The Cañar Indians in southern Ecuador began manufacturing Panama hats in the 1950s as a way to cope with increasing poverty as they slowly lost much of their land to the white population. The Inkas had incorporated the Cañaris' territory into their empire sixty years before the Spanish conquest, but unlike most groups that the Inkas conquered, the Cañaris never lost their separate ethnic identity. In 1532, the Cañaris were one of the groups that considered the Spanish invaders as their liberators from Inka tyranny and entered into strategic alliances with the conquistadores. Ironically, although the Inkas were much more successful than the Spanish colonists or their modern national counterparts in obliterating ethnic identity, now the Cañaris have assumed the identity of their pre-Hispanic Inkan oppressors in a campaign against the Spanish culture with which they had originally joined in the conquest against the Inka Empire.
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