This book examines ritual practices and public festivals in the Otavalo and Cotacachi areas of northern Andean Ecuador's Imbabura province. Otavaleños are a unique group in that they maintain their traditional identity but also cultivate a cosmopolitanism through frequent international travel. Ritual Encountersexplores the moral, mythic, and modern crossroads at which Otavaleños stand, and how, at this junction, they come to define themselves as millennial people.
Michelle Wibbelsman shows that Otavaleños are deeply engaged in transnational mobility and in the cultural transformations that have resulted from Otavalan participation in global markets, international consumer trends, and technological developments. Rituals have persisted among this ethnic community as important processes for symbolically capturing and critically assessing cultural changes in the face of modern influences. As religious expression, political commentary, transcendental communication, moral judgment, and transformative experience, Otavalan rituals constitute enduring practices that affirm ethnic identities, challenge dominant narratives, and take issue with power inequalities behind hegemony. Ritual Encounters thus offers an appreciation of the modern and mythic community as a single and emergent condition.