top of page
13 x 18 GP2.jpg


Surrounded by mountains and crops in the north of Ecuador, the community of Zuleta is located. These territories formerly belonged to the Caranqui indigenous people, whose vestiges—in the form of tolas or pointless pyramids—have witnessed the lives of the community members.

In the middle of the community, we can find Hacienda Zuleta, an agricultural and cattle ranch that belonged to the former president of Ecuador Galo Plaza Lasso, currently owned by his sons. One of the hundreds of his initiatives in favor of the community, is known as The Zuleta experiment. Plaza Lasso was president of Ecuador from 1948 to 1952. A man of liberal ideas, defender of democracy and convinced of the need to promote development through education, culture, and the use of technology. Let us tell you about this project, carried out in three areas.

In­ 1950, 140 agricultural workers and their families lived in the community: 1025 people in total. There was only one rural public school with four grades that were attended by a single teacher. They used the same school textbooks as the city schools, which Galo Plaza questioned whether these reflected the reality of rural boys and girls; therefore, he articulated for them a better understanding of the world around them.

Thus, was born the idea of creating a pilot education project that would be able to provide children with more practical tools so that they can do their best in the agricultural environment. It began with the search for qualified personnel, which turned out to be the most complex task. He contacted an order of Catholic nuns with training in nursing, teaching and knowledge of the Quichua language and hired four of them: two teachers and two nurses. Consequently, in 1953 the public school was reorganized in such a way that the first three grades were attended by the teacher appointed by the State and from fourth to sixth grades, by the nuns of the Order of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate.

Thanks to the discovery of school textbooks produced by UNESCO and the introduction of practical classes, it was possible to improve the education that boys and girls received. In addition to language and calculation classes, other practical knowledge such as tractor driving, weaving, embroidery and clothing making were created. In the classes the land was tilled. All the resulting production benefited the children of the school.

The indigenous people of the community have been weavers by tradition. Since the 16th century, the Jesuits taught them how to process the wool of their sheep and how to weave it for clothes making. In 1950, the government created a project in order to improve textile activity in the nearby city of Otavalo, which included learning new techniques to obtain thread and handling modern and faster looms. Galo Plaza sent three young people plus one of the nuns to learn all this and the result was the opening of a school in the community. In this way, the process of creating fabrics and clothing improved both in its quality and in its efficiency, since the garments were obtained more quickly.

The girls of the community were traditionally in charge of cow-milking, done very early in the morning and at the end of the afternoon. Between one milking and another, they began to receive embroidery classes in a workshop that was installed on the farm. Little by little they acquired the skill to make beautiful creations that began to be sold in craft stores in the capital; nowadays, a source of income for these families.

The mentioned experiences contributed to the integral development of this community. In the present, the inhabitants have a better quality of life, have new sources of income for their families, and seek the education of their sons and daughters as a priority. The women have turned Zuleta embroidery into a unique and distinctive product of this beautiful community, whose members may never have heard of The Zuleta Experiment.

bottom of page