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Chiguinda, Canton: Gualaquiza, Province: Morona-Santiago

Population estimated 1998: 600

Elevation: 1750 meters

Chiguinda was founded as a parroquia five years after the 1941 war with Peru. Settlers have come primarily from Sigsig; there are now fourth generation residents. The original campesinos followed the hacendados, who were living scattered throughout the southern Oriente region of Ecuador. Most likely the first whites and mestizos were following even older trading trails used by Shuars and more ancient indigenous.

In any event the primary agricultural practice continues to be the ganaderia or cattle ranching. Clear pasture, put cattle on the slopes and sell a little milk. It's a time-consuming and low-income livelihood but which gives one a great deal of independence.

When the region was first colonized the traditional businesses of the peasants or campesinos included tobacco cultivation and bootlegging distilled sugar cane. However, with time moonshine was legalized and cattle ranching and timbering took over as the primary cash earning practices in the area. The practices are complimentary and both represent substantial investments for locals who feel lucky to earn $1000 a year. A chainsaw costs several hundred dollars and each bovine represents as much. Farmers must seed timbered forest land with pasture grasses and wait a minimum of 18 months before putting cattle on the degraded land. The production of timber, legal and illegal, is quite lucrative. Cattle ranching is practiced in part because it is operationally a low effort business once the hard work of pasture conversion is complete and also because it represents a near-liquid yet somewhat inflation-proof means of saving cash.

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