The Kichwas, inspiring encounters

First of all, let’s make a difference in terms, because it can get confusing:

  • Quechua is not just a well-known brand of sportswear, but the language spoken in Peru, Bolivia and northern Argentina and Chile.
  • Kichwa distinguishes the language spoken in Ecuador (to complicate matters, we also use the term Quichua), northern Peru and southern Colombia.

These two languages of the same family differ in their use of vocals.

Now, if we’re talking about the people in general in Ecuador who speak this language, we’d say Kichwa.

A nationality of immense diversity

The Kichwa are one of the country’s 13 indigenous nationalities. They are found both in the Andes and in Amazonia.

However, the Kichwa are made up of several sub-groups whose customs differ, particularly in terms of dress. Their cosmovision and festivities linked to the solar and agricultural cycles are what unite them. The best-known are the Otavalos and the Kayambis.

Beautiful principles

Their communities are imbued with principles worth noting, which can serve as inspiration at a time when the values of solidarity are gaining ground.

  • Minga: working together for the benefit of all
  • Ayni: a principle of reciprocity in community mutual aid
  • Sumak kawsay: living well together, with respect for the environment, for overall harmony. A holistic concept that you’ll experience through experiences like the pamba mesa, the festive sharing of communal food.


Kichwa festivities are linked to the end of natural cycles, otherwise known as the solstices and equinoxes. This is how we honor what conditions human life and agricultural rhythms.

The best-known is the Inti Raymi, or Festival of the Sun, at the summer solstice, when sowing begins. Colla Raymi corresponds to the autumn equinox, and honors fertility. Then comes Kapak Raymi, on the winter solstice, the time of germination. Then comes Paukar Raymi, on the spring solstice, the time of flowering.

Read more on these traditional festivities.

These so-called pagan festivals are not held in honor of deities, but simply of the vital energy that gives rhythm to life on earth. The spectacle of offerings and colorful garments is a moment of humility towards Mother Earth, the Pachamama, and sincere spirituality that should not be missed if you coincide with these dates.

Active traditional medicine

This people, so connected to nature, is not to be outdone when it comes to herbal medicine. Biodiversity is a major asset in Ecuador, so it’s easy to find the right plant for the right ailment. The number of traditional practitioners here is still very large, and we know herbalists who know how to recognize and use several hundred species of plants with a wide variety of medicinal properties.

We’re talking about remedies that have often been the subject of research to test their efficacy. Occasionally ask us to introduce you to one, but don’t tell your regular pharmacist!

The history of this people

If the history of these peoples intrigues you, we recommend :

  • The Alabado Museum in Quito for archaeological finds from their ancestors, arranged according to the worlds of their cosmovision.
  • The Mindalae Museum, with remarkable handicrafts from all the country’s peoples.
  • The workshops scattered across the country, showing the liveliness of many of their craft practices, from fabrics to musical instruments.

Meet them

Meeting them, even within their own communities, is easy. Exchanging ideas, taking a sincere interest in their worldview, listening to them, are rarer occasions.

We’d like to share these moments of true intercultural conviviality with you, by pointing out the places where we’ve had such experiences ourselves.