The following comes from a July 5 CuencaHighLife article by Paola Lopez:
Thirty years ago, Gustavo Negrete took his wooden cross and joined other indigenous Ecuadorans to greet Pope John Paul II. But he has no interest in seeing Pope Francis on Sunday.
Like a growing number of indigenous people in Latin America, Negrete has turned his back on the Roman Catholic faith that was violently forced upon their ancestors by Spanish conquistadors.
In his case, the 46-year-old Quechua became an Evangelical pastor.
Ecuador will be the first stop in the first Latin American pope’s eight-day trip to the region, which will include visits to Bolivia and Paraguay.
When John Paul visited Ecuador in 1985, 94 percent of the population identified as Catholic. Today, 80 percent of the country’s 16 million people are Catholic. Seven percent of Ecuadorans are indigenous people.
Pope Francis “is going unnoticed today in indigenous communities,” Negrete told AFP, as he held his Bible.
“The concept that we had in that era — that a representative of God was coming — no longer exists,” he said.
Negrete said he gave up Catholicism when he realized that the church did not punish “drunkenness, the mistreatment of sons and wives” in indigenous communities.
Ecuador and Bolivia lack official figures on the number of indigenous people who are Protestants.
But Manuel Chugchilan, president of the Feine organization that groups indigenous Evangelicals in Ecuador, said that the number of protestant churches soared from 40 in 1980 to 2,500 today.
He said Protestants reached areas where the Roman Catholic church was absent and gained the trust of indigenous people because of the “change of life” that they offered.
Alcoholism and violence have disappeared, while families prosper because they focus on their children’s education, Chugchilan said.
Another telling figure is the number of pastors and priests.
While the Ecuadoran Episcopal Conference says that only 20 of 3,000 Catholic priests are indigenous, the Feine counts 700 pastors of native origin.