NARANJAL, Ecuador – Ecuador’s Shuar Indian community has enriched its tourism business in southwestern Ecuador with the offer of its ancestral medicines and treatments, including herbs to cure the sick and therapies like thermal baths.
Settled for the past 42 years in the Naranjal municipality or Guayas province, the community has run its Tsuer Entsa tourism business for the past 11, a complex of natural pools of hot and cold water, a simple dining room – also used for traditional dance performances – and lodgings.
The community’s chieftain Arturo was not born here. Unlike many of those who are now his neighbors, he was brought here by his family from eastern Ecuador, where the Shuar ethnicity originated.
At age 72, Arturo welcomes tourists with his torso bare and a long skirt down to his ankles, colorful necklaces, a band of feathers on his head and a spear in his hand. He laughs proudly when telling visitors that he has had nine wives and 15 children.
During a visit coordinated by the Guayas provincial government and the Municipal Tourism Foundation for Cuenca, in which EFE participated, the organization’s president Alex Vasquez Naranjo and the native guide and youth leader Marco Lequi spoke of the value of the thermal waters and the different therapies applied.
“Here we treat muscle pain, bones and rheumatism..adults often bathe to alleviate their cough or flu. People who come here do it for their health,” Lequi said, adding that most tourists come from Ecuador, Peru and Colombia, though not a few are visitors from Brazil, Canada and the United States.
Besides running the community’s “government” and enforcing the law, except in cases of serious crimes like rape and drug trafficking, for which he calls the police, Vasquez is a therapist and performs the “role of the shaman,” he said.
“I do cleansing and cures for the body, I do a series of therapies, hydro massages, manual massages, chiropractic work, therapies for stress...natural medicines, nothing chemical, only what is native, our own herbs,” he told EFE.
The community is made up of 64 people distributed in 23 families, and since Dec. 21, 1977, it has had legal status, though it has been in the tourism business with this complex for only 11 years.