While in Ecuador I’m traveling all around the country so that I can see various parts of it, and also talk with the people who live in the communities. I especially like to visit a small indigenous community called Huangras; I love it because everyone speaks Kichwa, and I get to practice the language! I talked about the Kichwa-speaking people in my last post.
Huangras is made up of two small towns divided by a river. It is set in the mountains, where there are no roads. We go to celebrate the memorial of Christ’s death the last week of March. I will take you on our journey.
On the first day we set out early, 6:30 a.m., in fact. Our hope in doing this is to get to town before dark. It can be dangerous to walk in the mountains at night because there are wild bears in certain parts. We have to drive two hours to get to the nearest town, and once the road ends we continue the rest of the way on foot; the walk in the mountains is six and half hours, so we take horses with us to carry our luggage and supplies.
This is our third trip to this little town, and the people remember us. We are quite exhausted after traveling, but it is a nice, cool day, so hiking to get there isn’t that terrible; however, the way back is rainy and muddy, making the trip home very difficult. The mud level is so high we are knee-deep in it. Having to constantly pull our legs out of the mud exerted a lot of energy and strength, so by the end of the week we are all quite exhausted, but happy to have had the wonderful experience.
Our Arrival to HuangrasOnce we arrive in Huangras we rest and then eat. There are no real restaurants, but there is a store and a woman who cooks for us the whole week. Everything that we eat is grown in town – potatoes, corn, and other vegetables. The indigenous people also raise animals, such as cows and chickens. It was very common in the morning to be eating breakfast alongside a live chicken that later ended up being lunch!
The second day of our visit, most of the people are gone, because there is an important meeting in a neighboring town. However, on the third day the meeting is continued in Huangras with the principal leaders present, because they are deciding on an agreement to develop a road. Cars would be able to enter into the town, and of course there are advantages and disadvantages of having a road, as we’re told by one of the residents.
Currently, when anyone needs serious medical attention it is too difficult to get to them, and because of weather conditions (mainly rain) people get sicker and even die on the way to the doctor because of inaccessibility. On the other hand, having a new road could possibly destroy the environment and the community they have built. Animals would lose their homes, and buses and cars would frequently bring in a lot of people. Last year, when we visited, this serious decision was the discussion, and it is definitely a decision that will change their lives one way or the other.
The Visit to San Carlos: A Neighboring Community
When we go to San Carlos we visit a school. It is interesting that the teachers in the school are all young men (early twenties); this is also the case for the school in Huangras. I asked people in the commuity why this is the experience, and the answer was that the government pays for them to teach in these communities. The young men travel from their homes in Alausi or Cañar, the two closest major cities. They teach for three weeks and get one week off school so that they can go home to visit their families. School is all year round.
We noticed that there is a computer in the classroom covered with a sheet so we asked to use it, but the teacher explained that we could not because it arrived broken. He tells us that it is very difficult to get supplies because of distance; everything has to come on horseback, so unfortunately, there is a large risk of equipment and supplies being damaged. I also observed that it is a very simple and small school, but the children, well, they are just the same as all the other schools I have visited in different parts of the world – happy!
The people in San Carlos are very open, and they freely speak with us. I also love that everyone stops to say hello and will talk with you for hours. No one is rushing to go anywhere. The children run around and play. There are no video games or television, just a simple game of hopscotch. Here, the people sit, walk, and truly enjoy nature. As I leave this little town I wonder if further developing their connection to the outside world will be a change for the better.
Erika is the Travel Contributor for the Phoenix Rising Collective. She is an English as a Foreign Language Teacher, who lives in Cuenca, Ecuador. To express her passion for sharing her traveling and cultural experiences, she shares a verse from her spiritual practice, “Jehovah himself gives the saying; the women telling the good news are a large army.”(Psalm 68:11) Furthermore, “why should women travel the world? Learning about women of all different cultures all around the world helps us to become connected and understand ourselves better. Many women around the world don’t understand their true worth, we must help and love each other.”