Salasaca, Ecuador – Sisters Martina Masaquiza Sailema and Luz Maria Masaquiza Sailema trot towards the outskirts of Mangiua village in Salasaca district, in the Ecuadorian Andes, exchanging a word in Quichua here and there, thick ropes and sickles dangling from their shoulders.
Strings of fluffy wool slide between their fingers and obediently lie down on swiftly turned spools. Two donkeys follow the women unwillingly. They jib every once in a while, but are scolded back to obedience.
Salasaca district in Tungurahua province, Ecuador, takes up only 12 square kilometres, but has preserved the strong identity of its inhabitants, as well as their culture and customs. The Salasacas speak Spanish and their native Quechua language, indigenous to the people of Inca ancestry living in the Andes.
Here, men and women wear traditional clothing, hold festive rituals and make handicrafts. They spin yarn and weave festive clothes as well as tapestries on archaic looms.
Martina, aged 50, and Luz Maria, 38, are gathering weeds called kikuyo.
Every two or three days they travel to the river, leave their donkeys and wool spools, and climb down the steep 200-metre embankment. They stop somewhere at its middle, take their sickles, put on gloves, fall into the tall grass, cut it in swift moves, and heap it in a pile.
The grass is for the animals that the women raise. It is a woman’s task to feed and take care of the animals in Salasaca.