In highland Ecuador, food is a marker of identity on various levels, representing gender, social relationships, and ethnicity. In this article I explore the multiple qualities of food as a nutrient that strengthens and empowers the body, as a medium of exchange in social relationships, and as a symbol that can be manipulated in ritual contexts. I focus on food symbolism among the Salasacan people of the Ecuadorian Andes by analyzing the meanings of food and gender, and the use of food in different contexts including collective rituals for the Day of the Dead, funerals, and festivals. During different historical periods, and in various sociopolitical contexts, certain foods have come to represent indigenous Andean identity in contrast to White/Mestizo identity. I show that in Salasaca food provides strength to individual bodies as well as the collective social body, which is tied to ethnic identity and associated with a unique heritage.
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