Since 1997, Professors Valentina Martinez and Michael Harris, of Florida Atlantic University’s Department of Anthropology, have carried out research in the territory of the Manta people, especially in the communities of Salango, Rio Chico, and Rio Blanco. Every year since 1997, from the end of June through the first week of August, Professors Michael Harris and Valentina Martinez train university students from the U.S., Europe, and Latin America in archaeological and ethnographic field methods. The Department of Anthropology, through Professors Harris and Martinez, works with the community of Salango and the Manta people in collaborative research projects that serve to strengthen, preserve, and define local identities.
Part of this field work is exclusively archaeological and is focused on understanding how local adaptation has evolved over the past 5000 years, how resource utilization has changed, and how the many micro-environments in the territory were used in the past. Ethnographically, research has focused on documenting current and historical ways of living, including settlement patterns, subsistence activities, economics, political organization, kinship and the family.
The anthropological work is carried out as an alliance with the people of the region, rather than as the imposition of a predetermined research project flowing from academia. As such, the Department of Anthropology supports the goals and vision of the community of Salango and the Manta people in their efforts to re-create their ancestral identities in the contemporary world. Professors Harris and Martinez and their students have participated heavily in the renovation of the museum, research center, laboratories, and grounds and have supported the Salango community’s efforts to self-administer the research center and the materials housed within the museum complex.
In 2008-9, Professors Harris and Martinez, in conjunction with the community of Salango and the National Institute for Cultural Heritage (INPC) were awarded a U.S. Ambassador’s fund grant for the renovation of the Salango hacienda house. The renovation work was completed primarily with participation of the local community. In 2010, Professors Harris and Martinez collaborated on the writing and design of the exhibit currently on display in the hacienda house, One Hundred Years of History.