Imbabura Province, Ecuador:
History of Salinas Salt
Salinas, Imbabura, Ecuador, is a small town nestled in the Valle de Salinas, or the Valley of Salinas, about 30 minutes north of Ibarra. The town is rather nondescript, not much to do there except tour the little salt museum or ride the tourist train.
But the history of Salinas is illustrious, although the present town has lost its former glory. Salinas was once one of the richest areas in all of Ecuador.
Salt had been mined in the Salinas Valley for centuries before the arrival of the Spanish. As late as 1879, records show that 300 tons of salt were still being produced. Loads of salt were taken as far away as Peru, New Granada and cities throughout Ecuador.
More Valuable Than Gold
Historians record that salt was so highly prized that it was exchanged for gold. Some say that the Spaniards misunderstood what was really of greatest value to the Ecuadorian people. It wasn’t gold; it was salt. With Spanish control, the salt mines have deteriorated. Over the last 50 year so had the town of Salinas. There were no paved roads, sewer system, electricity or good water. Today salt is still mined in small amounts, mostly for animal consumption.