by Areli Hernandez
on October 2, 2017 on 10/2/17
This week each academic track (environment, public health, education, microfinance & social services) traveled to visit different organizations around Ecuador. My track (social services) traveled to the North Sierra to the cities & communities of Cotacachi & Ibarra (but the environment track got to go to the Amazon!). The focus was on learning about the social politics of different parishes, the Ministry of Economic and Social Inclusion, individual vs collective human rights, etc.
We had a Pachamanca dinner (a traditionally prepared Andean dish in the Agate indigenous community). Basically, they use volcanic rocks (heated for six hours), then beat with a small branch of eucalyptus to clean off the ashes, and then stacked in a hole in the earth. Healthy local foods & veggies like potatoes, carrots, beets, corn, peas are placed on top, splashed with water (to cook), and then sealed with a blanket & rug, & then covered back again with dirt. It cooks for an hour or so and then the veggies are taken out of the ground, placed on dishes & ready to eat. All of this healthy food was actually delicious & so natural & wholesome.
We took a boat trip to the Laguna Cuicocha which is an active crater lake in which the clear blue water kept popping out bubbles from the volcanic action deep in the earth.
*Animal dies warning/trigger*
I got a (cuy) guinea pig cleanse! This is a very traditional Ecuadorian cleanse in which they pass a cuy over your body (it usually dies in the process) and then have to open it up for a type of diagnosis. I am super ticklish& this made me super tense trying not to laugh out loud. The cuy started screaming (& at one point started peeing HAHAHA sorry) & then died. The lady performing the ritual skinned it afterwords & told me I had some bad circulation (surprisingly actually true), problems with my ovaries, lower back stress, and susceptibility to thyroid disease and even gastritis (my host fam told me it’s all my Mexican affinity for spicy food but I refuse to accept it).
After the cleanse, I was dead tired but woke up early the next day at 6am (WITHOUT AN ALARM) & did a lil workout. How cool is that? Did the cleanse actually help me out? Probably. The cuy is a very sensitive animal that absorbs all types of bad energies.
It is super interesting to see the different types of treatments for disease/life outside of Western hospitals. Babies being born in warm rooms with the mommas standing up (cause that’s how gravity pops them out more naturally & easier for the moms) as opposed to on a cold hospital bed (which is way more comfy for the doctor, but does not take into account the comfort of the pregnant woman). Anyway, we should really reanalyze everything we are taught you know?
I was waiting for my friends to come over to my apartment the other night & I thought I saw their taxi so I went out, but it was a dude on a motorcycle parked in front of my house. I got scared, went back inside to watch him but he would not leave. I got really scared & my imagination started to activate so then I got angry because he was actually really scaring me so finally I got the nerve to run outside & yell “Bueno pues, y tú a quién demonios vienes a ver?” (“Well, who the hell are you here to see?”). Suddenly my 17-year old host niece comes out & apparently the dude was waiting for her & was not actually gonna kill me. I felt so embarrassed & hopefully didn’t wreck her date but probably did. Oops.
Walking back from the park today, I crossed to my street (located in a middle-class neighborhood) & it was trash collecting day (this happens 3 times a week). I noticed a father in his 30s or 40s showing his own kid how to look for the remains of food from the trash bags that people left outside.
Now tell me, what in the world am I supposed to do, say, or think when I see this knowing I will have a hot meal waiting for me at the dinner table later that night? Do I look at them & invite them for dinner? Do I go back home to grab change & give it to them? Do I ask something? Do I dare say anything that might make them uncomfortable? Do I even look their way? I felt so powerless that I could not even look them in the eyes fearing that I would make the man feel anything less than a man, than a father. So I walked past, but I could not stop looking at them, feeling a disgust with my own unearned privilege.
Now this was not the first time I saw this. I had seen this a week ago with a woman too.
It does not take “volunteering in Africa” or “donating to a favorite charity” (cringe) to see the disgusting inequalities that exist within our OWN neighborhoods. Put down your phone, open your eyes & see what the world is telling ya, bud.
Never become so wrapped up in your own life that you forget the harsh realities that exist outside your privilege.
Had I been on my phone or something I would probably have missed this moment. How ridiculous is that? We become so consumed by our own lives, or comparing it to the lives of others, that we literally become BLIND at the injustices next to us.
During the Pachamanca dinner at the Agate indigenous community, a little seven year old came up to me with his flute called the quena? And he started playing a couple songs. He was so sweet and friendly & told us how his dad taught him how to play, how he played soccer after school & was supposedly one of the best players, how he went to school everyday wearing a white long sleeve, white pants, his poncho, & hat. He taught us some quichua words & phrases, grinning ear to ear knowing he was teaching us important words that only he knew.
Isn’t culture so beautiful & necessary when we don’t rip it away from people? Like how sad is it to know that the quichua language, culture & identity is not taught to these little children for the sake of survival. Traumatized parents not wanting their kids to go through the same type of discrimination they had to go through are forced to assimilate & let go of their culture. This same process of assimilation happens in the United States with y community of migrant Latinos who choose not to teach Spanish to their children.
Personally, Spanish was my first language but when I started elementary school, I was prohibited to speak it on the campus & “english-only” became the desire. I remember getting in trouble for using Spanish, for translating for my fourth grade friend. He had just moved from México & my science teacher yelled at me for translating saying that he had to learn English now. It was his first day. Fortunately, my parents continued to speak Spanish with me (English was actually prohibited in front of other family members who were Spanish-only for the reason of not excluding them from conversations). But outside our home, i grew up being taught that Spanish & my culture was not only different, but also wrong and inferior.
Despite living in a predominantly Mexican community, I never had a teacher of Latino descent & never read literature & history about my ancestors(up until my high school Spanish class). Had I known that my ancestors had developed a primordial calendar, were scientists studying astronomy, experienced environmentalists, brilliant mathematicians & engineers of world wonders, maybe I would not have told myself that I just was “not good” at math or science. Who knows.
How sad. How unbelievably sad. But how beautiful. How unbelievably beautiful to see cultural resistance at the same time. To see a shining little face, proud of his indigenous flute song. Proud of his heritage. Proud of himself. His cultural existence is a strong resistance to the world that wants it eliminated.
New Vocab: Ecu vs. Mex Spanish
Achachay=que frío=how cold *
Atatay=que asco=ew *
moros & cristianos=lentejas & arroz=lentils & rice (mixed)