A Year in the Highlands of Ecuador
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: University of Texas Press
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Above all, my profound thanks go to those Ca�ari individuals who have greatly enriched my life, both professionally and personally. Jos� Miguel Acero and Antonio Guam�n, my first photography students, welcomed me as a teacher and introduced me to the Ca�ari culture. Their families ...
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When chance took me to Ca�ar for the first time in the early nineties, I could not have imagined that for the next decade my life would be tied to this remote, beautiful spot in the highlands of southern Ecuador. I had come to South America from Costa Rica, where for the previous six years I worked for a Canadian development agency as a documentary photographer and adult educator. I had also met my ...
Chapter One: Old Friends
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We wake very early at the Hostal Irene, the bare-bones hotel where we’ve paid four dollars to spend our first night in Cañar. Our bordello-style bed with its heart-shaped, red-flocked, chrome-scrolled headboard is hard as a rock, with one flimsy blanket and a long, thin, tightly rolled pillow that Michael and I shared. Amazingly, we slept well, but now it’s too chilly to ...
Chapter Two: Killa Raymi: Festival of the Moon
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It has been another uncomfortable night on the thin mattress at the Hostal Irene.We are still sorting out our things in Cuenca, but now we’re here in Cañar at the invitation of José Miguel to attend the Festival of the Moon, or Killa Raymi, which is to be held later today at the nearby archeological site Los Baños del Inca (the Inca Baths). José Miguel’s music and dance group, Los Chaskis, will be performing, along with other cultural groups from all over the region. ...
Chapter Three: A House in Ca�ar
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Today we are in Cañar to finish negotiating for the house we spotted earlier this week, and I’m surprised at how nervous I feel. I really want this house—it’s on the Paseo de los Cañaris, not far from the storefront where we lived eight years ago and in a perfect location on the edge of town where the roads come in from the country. The concept of renting is still ...
Chapter Four: The Day of the Dead
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Today, El D�a de los Difuntos, the Day of the Dead, marks the beginning of our new life in Ca�ar. Michael has hired a truck to haul our things from Cuenca, and early in the morning he and the driver, Octavio, load our bags and boxes from the apartment and then pick up the chairs, tables, benches, stools, food cabinet, mattresses, blankets, dishes, pots, gas ...
Chapter Five: La Limpieza
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In Cañari culture a limpieza, or ritual cleansing by a yachaj, is considered essential when someone moves into a new house or opens a business, after a death, or when life goes seriously wrong. Robbery, illness, crop failure, a cow’s death, or simply a personal run of bad luck—anything that can ...
Chapter Six: A Dinner to Honor the Dead, and Us
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Earlier this week, Esthela invited us for dinner on Friday night in an offhand manner that suggested a casual get-together. She said they wanted to welcome us back to Ecuador as compadres, godparents, and also to celebrate the Day of the Dead. Friday afternoon, I run into Jos� Miguel and he mentions that before the dinner we are expected at the main church on the ...
Chapter Seven: The Meeting
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Last week, several Cañari friends, among them José Miguel and his cousin Félix, approached us to request help in organizing a meeting to talk about creating a cultural foundation. It would be a legal entity, they said, dedicated to preserving and promoting indigenous music, dance, clothing, handicrafts, rituals, medicine, and agriculture—all the cultural wealth of ...
Chapter Eight: Greeting the New Year
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Our Cañar neighbors are very curious about the two strangers who live in their midst.We deal daily with the owners of the small shops on Paseo de los Cañaris, and the neighbors living around us take careful note of our comings and goings. If they haven’t seen us for a while, they ask politely what we’ve been up to. So, after an unusual absence of ten days over ...
Chapter Nine: Life in Ca�ar at Three Months
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Three months in Ecuador. Our life on the Paseo de los Cañaris has settled into a comfortable routine, and our trips to Cuenca grow less frequent. ‘‘Things are so much more interesting here,’’ one of us says to the other at least once a day. Still, every week or ten days, we make the two-hour bus ride to the city and spend a day and night in our snug apartment. Michael ...
Chapter Ten: D�a de San Antonio
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One Sunday morning as Michael and I are having coffee, we hear the accordion music in the street that signals a religious or wedding procession. We run to the front patio and see a group of about forty men, women, and children quickly walking by, heading into town. In front, two men carry statues of saints dressed in Ca�ari ponchos and hats. Men and boys follow with armfuls of flowers, huge unlit candles carried ...
Chapter Eleven: This Camera Pleases Me
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After months of planning, my first women’s photography workshop is scheduled to begin on a Friday morning at nine in the first week of March; it will end at noon on Sunday. But when Michael and I get up at six on Friday morning, two women are already standing outside our gate, dressed in indigenous clothing that tells me they are not from Cañar. While Michael ...
Chapter Twelve: The New Economy
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Our neighbor across the street, a sweet old woman we call Do�a Teresa in public and Mother Theresa in private, has been a storekeeper for something like thirty years. She minds her meager stock of candy, soft drinks, matches, rice, flour, and fresh-killed chickens in a tiny space at the front of her house, with a low wooden gate across the doorway to keep out kids and ...
Chapter Thirteen: A Death in Ca�ar
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We first hear the news on the local radio station that broadcasts death notices. A lead-in of the first strains of ‘‘Ave María’’ lets listeners know that sad news is coming and reminds us of the inevitability of death. Juliana Quinde Pichisaca, from the village of Quilloac, has died; her funeral will be on Monday. Michael and I pay little attention, although we know someone ...
Chapter Fourteen: Carnaval
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One recent Sunday morning, Michael was on his way to the village of Correucu when he ran into Jos� Mar�a, the president of Correucu, wrestling with a huge pig on a rope lead. The pig was squealing in distress, spinning and lunging, hauling Jos� Mar�a this way and that as he stopped to chat. He explained that he had just bought the pig at the animal market to help ...
Chapter Fifteen: Betrothal, Ca�ari Style
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Michael can’t stop talking about it the next day, or the next, and together we spend hours trying to figure out what really happened on the night of Pablo’s betrothal, or la entrada. Mostly, we speculate about why Michael had been so deeply involved in the engagement ritual of a young man we barely know, although the fact that Pablo is Mama Michi’s second ...
Chapter Sixteen: Life in Ca�ar at Six Months
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We are at the halfway point of our year in Ca�ar, and on this particular morning the thought of returning to our cozy, centrally heated house in Portland could not be more appealing. Rain beats down in gusts, the temperature inside the house must be in the fifties, and the curtains over our ill-fitting windows flutter with the whistling wind. Dressed in several layers ...
Chapter Seventeen: A Wedding
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Antonio comes by the house on a Saturday afternoon with Magdalena and Juanito, a small older man he introduces as a friend of the family. After Michael serves drinks and pleasantries are exchanged, Antonio reveals the reason for the visit. ‘‘Are you free to come to a wedding this evening?’’ he asks solemnly. Magdalena’s younger sister, Beatriz, is marrying Nicolás, a ...
Chapter Eighteen: Mama Michi Goes to Canada
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When I was last in Ca�ar three years ago, Mama Michi was training to be a native midwife, a partera, and this year I had planned to document her work tending home births. Once here, however, I discovered that rather than becoming a midwife, Mama Michi is now a yachaj. Her sister Mariana, a community nurse and midwife, explained that Mama Michi found ...
Chapter Nineteen: The Way Things Work
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It’s been a terrible week. Thursday, Mama Purificación, sister-in-law of Mama Michi and wife of Taita Shanto, was badly burned by a gas explosion. Her daughter Puri, a woman in her twenties who still lives at home, came to our house to make a desperate call to her Aunt Vicenta in Quito. Her mother was preparing to fix lunch on their old gas range, Puri said, ...
Chapter Twenty: A Birth in Ca�ar
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The knock comes on our door early Saturday morning. Mariana has sent a message: Mar�a, the young wife of her nephew Fausto, has gone into labor during the night and will be giving birth to her first child sometime today. I should come with my cameras as soon as possible. ...
Chapter Twenty-One: We Walk the Inca Trail
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Our year in Ca�ar is more than three-quarters gone, and this week we are marking it with a long-planned adventure: a three-day walk along part of the high IncaTrail, the astonishing road system built by the Incas more than five hundred years ago. Our hiking companion is our friend Lynn Hirschkind, an anthropologist who has lived in Ecuador for more than twenty ...
Chapter Twenty-Two: Saying Good-bye
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Our second farewell party, on the Sunday night we left Cañar, wasn’t supposed to be a party at all. A week earlier we had been royally feted with an all-day fiesta at Mariana’s house, organized around the slow but complete consumption of a medium-sized pig, starting with chitterlings in the afternoon and ending with an open-air, sit-down dinner in the dark at around nine. ...
Page Count: 223
Illustrations: 41 b&w illus., 1 map, 1 figure
Publication Year: 2005