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In the region of Cañar, deep in the Ecuadorean Andes, out migration has become an unending cycle for more than four decades. Many people in Ecuador view Cañar as a tragic place full of poverty and broken families. Local women are stigmatized for leaving their kids behind, or for raising them alone without their husbands. But the benefits of migration can outweigh the costs… especially for the women who stay home, becoming breadwinners and taking on roles that were previously closed to them. Ruxandra Guidi reports on how migration is changing the lives of women in Cañar, Ecuador.

 

The cover photo is of a Cañari woman. Like most Cañari women, Pichasaca is from a farming background, she continues to plant and harvest with other family members. But since leaving her husband and life in the United States, she has achieved a level of independence that she had only imagined as a younger woman. Photos by photographer Bear Guerra

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Early on a recent August Sunday morning, the town of Cañar’s bustling street market is just getting underway. Every week, indigenous Cañaris from throughout the province come to the market to buy and sell goods, and to visit with friends and family from other villages.

 

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The agricultural and largely indigenous province of Cañar has Ecuador’s highest rates of out-migration proportionately to the rest of the country, and accounts for some forty percent of the country’s remittance income.

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Barbarita Pichasaca (left) helps her sister and brother-in-law harvest corn at the family’s property in Taday, Ecuador. After living for several years in the United States as an undocumented immigrant, Pichasaca left her husband there in 2006 so that she could be reunited with her children in Ecuador. She is now a successful independent businesswoman, whose financial institution seeks to help other migrants from similar backgrounds. 

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A student listens during classes at the first school in Juncal – a small farming community in Ecuador’s Cañar Province. More than half of the indigenous Cañari students at the school have at least one parent living abroad.

This story was made possible by a grant from the International Reporting Project.