Erin O'Connor's historical account of nation-making in Ecuador is a study of the "multi-layered links between gender and Indian-state relations in nineteenth century Ecuador" (p. xiv).
As D&G Jewelry Sale O'Connor states herself: "Indigenous women's paradoxical position in the new politics of ethnicity raises key questions about Ecuadorian history" (p. xii).
It is in her analysis of these questions that O'Connor offers an important contribution to Ecuadorian history as well as to contemporary problems that may stem from the period of nation-making between 1830 and 1925.
Drawing principally upon the purview of legal scholars (e.g. Presidential decrees, congressional debates, laws, court cases, government correspondence) as well as tribute and hacienda records, this book could easily have turned into a dry legal history. It is a testament to O'Connor's writing skills that it is a rich, eminently readable study of the making of modern Ecuador.
O'Connor divides her study into three distinct periods. The first (1830 to 1857) is the era immediately following Ecuadorian independence. The newly formed government gave the appearance of concern for Indigenous peoples by abolishing the oppressive tribute payments under which they labored.
O'Connor argues that "the end of the tribute entrenched racial inequalities and paved the way for the government to declare Indians equal before the law without making any effective improvement in their relationship with the state" (p.
14). Gabriel Garcia Moreno's conservative government defines the second period.
Moreno's main concern was with Catholic state building, which he viewed as the most effective unifying force for the nation. Early post-colonial leaders benefited from the socio-economic and racial hierarchies established by the Spanish and believed "that Indians were unfit for inclusion in the nation" (p. 13).
Under Moreno, the Ecuadorian government stopped recognizing "indigenous protective laws, communal lands, or indigenous leaders" (p. 16). Indians were no longer exempt from taxes that, with the new administration, D&G Jewelry
were often more oppressive than the tribute payments had been. Moreno's government ultimately failed to relieve Indigenous marginalization. Instead, their situation deteriorated and the Indigenous peoples life on the margins of society became further entrenched.
In the book's final era (1895 to 1925) O'Connor discusses the liberal government's greater concern with secularization of Ecuador than Indigenous rights. Social reforms were focused on elite women and Indian men with the intent of strengthening Indian men's patriarchal control over Indian women and children.
Governmental policy was based on the assumption that "improvements in Indian men's status would automatically benefit their wives and children" (p. 116). However, O'Connor argues that improvements in men's relationship with the dominant society further altered the balance of power in indigenous gender relationships.