Wealth and Poverty: Images of Ecuador's Quechua People

It has been 10 years since I went to Ecuador, a South America that fits into Australia over 30 times. Despite its modest size, the country is one of striking diversity: in the Amazon Jungle, fist-sized butterflies waft in the sweltering air; the Afro-Ecuadorian population along the coast speaks of one-time slavery; and farmland in the Andes mountains is so steep that injury to farmers who fall out of their paddocks is a recognised problem.

These two images are of Indigenous Quichua people, who make up about 16 per cent of the population and are descended from the Incas.

I took the first in Otavalo at Ecuador’s most famous market, where Quichua vendors sell hand-loomed rugs, teddy bears made from alpaca fleece, sterling silver jewellery and na├»ve paintings on pig skin canvases. Their quaint fedora hats over long, black plaits are deceptive — with multi-million dollar businesses, these vendors are among the country’s wealthiest people.

There is something harsh about this photograph, with the woman glaring straight down the lens against the background of a whole roast pig.

In contrast, the two Quechua girls lived in poverty in a two-roomed house with dirt floors on a highland farm. Their kitchen doubled as a home for a gaggle of guinea pigs, which squealed and fled into dark corners when we entered, as if all too aware of their fate.

This image seems like it was taken at the beginning of photography, with the older girl’s awkwardly frozen pose and vacant stare.

1 comment:

Susan S. said...

Wow! I'd love to see more of your photos from Ecuador. These are absolutely gorgeous! The faces are so beautiful.