A Little Gold for Lunch?

The widespread occurrence of placer gold in rivers draining into the Amazon of Ecuador has been well known since pre-Inca times.  In fact, the Incas derived their gold supply from the river gravels of this region. The arrival of the Spanish in the 1500’s brought about the resurgence of gold mining activity to the area.

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Spanish colonists soon located a number of river gold deposits and their primary sources.  These gold deposits were worked using rudimentary methods and native slave labour, but with such brutality that increasing native resistance culminated in a series of revolts, forcing even the richest of the colonial mining settlements to be abandoned. The Spaniards required tribute in gold dust, and increased their demands every year. In 1599, the Jivaro tribe united twenty thousand strong under a single war chief, Quirruba, and attacked the Spanish. Quirruba took possession of the Spanish Governor’s house; surrounding the house, they killed all the people inside, except for the Governor.  They told him that it was now time for him to receive the gold which he had ordered as tribute.  They stripped him completely naked, and tied his hands and feet. Meanwhile other tribes members set up a forge in the courtyard where they melted the tribute gold. When it was ready they forced his mouth open, saying that they wanted to see if he had any more appetite for gold…. I’m sure the reader can imagine the rest.

Spanish rule of Ecuador nonetheless continued until the late 1800’s when liberation minded individuals, such as Simón Bolívar- a military and political leader- led Latin America's successful struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire.