By Veronica Davidov (auth.)

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To his right was the elder’s youngest son, in jeans and white t-shirt, with nothing on his person “marking” him as a lowland Kichwa—he was living in Puyo at the moment, but had driven over that day to help out with some maintenance. Although I never formally interviewed the father or the son, I had chatted with both of them during the previous day. The father had been raised and schooled on a mission, and appreciatively remembered the missionaries who had made him an “educated man” (he was also very interested in whether or not I was Christian, or baptized, and he emphasized that he was devout and never missed church on a Sunday).

And of the foremost ecotourist destinations in South America today is Ecuador,3 where the European imagination of the colonial indigenous subject informed the formation of the similarly imagined postcolonial native, the centerpiece of both ecotourism and ethnographic tourism. In fact, the two forms of tourism are frequently collapsed together in Ecuador, under the blanket term ecoturismo. This conflation is possible because the ecoturismo industry, and the tourists who partake in it perceive nature as their indigenous hosts’ material culture in a sense, thus weakening any distinction between tourism of nature and tourism of culture.

But as West and Carrier point out, along with many others (Brown, 1996; Cohen, 2002, M’Closky, 2002; Phillips and Steiner, 1999), “authenticity” is a complicated concept when it comes to ecotourism in general. It is also a complicated concept when it comes to histories and articulations of Ecuadorian indigenous identities, where it can be thought of as a cauldron for different histories of representation, and economic and political agendas. Ecuadorian ecoturismo, then, becomes a field where these complicated domains of “authenticity” intersect and, to some extent, overlap.

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