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Dancing for Pachamama: Maria Rosa Guandinango

By Christian Pillalaza (CS intern)

In the northern part of Ecuador in the province of Imbabura, Cotacachi canton, two dance groups, Kury Tushuy (Golden Dance) and Sumak Sisay Tushuy (Wonderful Blooming), are led by Maria Rosa Guandinango (Kichwa), a young woman from the community of San Pedro and a 2022 Cultural Survival Indigenous Youth Fellow. Her fellowship project, "Dance of Spirituality - Connection with the Pachamama," focuses on three areas: strengthening the Andean cosmovision, the Kichwa language, and art through sacred dance.

Throughout her life, Guandinango has spread her culture through traditional dance. She leads the two dance groups, both of which feature Indigenous women from the San Pedro community. Guandinango’s fellowship project's objective is to promote her culture. Thanks to the unconditional support of the leaders of her community, she has managed to strengthen her ancestral knowledge while sharing Andean science, dance music, ancestral medicine, and fabrics with girls from her community, all through the Kichwa language. 


Guandinango describes the fellowship project as comprehensive and arduous due to the research needed to create choreographies rooted in Kichwa culture. “Andean cosmovision is the cultural way of perceiving, interpreting, and explaining the world, the way of building a new society where we all enjoy the same rights,” she says. The project seeks to validate and revitalize ancestral knowledge through dance, disseminating it in a choreographic and audiovisual way via a series of workshops.

During the workshops, youth members of the Sumak Sisay Tushuy group created the choreographies "Yaku mamapa tushuy” (Offerings to Mother Water) and "Wayra taytapa tushuy” (Offering to Father Wind). The Kury Tushuy dance group created choreographies titled “Allpamamapa tushuy” (Offerings to Mother Earth) and "Inty taytapa tushuy” (Offering to Father Sun). In the end, the two groups jointly presented "Allpamamapa tushuy” and “Inty taytapa tushuy.” 


Kichwa language was used throughout the entire creative process. As Guandinango explains, “It is important to speak of language as an essential element of our culture because our cosmology, the way we see the world, is immersed in it. The Kichwa language is one of the treasures that our taytas (fathers) and mamas (mothers) left us as an inheritance. Therefore, the workshops were carried out in our own language and the video production includes Spanish translation, with the purpose that Kichwa people from Cotacachi empower themselves.”

The choreographies have been recorded on video and will be performed in Cotacachi, Antonio Ante, and Cayambe. 


Cultural Surivival's Indigenous Youth Fellowship Program supports young Indigenous leaders between the ages of 17-28, who are eager to learn about technology, program development, journalism, community radio, media, and Indigenous Peoples’ rights advocacy. Since 2018, we have awarded 62 fellowships that supported 82 fellows. Fellowships have allowed youth to build capacities in Indigenous rights, Indigenous languages, cultures, and Traditional Knowledge. It is an opportunity to assist fellows to represent the voices of their communities and bring awareness of local issues to global conversations through their proposed projects while strengthening their cultural identities and leadership.