History of the Caranqui Indians in Northern ecuador at Hacienda Zuleta

In pre-Incan Ecuador the indigenous people were the Caranqui Indians.  From what is known today they were an agrarian-based culture and between 800 AD to the arrival of the Inca in 1470 lived peacefully.  Hacienda Zuleta in the northern sierra province of Imbabura, Ecuador is the location of the largest `ramp-mound’ site of the Caranqui culture. These are thought to have been the political centers of the region’s paramount chiefs and the ceremonial gathering places for their scattered communities.  Hacienda Zuleta has total of 148 mounds. Investigation of these mounds suggest a sophisticated system of agricultural sufficient for supporting a large population.

After the Inca arrived the Caranqui fought to keep their land for forty years before finally being defeated in 1495. The Ibarra region that the Caranqui occupied became Inca administrative centers with the original inhabitants being forced to work the lands. Although most historical accounts stress that the Inca never really laid roots in Ecuador before the Spanish conquered them, during their time in Ecuador they replaced entire populations of regions and used the systems and resources of the Caranqui to strengthen their empire.

In 1534, Pizarro captured and conquered the Inca king, Atahualpa and the land that the Caranqui inhabited belonged to the Spanish crown. The occupation brought the introduction of the empires harsh feudal system and along with the introduction of the wool mill made life for the indigenous people one of turmoil and struggle.

In 1691, The Hacienda that is now the property of Ecuadorian president Galo Plazo Lasso´s family was finished. The Spanish by this point had brought in their own system of farms and cattle management. Although the property belonged to the state at the time, King Charles III confiscated it and placed it into the hands of Canon Gabriel Zuleta. After his death, the Posse family took over the property and restored it to its original state.

In 1898, the hacienda was once again transferred to Jose Plazo lasos and it´s present day owners are his descendants. Galo Plazo, the first Ecuadorian president to finish his term in twenty-eight years, brought new techniques and ideas to the farm and redistributed 2000 plus hectares of land to the haciendas workers. His wife, Dona Rosiario, started the Zuleta Embroidery Workshop, a project that supports local indigenous women in self-sustaining employment through traditional weaving and embroidery.

Today, Galo Plazo Lasso´s grandson, Fernando continues the families tradition of social reform through the Galo Plazo Lasso foundation while maintaining the property as a farm, a guest house, and the home to the families cheese factory. The family also is host to archeologists and historians interested in the long history of the land and it´s role as a political center in Caranqui, Incan, Spanish and recent times.

Visitors who wish to visit the Hacienda can stay in one of the haciendas elegant rooms, tour the property and visit the working farm and workshops and learn about the history first hand from the family itself. Horseback riding tours to San Pablo village, the mystical lagoon of San Marco in the Cayambe national park and indigenous communities give those who are interested a glimpse into the land while feeling the sense of place that has long been associated with the area. For specifics about rates and contact details visit Hacienda Zuleta´s website.

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