Rhythm and Talent Emanate From The Chota Valley Recommended read

Just beyond Ibarra, descending through the Northern Sierra along the shore of the River Chota, lies the Chota Valley, remarkable for its high concentration of Afro- Ecuadorians, exultant African rhythms, elegant dances, and propensity for producing soccer stars.

Referred to simply as El Chota, the valley has gained international notoriety in the last decade for the soccer stars that have extraordinarily emerged from it. El Chota is undeniably economically marginalized. A few wealthy city dwellers control nearly all the arable land, and the rest of the land is worthless without irrigation. Most of its residents make a living in subsistence farming or as day laborers. Yet, five players from Ecuador's current World Cup squad came from Juncál, a tiny town whose modest soccer field is two pairs of posts set in the hard, dusty ground underneath a highway overpass. Its stars include Augustín Delgado, who scored Ecuador's second goal in the 3-0 victory over Costa Rica that landed Ecuador in the second round of the 2006 World Cup.

 

Kids Chota Valley footballThe valley is somewhat mysteriously and almost entirely inhabited by over two thousand Afro-Ecuadorians. Unlike other outcroppings of the Afro-Ecuadorian population, El Chota is situated in the highlands, an area otherwise predominately inhabited by indigenous farmers and mestizos; and, although its people have a rich cultural heritage, it does not include a feasible explanation of how they actually got there. The dominate theory is that, having exploited indigenous labor to the point of near extinction, the Jesuit beneficiaries of colonial land concessions imported the descendants of the black skinned Chota Valley residents as slaves to work in salt mines and sugar cane plantation.

The people of El Chota are the inheritors of a vibrant and curious musical form, known as La Bomba. As it has elements in common with other Afro beats, such as Salsa and Samba, it is said to be deeply rooted in ancient African rhythms. It is traditionally preformed on instruments hewed from the fruits of cultivation, intended to imitate the brass instruments of military bands. The hollowed out casing of a pumpkin squash makes a jug bass, while an orange leaf behaves like a clarinet, hollowed logs become trumpets, and goat skin drums make the sound, bomba, from which the genre derives its name.

The people of El Chota carry on this musical form exuberantly, at all manner of parties' weddings, birthdays, consumer product launches, patron saint celebrations, and baptisms. In El Chota it is played by the original Banda Mocha, a group of fourteen to fifteen men, whose members have changed over its hundred years of existence. Meanwhile woman improvise various dances, the most famous of which they perform with bottles balanced on top of their heads. The best time to hear La Banda Mocha and see the famous Bottle Dance is during Las Carnivales Coanjues, in February and March, when four to five thousand people continually congregate at the modest soccer field under the highway overpass in Juncál to feast, play music, dance, and drench each other in water.

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