillos played in negotiating ethnic identities and political struggles between Indigenous peoples and the government in the Ecuadorian highlands during the first half of the twentieth century. Through this study, we will gain a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of the roles that intermediaries play in mediating interactions wherever and whenever two different worlds meet.

This project employs a qualitative methodology that focuses on historical research into primary source documents, including legislative discussions and correspondence between government officials complaining about the actions of tinterillos. This research requires traveling to archives in Ecuador where the documents are located. Based on my previous research, I have determined that many of these documents that I need to complete this study are stored in the Archivo de la Función Legislative (Legislative Archive) and the Archivo del Gobierno (Department of Interior Archive). I have contacted both archives and have determined that access will not be a problem. Both are located in the capital city of Quito where I will be based for the duration of this grant. The first archive is open from 8:30-4:30 Monday through Thursday, and 8:00-4:00 on Fridays. The second is open from 9:00-5:00 Monday through Friday.

Not only will I search these little-used archival collections for historical evidence of the nature and extent of relations between rural Indigenous communities and tinterillos, but I will also interrogate the nature of discourse in the archival documents. While tinterillos are often seen as a negative force, Baud (1998: 246) presents them in a more positive light “as a local intelligentsia, as peasant intellectuals, who were able to formulate more or less coherent ideas about society.” Both the role of being an intermediary in an Indigenous community and the implications of being labeled a “tinterillo” need to be examined.

An impact of this project on the University will be the provision of new conceptual ideas and interpretations for my Latin American history classes. This will help me expand on themes of ethnic diversity and class divisions, and how cultural differences are negotiated. In an increasingly globalized world, it will help students understand cross-cultural contacts in their own lives. In particular, this research will contribute new content and added dimensions to my Andean History (HIST 390) class where we discuss in depth the types of interactions in Ecuador that I will examine in this project. Primary source materials from the archives will facilitate instruction in historical methodology in Introduction to History and Historiography (HIST 231) and our senior seminar (HIST 400). I am, of course, always more than happy to present my research in venues such as the Truman Faculty Forum, Global Issues Colloquium, Weekly Faculty Lunch, or the Women’s History Month conference.

Professional outcomes of this research will include presentations at academic conferences and publications in peer-reviewed journals and edited collections. I plan to present the results of my research at the American Historical Association (AHA) annual meeting in January 2009, and at the June 2009 Latin American Studies Association (LASA) meeting. Drawing on feedback from these conferences, I will revise the paper for subsequent publication in two peerireviewed historical journals. I plan to submit a manuscript in Spanish to Procesos in Ecuador, and in English in the Hispanic American Historical Review. In addition, Charlie Hale, the departing president of the Latin American Studies Association, has requested that I expand the short essay I published in the LASA Forum (Becker 2006) into a chapter on tinterillos for an anthology showcasing his work at the head of the association. The book, edited with Arturo Arias and Sonia E. Alvarez, is tentatively titled Decentering Latin American Studies. I have a rising reputation and a proven track record of following through on my publication commitments.


January - May 2008: This semester I am conducting a literature review on tinterillos and engaging a broader theoretical examination of the role of intermediaries in negotiating public spaces and political conflicts in preparation for my summer archival research.

May 10 - June 26, 2008: I will continue secondary research into the history of cross-cultural negotiations, and make final logistical preparations for departure to the research site.

June 27 - July 25, 2008: Four full weeks of archival research in Quito, Ecuador. I plan to arrive on Friday, June 27, in time for that weekend’s Inti Raymi (summer solstice) festivals which is celebrated on Saint Paul’s day (June 29) in the community of Cayambe where I conducted my dissertation research. This will give me an opportunity to reconnect in a relaxed and informal setting with colleagues with whom I have collaborated on research projects now for almost two decades. We plan to finish preparations for the publication of my book Historia Agraria y Social de Cayambe this summer. My time in Ecuador will correspond with the fourth biennial conference of the Ecuadorian Studies section of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), scheduled for July 17-19, 2008. I was one of the founders of this section, and continue to be actively involved through the construction of its website ( I will be able to present the preliminary results of this research at that conference, as well as at a meeting of the Association of Ecuadorian Historians ( Intellectually engaging my colleagues in Ecuador will help shape and focus my research, greatly enhancing the value and quality of my work. The vast majority of my time, however, will be spent in archival collections.

July 26 - August 15, 2008 and onward: I will enter the archival materials I collected into a bibliographic database in order to facilitate my examination and analysis of the information contained therein. Based on an analysis of this material, by August 15 I will have a preliminary draft of a conference paper for presentation at the American Historical Association (AHA) meetings in January 2009, and the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) meetings in June 2009. I will also submit my revised chapter for the edited volume Decentering Latin American Studies. With feedback from these conferences, I will publish articles on this research in Spanish in the historical journal Procesos in Ecuador, and in English in the Hispanic American Historical Review. Finally, based on responses to my presentations and publications I will chart future possibilities and directions for this research.


Baud, Michiel. “Libertad de Servidumbre: Indigenista Ideology and Social Mobilization in Late Nineteenth Century Ecuador.” In Nation Building in Nineteenth Century Latin America: Dilemmas and Conflicts, ed. Hans-Joachim König and Marianne Wiesebron, 233-53. Leiden, The Netherlands: Research School CNWS, 1998.

Becker, Marc. Indians and Leftists in the Making of Ecuador’s Modern Indigenous Movements. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.

Becker, Marc. “Indígenas, Indigenistas, Tinterillos, and Marxists.” LASA Forum 37, no. 4 (Fall 2006): 13-15.

Cadena, Marisol de la. Indigenous Mestizos: The Politics of Race and Culture in Cuzco, 1919-1991. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000.

Clark, A. Kim and Marc Becker, ed. Highland Indians and the State in Modern Ecuador. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007.

Ibarra C., Hernán.“Intelectuales indígenas, neoindigenismo, e indianismo en el Ecuador.” Ecuador Debate 48 (December 1999): 71-94.

Muratorio, Blanca. “Los tinterillos o abogados callejeros: el papel de los intermediarios judiciales en una communidad boliviana.” In Procesos de articulación social, ed. Sidney M Greenfield and others, 112-35. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu, 1977.

O'Connor, Erin E. Gender, Indian, Nation: The Contradictions of Making Ecuador, 1830-1925. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2007.

Sáenz, Moisés. Sobre el indio ecuatoriano y su incorporación al medio nacional. México: Publicaciones de la Secretaría de Educación Pública, 1933.


Airfare: $1,200 (Chicago - Quito, June 27-July 25, 2008)
Hotel: $1,400 ($50/nite x 28 days)
Meals: $560 ($20/nite x 28 days)
Local transportation, United States: $100
Local transportation, Ecuador: $200
Quito airport exit tax: $40
Books: $500
Total: $4,000

Airfare is the current price quoted on the American Airlines website. Costs for hotel and meals are based on average costs from previous trips. Local transportation is for transportation to and from the Ohare and Quito airports, and local transportation while in Ecuador. Quito’s airport tax is not included in my plane ticket, and I will have to pay for that separately. While in Ecuador, I will purchase books that are difficult or impossible to find in the United States that will facilitate this research as well as my instruction of Latin American history at Truman State University. The archives do not permit photocopying but do allow capturing images with a digital camera. I already have the camera and the media necessary to store the images, so will not incur additional research expenses.

Previous support

2008: College of Arts and Sciences Grant in Support of Scholarly and Artistic Endeavors, $1500. The grant is for this project on tinterillos, and I will decline it if awarded this fellowship.

2007-2008: Civic Engagement Fellowship, The Center for Teaching and Learning, $500. Conducted oral history interviews with immigrants in Milan, Missouri, in my class Race, Class and Gender in Latin America (JINS 338). Students wrote up the results of study and published them in the print-on-demand book Voices of Milan that was returned to the interviewees in Milan.

2006-2007: Sabbatical, Women in Latin American History, 80 percent of salary. Successfully designed a new course on women in Latin America that I am teaching this semester; wrote, presented, and published numerous papers based on research of gender constructions; finished a book on Indigenous movements in Ecuador; and published an edited volume on Indian-state relations in Ecuador.

2004-2005: Diversity Fellow, The Center for Teaching and Learning, $500. Developed Indigenous websites and electronic resources for instruction and research purposes as part of NativeWeb. Project is ongoing.

2004: Scholarship of Assessment Grant, Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs, $2,000. Co-authored study to evaluate the effectiveness of teaching Introduction to History and Historiography to first-semester students. As a result, we kept the course.

1Letter from G. I. Iturralde P., Gobernador de León, to Director de la Junta de Asistencia Pública, June 30, 1929, Oficio no. 150, Comunicaciones Recibidas, Enero-Junio 1929, Archivo de la Junta Central de Asistencia Pública, 338-39, Quito, Ecuador.

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