Journal of Latin American Studies

Research Article

The Construction of a Ventriloquist's Image: Liberal Discourse and the ‘Miserable Indian Race’ in Late 19th-Century Ecuador fn2

a1 Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales – Ecuador


In the image, the body loses its corporeal reality; in the rite, the non-corporeal becomes flesh.

Octavio Paz (1969: 120)

How are images constructed from one of Ecuador's political discourses? This article analyses: (1) the transition in 1857 from a state-centred form of administration of indigenous populations (the tribute system) to a decentralised form in the hands of private and local powers which effectively rendered these populations invisible; (2) the ensuing power-game between Conservatives and Liberals which aimed to forge a symbolic analogue of the indian and create a political field; (3) the manner in which the Liberal Revolution (1895) implanted a ‘ventriloquist's’ political representation which became a channel for indian resistance; (4) the research problems which ‘invisibility’ of the indians and the ‘ventriloquist's’ voice pose for historians.

fn2 Translated by Tristan Platt.

fn1 Andrés Guerrero is Professor of the Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales – Ecuador.