Demographic Trends
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The fall and rise (and fall...) of the Otavalo
Indian Population
    The first population decline in Otavalo was the result of the impact of both the Inka and the Spanish conquests and of disease epidemics.  It has been noted that the population fell from 186,350 to 45,000 during the first 50 years of Spanish rule (Newson, 1995).  Death was also the result of slave labor and intense work conditions.  It is interesting to note that mortality rates and population decline were highest at lower elevations.

    In the 1580's, a smallpox epidemic hit Otavalo badly.  From 1590-1611 there was a marked Indian population growth of 54.1%, which was said not to be due to an increase in births or decrease in deaths, but an increase in population registration.  By the mid-1600's, the Indian population halved because of another period of forced Indian labor.  The area in which the Indians were forced to work was of a much warmer climate than they were used to, causing a great number of deaths.  A final explanation for the population decline was a high level of Indian migration out of Otavalo.

The Inca Empire (circa 1532)
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(Information on this page taken from  Newson, L.A. (1995).  Life and Death in Early Colonial Ecuador.
University of Oklahoma Press: Norman and London.)