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Gualaceo  (Ecuador)

"Gualaceo, the peaceful land of now and the restless land of tomorrow, embedded in the heart of the country like a flowery spring for people from other climates" Dr. Carlos Aguilar Vázquez1.


Gualaceo, the Azuayo Garden, is a charming valley in the Andes of Ecuador through which four rivers cross; Santa Bárbara, San Francisco, Guaimincay, and San José, is located in the northwestern part of the Azuay province at 2,320 meters above sea level with a pleasant climate whose average temperature is 16.5 ° c. and a precipitation in the year of approximately 85 millimeters.



The Gualaceo canton has a territorial extension of 370 km2 divided into nine parishes, one urban and eight rural, it also has two protective forests; The Aguarongo with 2,082 hectares, and The Collay with 29,000 hectares, places of peace that preserve the endemic nature of the area and the water sources that supply the vital liquid to the city.

In 2002 the architecture of its historic center was recognized as a Cultural Heritage of Ecuador, there are two hundred and eight buildings of colonial and republican style located in fifty-six blocks arranged with a checkerboard layout. The main church with touches of neoclassical style stands out for the carvings on its main door and the stained-glass windows of the Spanish artist Guillermo Larrazabal.


Gualaceo is a society open to development that preserves its customs and traditions, manifestations of a living culture. For example, the preparation of the food drink called the Rosero de Gualaceo is a custom product of cultural syncretism and regional exchange that, today, continues to be part of local festive rituals, but is also the delight of tourists and visitors.


Another example is the case of traditional crafts, this preserves the unmistakable techniques and knowledge of the artisan trade that is transmitted from generation to generation, currently the following stand out; Cabinetmaking, shoemaking, leather goods, weaving of toquilla straw hats and woolen sweaters, textiles from Gualaceo cloth or macana, embroidery, jewelry, pottery, reed basketry and doubt, artisanal pyrotechnics, these are part of a long tradition of cultural exchanges and community empowerment that is reinvented and reinterpreted in the demands of the present.


In this sense, UNESCO in 2012 included the Traditional Weaving of the Ecuadorian Toquilla Straw Hat in the representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Likewise, in 2015, Ecuador declared the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Nation to the Traditional Technique of Making the Cloths or Macanas from Gualaceo (Ikat) for its high symbolic, social and cultural value that, among other things, is a fundamental part of the clothing of the Chola Cuencana2, For this reason, it is considered a cultural icon of local and regional identity, currently, it is reinvented in the unisex neo-craftsmanship that people from both rural and urban areas use.

Undoubtedly, these cultural manifestations actively participate in the economy of the Gualaceo canton, according to data from the National Economic Census, CENEC, of the 107 million dollars that came in from sales in 2010; 3.8% belong to accommodation and food service activities, 0.25% belong to the provision of services in the Arts, entertainment and recreation, and 9.7% belong to the manufacturing and artisan industries.


The Gualaceo toponymy according to Arízaga (1983) come from, "Kahan the serpent, sacred mother and (Gual or Ara), the Guacamaya, (immortal bird)" (p. 15), mythological beings of the origin of the Cañaris peoples who currently follow forming part of the collective imagination. Briefly, where the Gualaceo canton sits today was the habitat of three cultures in particular; Cañaris, Incas, and Spanish. It is said that the Cañaris peoples were skilled artisans in; ceramics, precious metals, and especially in textiles, to such an extent that a sector of its population was taken as yanaconas3 in the 15th century towards Cuzco by the Incas, this together with the implementation of the Kichwa or Kechwa language, which lasts until today and is important to understand various community manifestations, was a colonization strategy.


For example, in the elaboration of the cloth or macana of Gualaceo the word quingo refers to a design that comes from the Kichwa word Kinku, it is pronounced quingu, and translated into Spanish means zig-zag, curving or meandering, its meaning is related to the folds of the mountains, or with the shapes of the skin of snakes, a totemic animal of the Cañari culture. Data aside, the word Makana in the Kichwa language means hit, in some towns in the province of Loja, Ecuador, the makana loom is used, which is the same backstrap loom used in weaving the cloth or macana of Gualaceo.

Subsequently, the inter-ethnic relations between Spanish and Cañaris at the end of the 16th century disadvantaged the Incas, so a system of Spanish colonial work was implemented for private individuals, in Gualaceo the workshops were located inside the houses where it was made for trade; espadrilles, sacks, hats, blankets, tocuyos, cloths, ponchos, rugs, and tablecloths, with the passage of time, by 1824 it was said that, “their manufactures are the best that are worked in the department, and it is true that the illustration it will be perfected in such a way that the cotton canvases that are introduced from Europe are not needed ”(ANH / C, FG Book 14. Exp. 1022, cited by Palomeque, 1982, p.126), however, in 1835 the local authority reported the poor economic situation of textile producers.


In the twentieth century, the training boomed, its first heyday was between 1936 and 1950, in Gualaceo Mr. Manuel Cruz Orellana promoted the development of the Gualaceo cloth, and between the years 1970-1980 the Inter-American Center for Popular Arts and Crafts, CIDAP, promoted the innovation of work with cloth. de Gualaceo, the same one that began to be called Macana de Gualaceo. Due to these antecedents, it is said that it is a cultural identity icon of the Ecuadorian Austro, that is how the region that includes the current provinces of Cañar and Azuay of Ecuador is called.

Currently, public and private institutions, academia and NGOs are working on the strengthening of crafts, in the specific case of the technique of making the cloth or macana of Gualaceo, this has a safeguard plan as a public policy.

The Paño or Macana of Gualaceo: Analysis of Cultural Assets

The Gualaceo cloth or Gualaceo macana, as it is also known, is a shawl made with; the ikat dyeing technique, the weaving on a backstrap loom, the knotting of the macramé-type fringe, the embroidery technique, in some cases, and has symbols of the Andean worldview. Due to the aforementioned, it is part of the artisanal discipline of textiles.


Sociocultural context

It is carried out in the towns of Bullcay and Bullzhún of the Gualaceo canton, there are one hundred and eight people who are part of the production chain, it is a work of strict gender division, the women prepare the dye, the warp, and knot the fringes, while the men weave, the artisan workshop is located inside their homes, complementing their economy with agricultural production, or remittances from migrants. The cloth or macana of Gualaceo has decorative, ritual, and social status utilities, therefore, Pope Francis on the 2015 visit to Ecuador used a chasuble similar to that used by Pope John Paul II on his visit in 1985, the so-called fine cloth or tinaco cloth was used with the iconography of lilies that symbolize Santa Marianita de Jesús, the first Ecuadorian saint. Mrs. Carmen Orellana designed and made the chasuble used by Pope Francis while her late father designed and made the chasuble used by Pope John Paul II.

Identification of artisans who make the Cloth or Macana from Gualaceo

108 cultural actors were identified, 51.9% reside in the community of Bullzhún, and 48.1% in the community of Bullcay, 80.6% are women and 19.4% are men, the presence of the Women are older due to the phenomenon of migration abroad, among other reasons, due to the decline in sales of the macana or cloth from Gualaceo. There are 60 artisans who know the whole process according to the certification of competencies delivered by the Ecuadorian Professional Training Service, SECAP. There are also 33 people organized in the following three associations:


1. Association of Production Artisanal Macana Paño Fino Gualaceo "APROMA", a legal society, made up of 12 female members belonging to the Bullcay community, this association began its commercial activities on February 8, 2018, it is located on the Gualaceo road, Bullcay sector.

2. Association Artisanal of Stevedores Ikat, a legal society, made up of 21 people, men and women, belonging to the communities of Bullzhún, Chinipata, and Caguazhún. It began its commercial activities on March 9, 2012, it is located on the Cuenca road, San Pedro de los Olivos de Bullcay sector.

3. Aggrupation the Route of the Macana, a society in fact, is made up of approximately 14 women from the community of Bullzhún, its members have begun to organize since 2017 as a result of the recognition of the Macana or Paño from Gualaceo (Ikat) as Cultural Heritage Immaterial of Ecuador.


The decorative use of textiles is given by a stratification of social classes, the lower-cost cloths are called shoddy cloths and are used by people from the lower classes, the middle and upper class people wear cloths of greater work and better material, with Over time, the designs used for certain festivities have been replaced by global trend designs, which reinterprets their meaning, in this sense, textiles are used as an intermediary good to give way to neo-craftsmanship that reinvents tradition, generating an economic alternative.


For this reason, in 2014 two artisans making cloth or macana from Gualaceo have been awarded the recognition of UNESCO Excellence for Handicrafts, Andean Region, in the artisan branch of textiles they are: Carmen Orellana Rodas4 62 years old and 50 years of experience with the series, PAÑOS FROM GUALACEO (MACANAS), and Gladys Rodas Ulloa, 73 years old and 55 years of experience with the show, CHALES TRADITIONAL IKAT.

Craft Training

The trade is transmitted from generation to generation; however, more and more descendants are changing professions, on the other hand, community training is given by efforts of institutions such as the Center for Research and Applied Arts, CIDAP, and the school of fashion design from the University of Azuay, among others.

Elaboration process

> Raw material used in the production of Cloth or Macana from Gualaceo


Threads - are from; Sheep wool, cotton, and on rare occasions the silkworm, in low quality cloths the synthetic thread known as orlon thread is used. The homogeneity of the thread, its resistance, and the thickness are taken into account, the latter influencing the delicacy of the textile.


Dyes -They are of plant origin that do not fade when the garment is washed, and of artificial origin, these colors are not very firm at the time of dyeing and are harmful to health.

Mordants -It is made in a homemade way to fix the colors in the textile, there are three types; a) based on penco bleach,

b) based on a type of bleach obtained from ash, and,

c) based on salt and lemons.

> Technique of making the Cloth or Macana from Gualaceo

Warped -It consists of placing a defined amount of threads in the tool called bench to determine the width and length of the fabric.


Tied up - The threads are tied with fibers from the agave plant so that the dye does not enter, leaving by contrast and in sum of points a design that is visually distinguishable to the human eye.


Had -It is used to color the threads with dyes with the ikat technique or dyed by reservation, its origin in Gualaceo remains a great mystery, however, Miller (1986) suggests that, “at some point, imported cloths from the Philippines were within reach weavers, to be copied ”(p.16), which would mean that the technique is the product of the Columbian exchange7 from the 15th and 16th centuries


Tissue - Once the dyeing has dried, the threads are untied and then placed on the backstrap loom where the threads are intertwined.


Knotted fringe - It consists of knotting the excess threads from the ends of the baton, it is done in a fingerprint way and there are very few variations that use the crochet technique.

> Types of cloths or macanas from Gualaceo

By the material they are - Fine cloth, is of high quality and is made with thin cotton fibers, high-quality cashmere cloth and is made with medium wool fibers, and Chillo or shoddy cloth, is of low or bad quality, is made with thick wool and in the worst case with synthetic thread.

By design they are; Peruvian cloth, due to the similarity with the Peruvian cloths in the area of Tacabamba, Peru, white field cloth, its background is white with contrasting gray tones, dark field cloth, its background is dark and white cloth or contrasting colors, cloth zhiro, is colorful and spontaneously created by the craftsman.

Economic context

Dissemination and commercialization spaces

According to the technical unit of production and crafts of the Municipality of Gualaceo, in 2016 it was sold; 48% at the provincial level, 14% in their homes, 11% in local and artisan shops, 9% in fairs, 7% reserved their delivery, 5% as street vendors, 3% on consignment and 3% % at the national level. The broadcast uses the following means;50% social networks, 25% in business cards, 13% in magazines and 12% is on television (reports) of public institutions and private media. It is worth mentioning the potential for dissemination and commerce that e-commerce has, for example, in this system the wool macana earns 18.18% more profits than the sale made to the final consumer in the workshop, however, ignorance and lack of connectivity in producers is a barrier.


The best-selling products, 61% produce much more such as: scarves, macana, cashmere cloth, macana poncho, embroidered macana in point, rope, belts, blanket, blanket, fine thread macana, small macana, embroidered cape, backpack, bag , purse, girdles, saddlebags, wool poncho, small cashmere cloth and medium cashmere cloth, with 22% they produce more such as: carpet, blanket, knotted, macana poncho, cashmere cloth, small cashmere cloth, ropes and girdles, with 12% produce mediums such as: scarves, ropes, girdles, macana, cashmere cloth, small cashmere cloth, embroidered poncho, macana poncho and purses, with 4% they produce little such as: scarf, embroidered capes, wallets, macanas, poncho of macana and ropes, and with 1% they produce very little such as: macana, purses, poncho of macana and ropes.The 60 producers that carry out the entire process sell directly to the consumer in their communities, the town of Bullcay being the largest beneficiary of this aspect because it is located on the road to the city of the Gualaceo canton.


Among the institutions that support the work are:

Municipal GAD of Gualaceo. -Through the Culture Unit of the Department of Economic, Local Development and Tourism, it managed the declaration of the artisanal technique of the elaboration of the macanas or cloths of Gualaceo as intangible cultural heritage of the nation, with emphasis on the safeguarding plan for the conservation, also trains artisans in tourism, customer service and business administration, strengthens the organization and participation in national and international fairs, for this it has the ordinance of creation of the permanent committee of artisan producer fairs. It also has the city brand that is based on the identity that the textile has at the level of the Ecuadorian Austro.


Inter-American Center for Popular Crafts and Arts (CIDAP). -With a trajectory of more than forty years they carry out research that broadens the panorama of the history that the macana carries with it, through files and publications. This entity has carried out fundamental work in the preservation, conservation and dissemination of techniques. It supports the recognition of artisan excellence given by UNESCO, has the ARDIS international meeting for innovation and discussion, also holds the annual international trade fair of America, and has a physical space for training, exhibition and sales in the Gualaceo canton.


National Institute of Cultural Heritage (INPC). -It controls the management of the declaration of intangible cultural heritage of the macana or cloth of Gualaceo, the direct competence for the management currently belongs to the municipality of Gualaceo.


Ministry of Industries and Productivity (MIPRO). -Evaluate the marketing and prices of the macanas, to improve productivity.


Ecuadorian Professional Training Service (SECAP) and the Ministry of Education. -certified 60 people in labor competencies.


Ministry of Education. - Implemented a pilot project in the community of Bullzhun for the creation of a craft training center.


Ministry of Tourism. - Promote handicrafts as a tourist cultural attraction.


Ministry of Foreign Trade (MCE). - It trains in carrying out export procedures and has provided facilities for this to be marketed abroad.


Ecuadorian Institute of Popular and Solidarity Economy (IEPS) and the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion (MIES). -Evaluates and manages data on the socioeconomic situation to define actions that help maintain a good standard of living such as the social bonus, among others.


University of Azuay. -Through the school of textile and fashion design, case studies and neo-artisanal applications of the Gualaceo cloth or macana have been carried out.


Santiago of Gualaceo Craft Center. -Professionalizes middle managers in estimating costs and practical tasks.


Artisan Defense Board. -It professionalizes the artisan and currently issues the artisan qualification license that allows for tax benefits.

House of the core culture of Azuay - It works on the circulation and dissemination of content, thereby strengthening the image of the Gualaceo cloth or baton as an identity icon of the region.


To end, various associations of production and commercialization, they indirectly benefit from the prestige of the cloth or macana of Gualaceo, a cultural identity icon of the Ecuadorian Austro, among them are; Virgen del Cisne de San José de Pirca Association, Bacpancel Community Tourism Association, Teje Mujeres Cooperative, EXPOARTE Collective, 27 de Agosto Interprofessional Artisan Association, 5 de Noviembre Carpenters Association, 1 de Mayo Guild, Oriente Azuayo Society, Artisan Association Santiago of Gualaceo, positively influencing creativity for the making of; footwear, wool sweaters, embroidered garments, furniture, jewelry, etc.


The public policy established in the safeguard plan and the recognition by civil society of the excellence and beauty of the traditional technique of making cloths or macanas from Gualaceo (Ikat) give value to this textile, which allows it to be maintained and not lost in time, for this reason, it is pertinent to be part of the network of world cities of crafts with the name of Gualaceo: World City of Crafts in Ikat, since it would be an advance to the safeguard plan and would promote the economy creative of the artisans of the Gualaceo canton, as well as of the new generations who admire and develop this work.

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