Life Magazine Pictures of Ecuador

The Life Magazine archive of photos available on google has some interesting pictures related to Ecuador in the 1950s and 1960s. I say some pictures, because there aren’t that many and they cluster on a couple of predictable themes – politicians, evangelicalism, a Galapagos turtle, and city shots of Quito. There are a few other shots as well, but the usual suspects of politicians and missionaries strikes me, along with volcanic eruptions and the Galapagos, as the main avenues that Ecuador has entered the North American imagination in the 20th century. 

On the missionary front, there are a number of pictures of Rachel Saint parading Huaoronis Yaeti K. Kimo and Gikita M. Komi around the World Congress on Evangelism in Berlin in 1966. With a complete lack of shame or discomfort that marked the 1950s and 1960s, the magazine described the two as “former savage tribesmen who some years ago murdered American missionaries, now converted to christianity….” The two meet with the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators and with Billy Graham. Just to be ensure speakers of various languages get the savagery, now hastened, the magazine also referred to the two as Aucas, which was the Quichua name for the Huaoroni, and translates roughly as “naked savages.”

Every time I go to Ecuador, I’m still surprised at the numbers of new missionaries and church groups still flying to or from the country, hoping to gain a few more converts. It brings to mind the terminology of the 19th century evangelical revivalism that swept rural New York State so many times, the area came to be known as the “burned over district”.

The politicians and missionaries aside, the pictures I like the best here are the cityscapes– especially the shots of the old section of town (especially the shots here, here, here, and here). Here is a nice pic of the choir in San Francisco. If you ever have, or ever do go on a tour of San Francisco, the choir loft is made of sumptuously carved wood that has that warm, dark look and feel of hardwood floors that have been waxed over the course of one hundred years or more. And of course, what corner of South America would be complete without a statue to Bolivar?

Finally, the advent of the Supermaxi/Megamaxi grocery stores has really changed the complexion of shopping for food in Quito, even just in the years since 1993 when I started going to the city. While this was once a common scene, it has become increasingly less so. After dollarization, many of the street vendors raised their prices, or maybe rounded off their prices, to essentially match those set by Supermaxi. Additionally, the municipality has sought to reduce street vending to specific marketplaces. So, it seems that the combination of dollarization and the supermarket/Wal-Mart shopping model may do in a tradition of street vending that stretches back to the 16th and 17th centuries, when comestible sales were dominated by indigenous women known as gateras, and who would have fit well in the picture linked above (minus the sweet 1958 townie bike).


Associate Professor of Early Latin America Department of History University of Tennessee-Knoxville

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Chad Black

I, your humble contributor, am Chad Black. You can also find me on the web here.
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