3.1 The Zuleta Llajta

Although it is still unclear from the ethnohistoric record what the original name for Zuleta was, tradition maintains it was Cochacaranqui (local lore; Ontaneda 1998). There is certainly a Hacienda Cochacaranqui at La Rinconada, slightly north of Hacienda Zuleta. It seems plausible that the polity located here would have been part of the same political entity as the group which lent its name to the town of Caranqui north near Ibarra. Toponymic data reinforce the link to Caranqui (Espinosa Soriano 1988, I:36; Grijalva 1921, 26) and this has been used to justify drawing the tentative boundaries of a llajta based at Zuleta linking it with another group of mounds slightly further to the north at Angochagua and the whole, including Caranqui itself, Yaguarcocha and Socapamba further north being drawn within the larger Caranqui political region (Ontaneda 1998, 3-15). The limits of the Zuleta llajta would have been defined by the intermontane basin between Cerros Imbabura and Cubilche to the north and Cerro Cusín to the south, west probably as far as the town of Anglas (Figure 1c). Anglas is still the location of Hacienda Zuleta-owned property and farmland, which suggests a continuity of territorial association from an earlier period.

In all, the territory thus defined represents up to 30km² of potentially cultivable land within the maize-growing elevations, including the lower hill slopes surrounding the valley-bottom flats. This area can be increased possibly by as much as another third if the higher potato-growing elevations are included, making an area of up to 40km² suitable for agriculture overall.

The total number of mounds and ramp-mounds at Zuleta and their size relative to other important ramp-mound sites in the region (Chota, Socapamba, Yaguarcocha, Pinsaquí, Atuntaqui etc.) should be significant in understanding its possible role as a political-ceremonial centre for this whole area, indicating a more pre-eminent role for the polity based here in the past. This pre-eminent regional role is assumed to belong to Caranqui - the present-day town bearing the name. However, Caranqui rose to importance following the final Inca subjugation of this region, as the presence of Inca remains and stone-built fortifications here attest, but it is by no means clear that it had the same significance in the pre-Inca period. Whilst there are the remains of several large quadrilateral mounds here, including one ramp-tola in a poor state of preservation, it could be misleading to assume that the political centre of this group was actually at Caranqui simply because the town has the same name. Its more strategic and exposed location in the Ibarra basin is more likely to have made it an important garrison and political outpost, developed by the Inca following their conquest, with the political and spiritual centre of the polity elsewhere in a more protected location.

It is therefore proposed here that the important pre-eminent political centre for the Caranqui region was based at the Zuleta ramp-mound site. It would have represented the nucleus of a large chiefdom in control of a llajta of several parcialidades, the cacique of which would have dwelt at Zuleta (Salomon 1986, 122-23). It and its allies who finally met and suffered such massive defeat at the hands of the Incas at Lago Yaguarcocha, some time between the close of the 15th and early years of the 16th centuries, then presumably suffered the inevitable fate of defeated parties under such circumstances. They were ruthlessly massacred, as is suggested by several reports wherein between 20,000-50,000 fighting men of the 'Carangue' chiefdom were slaughtered (Cieza de León [1553] 1962 and various other sources cited in Newson 1995, 123). Against this, other members of the alliance, notably the Cayambe and Otavalo, only suffered deportation of their populations as mitmakuna to the southerly regions of the Inca empire (Espinosa Soriano 1988, I:292; Newson 1995, 37, 131), which itself might be taken to suggest a more dominant role for the Caranqui element of the resistance, who may have been sufficiently powerful and important to make it worth making a more dramatic political lesson of them.

It therefore seems plausible that the population at Zuleta may already have been in decline or abandoned by the time the Spanish arrived here in 1534, which might explain why almost no direct ethnohistoric data actually exist for Zuleta. Earliest Spanish reconnaissance reports for the region also suggest this (Anónimo 1965 [1573]; Larrain Barros 1980).


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Last updated: Thu Apr 5 2001