The devil and development in Esmeraldas: Cosmology as a system of critical thought

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Western Christian cosmology is often portrayed as divided into a secular and sacred earth system, with hell below, heaven above, and, in some systems, purgatory as a mediating sector between the earth and heaven (e.g., Corr, this volume; Uzendoski, this volume). Afro-Esmeraldian people of northwest Ecuador have reworked this system to make one clear, but interpenetrating, division between what they call lo divino (the divine realm) and lo humano (the human realm). The latter includes the earth upon which humans live and work and the world controlled by the devil and his (or her) minions or associates, both human and spiritual. God, Jesus Christ, virgins, and saints come from the divino, but it is far away and hard to reach. Women, in particular, gain access to the divino through song and ritual performance. The humano is the sector of turmoil and toil, and whatever favors may be granted by the devil or other spirits, visions, ghouls, monsters, or creatures thereof come at a price. In this chapter, I first explore the realms of the divine and the human and then go on to explicate the character of open-ended, multivocalic, polarized (e.g., Turner 1973, 1974, 1986) symbols of the devil as tied to economy, society, and politics, not only in Muisne, which is the primary site of my ethnography, but elsewhere in Ecuador as well.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMillennial Ecuador
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Essays on Cultural Transformations and Social Dynamics
PublisherUniversity of Iowa Press
Number of pages30
ISBN (Print)0877458634, 9780877458647
StatePublished - 2003


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