For them, the world was full of treacherous spirits and demons that could bring luck or make people sick by stealing their souls. The universe was ruled over by a sky god seated in a thrown of clouds. Shamans, the most revered members of society, were in charge of convening with the gods, rescuing souls of the sick, bestowing luck, and foretelling the future. In order to gain access to the supernatural world, Shamans used a combination of the hallucinogenic extract of the Ayahuasca and special artifacts, including volcanic rocks pulled from the mouths of Cotopaxi and Chimbazo.
As late as the 18th Century, the Tsáchila numbered in the tens of thousands. Due to the treacherousness of their territory, they were never conquered by the Incas or the Spanish. They spanned over a large area, where they cultivated exotic fruitsguayabo, banano, sugar cane, pineappleand dined on animals and fish easily plucked from the surrounding forest. Archeological remnants suggest that they had an extensive knowledge of astronomy.
Their population and territory have been drastically reduced over the centuries by disease and settlement; today, they occupy just eight small reservations. Their ancient dominion over the region lingers on in the name of its main city, Santo Domingo de los Colorados. The Tscáchila man in his characteristic striped kilt and red hair style pops up on the sides of trucks and consumer product packaging around the city, near which the last Tscáchila communities struggle to preserve what they can of their native heritage.