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Huasipungo, a forced labor system of the Ecuadorian sierra. The word was derived from the Quechua language (huasi, "house," and pungo/pungu, "door"). Most Indians submitted to variations of this system from the colonial period until recently. In order to obtain access to a small parcel of land (a huasipungo), Indian families would consent to provide agricultural labor and to serve as domestic servants for a hacienda owner. The Indians had the right to collect wood and straw from the owner's land or to graze animals upon it. The owner paid wages for labor and typically supplied Indians with food, clothing, animals, and cash.

Most Indian families quickly lapsed into debt, losing their freedom of movement until they retired their obligations. This seldom happened. Thus restricted, the Indians suffered various abuses, either at the hands of the hacienda owner or, more commonly, from foremen, police, or the local clergy. Legislative decrees designed to end this system of debt peonage, such as the ban on concertaje in 1918, did little to halt the practice. However, the Agrarian Reform Law of 1964 finally turned the huasipungos over to the Indian families that worked them. Jorge Icaza's Indianist novel Huasipungo (1934) provided a vivid depiction of the oppression of Indians under this forced labor arrangement and increased the attention given to the problem.

See alsoGuayaquil, Group of; Mita; Slavery: Indian Slavery and Forced Labor.


On sierra relations of production, consult Magnus Mörner, The Andean Past: Land, Societies, and Conflicts (1985); Osvaldo Hurtado, Political Power in Ecuador, translated by Nick D. Mills, Jr. (1985); and Enrique Ayala Mora, ed., Nueva historia del Ecuador: Época republicana I, vol. 7 (1983).

Additional Bibliography

Icaza, Jorge. Huasipungo. Buenos Aires: Editorial Losada, 1953.

Lyons, Barry J. Remembering the Hacienda: Religion, Authority, and Social Change in Highland Ecuador. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006.

Trujillo León, Jorge. La hacienda serrana, 1900–1930. Quito: Instituto de Estudios Ecuatorianos: Abya Yala, 1986.

                                        Ronn F. Pineo