Luke, Cedar

Project title: Indigenous Governance and Community Resiliency in Cotacachi, Ecuador

Department: Latin American Studies

Faculty supervisor: Dr. Beatriz de Alba-Koch

"Ecuador has a rich history of Indigenous federations which have grown to become an important political power within the nation today. I will focus my research on Cotacachi, Ecuador, a community that has struggled for decades to maintain a sustainable economy and environmental integrity in the face of ecological destruction led by international mining corporations. I am particularly interested in the role of the Indigenous perspective within this struggle. The history of their resistance began by confronting the Japanese company Bishimetals who found a large deposit of copper in the region and later the Canadian company Ascendant Copper; mining is led currently by the Chilean company CODELCO.  I will explore the alternative solutions which developed in Cotacachi through the leadership of its current Kichwa mayor, Auki Tituaña. In his previous two terms as mayor, Tituña led a progressive movement towards inclusivity and transparency, supporting practices of sustainability including organic agriculture, handcrafts, and environmental tourism. He built his authority on a political model of participatory governance that empowered the people of Cotacachi to boldly defy the destruction of their region’s natural wealth. To what degree does Cotacachi exemplify how the value of maintaining the integrity of the natural world is central to connecting diverse communities and strengthening a broader vision of personal and collective wellbeing? My research will allow me to explore one case within the rich history of social movements in Latin America demanding political and ecological justice."