Ekkeko figures date back to the Inca Empire, which occupied a large territory in what are now modern Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile. Ekkeko is part of Inca mythology. The Inca empire began in 1190 and lasted till shortly after the arrival of Columbus in 1492.

Ekkeko is the Andean god of plenty and wealth. He is also the domestic god of good luck and prosperity.

The miniature objects on this Ekkeko represent wishes for material goods, each item representing some form of material wealth:

• The little sacks of pasta and dry goods represent food.
• The paper copy of money represents monetary wealth.
• The miniature car represents a wish for a real automobile.

Every year, people all over Bolivia, and in other countries in South America, tie what they wish for onto the Ekkeko figures. Once given to Ekkeko, the wishes or miniature items are never removed – to do so is considered bad luck. A well-used statue will be loaded down with desires or miniatures that represent many hopes. According to an ancient legend, when you place a miniature object on Ekkeko, you will receive what you wish for the following year.

The Ekkeko figure can be found in many Canadian Latino homes and it reveals the changing face of immigration. Only in recent years have so many people come here from Latin America. This object also reflects the wishes, desires and dreams of almost every immigrant: the hope of a better life.

Immigration plays a key role in building the nation. Immigration also has a dramatic affect on the lives of the immigrants and refugees who come here. The Ekkeko figure allows us to see that all people, regardless of where they have come from, share much the same hopes and desires: food and shelter, a safe place to live, and prosperity or a good life.

The Ekkeko figure has a pre-Christian, pre-colonial origin. And yet it remains relevant today because all of us continue to hope for a better future.


Census Canada statistics:
  • Of the total number of immigrants between 1991 and 2001, 11% came from Central and South America and the Caribbean.
  • One out of every six Canadian residents was born outside Canada (2001 census). 
  • Canada has people from 200 ethnicities.
  • In 2001, 39% of the total population reported their ethnic heritage as “Canadian.”
_________________________
Royal Ontario Museum

© 2006, Royal Ontario Museum. All Rights Reserved.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans