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The Rubber Economy in the Ecuadorian Amazon  

Matthew Ford

The demand for rubber in the global north had severe impacts on Amazonia—its extractive origin—and irreparably transformed the economic and social landscape. Although the scholarly literature on rubber’s impact on Amazonian Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia is rich, the historiography on Ecuadorian Amazonia (known locally as the Oriente) remains underdeveloped. Yet the rubber economy had lasting impacts on the Oriente and shaped how the Liberal state interacted with its eastern frontier. The chains of debt, credit, rubber, and people integrated the Oriente into an expansive economic circuit—with its local hub in Iquitos—that cut deep scars into the region and ultimately undercut state-building efforts. Caucheros used a coercive system of debt peonage to gain control over the indigenous population, leaving frontier civil authorities with limited access to a labor force that was necessary for state building. In the larger context of Liberal export-oriented development—whereby state capacity in formerly isolated regions was often strengthened by integration into the global economy—the rubber economy in the Oriente stands out for having the opposite effect.

Article

Social Movements in Late 20th-Century Ecuador and Bolivia  

Marc Becker

Both Ecuador and Bolivia have gained a reputation for powerful social movements that have repeatedly challenged entrenched political and economic interests that have controlled the countries since their independence from Spain almost two hundred years ago. A wealthy and powerful minority of European descendant landowners ruled the countries to the exclusion of the majority population of impoverished Indigenous farm workers. Repeated well-organized challenges to exclusionary rule in the late 20th century shifted policies and opened political spaces for previously marginalized people. Social movement organizations also altered their language to meet new realities, including incorporating identities as ethnic groups and Indigenous nationalities to advance their agenda. Their efforts contributed to a significant leftward shift in political discourse that led to the election of presidents Evo Morales and Rafael Correa.