Afro-Ecuadoreans Maintain Identity Through Spiritual Practices

Amada Cortéz, a community leader and educator from the San Lorenzo district in Esmeraldas, bathing in the San Pedro waterfall. She is also a writer and poet, author of the book “Me Llaman la Cimarrona” (“They call me the Cimarrona”), based on African octave poems that she learned from her father. Ecuador, 2018. Credit Johis Alarcón

Amada Cortéz, a community leader and educator from the San Lorenzo district in Esmeraldas, bathing in the San Pedro waterfall. She is also a writer and poet, author of the book “Me Llaman la Cimarrona” (“They call me the Cimarrona”), based on African octave poems that she learned from her father. Ecuador, 2018. Credit Johis Alarcón

Photographs by Johis Alarcón; Text by David Gonzalez

The photographer Johis Alarcón documented not just the indelible influence of African culture in Ecuador, but also how the descendants of enslaved women maintained their culture.

"Yet even for their descendants today, the strength of those bonds can be tested. Ms. Alarcón recalled one story of a friend who arrived at home to find her brother covered in talcum powder — his way, she said, of lightening his skin. Another friend remembered how when she was 9 years old, a teacher told her that her hair was “ugly” and should be straightened. They find a sense of self as they get older, wearing traditional styles and learning religious chants passed down through generations. 

“This is a story about liberation,” Ms. Alarcón said. “Their only way to resist and stay connected is though these practices they have preserved for centuries. They want to get to know Mother Africa.”’


Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/31/lens/afro-ecuadoreans-identity-spiritual-practices.html