The smallest Indigenous group in the Ecuadorian Amazon is the Zápara. Often they are called "Zaparos," which refers to a type of basket, while "Zápara" in their own language means "person of the forest." Their history demonstrates the devastating impact of Western civilization as their numbers collapsed from about 200,000 people in 39 different groups at the arrival of the Europeans to approximately 200 people today living in five Zápara communities in Ecuador in addition to two other related groups in Peru. Although these communities are comprised of Zápara, along with Quichua, Shuar, and Achuar individuals who have married Zápara and had children with them, the communities identify as Zápara communities and, regardless of the amount of Zápara blood in each person, they have all embraced the Zápara culture and way of life, and add to it parts of their own backgrounds as well. There are also believed to be up to 100-200 Zápara dispersed throughout Peru, known as the Arabelas and the Iquitos. The degree to which they have maintained their identity as Zápara is not known, but it is probable that their identity as Zápara is not as intact as it is in Ecuador.

Zápara history demonstrates not only the catastrophic repercussions that the European conquest which began five hundred years ago continues to exercise on native peoples of the Americas, but also the vitality and survival of Indigenous cultures.


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