We´re in Quito! It´s actually quite cold here. We had a huge orientation today that was incredibly interesting. We learned all about the history of the country, which is exceedingly relevant as they are voting on a new constitution on September 28th. It would usher in ´socialism for the 21st century´ per president Rafael Correa. We saw a pro-constitution demonstration today, as well as a great deal of anti-constitution graffiti. It´s so funny to learn about some of the ways the social structure here mimics the USA; Quito is the conservative mountain area, that views itself as the moral guardians of the country. The are very Catholic. They don´t like the new constitution because it allows abortion and potentially gay marriage. The super rich in the liberal, capitalist, coastal area don´t like it because it will nationalize a lot of business and redistribute wealth. Many, many, people like it though, because already Correa is following through with the free housing, schooling, and medical care he promised. The divide between coast and mountain here is like our red and blue states!
It´s also been really interesting learning about the economy. Ecuador is on the dollar, so essentially the economy has nothing to do with what´s happening here. Also, the way the world bank thorougly and intentionally screwed them over is suprising. Even now, 1% of the budget is education, over 50% paying off the interest on the world bank debts. They haven´t even touched the intitial amount owed! They are really not big fans of America. Correa told the USA to be out of the military base they set up in Monta by 2009, so it´ll be interesting to see how that goes. He´s also seriously standing up to US oil companies. There´s a huge lawsuit against Texaco for poisoning the water in the Amazon basin, asking for 12 million dollars. The oil industry here is contributing to deforestation, shrinking water supplies, and seriously harming the population of oil areas, yet the oil left in Ecuador is only enough to keep the USA running for six weeks! In 2006 they defeated a Free Trade agreement with the USA in a vote. They are really, really, really, not huge fans of America.
Land reform only happened in 1964- even in the 70´s there are newspaper articles selling land and the 300 workers who come with it. There´s a ton more interesting stuff historically, but not enough time to write it all.
I have a lot more I want to write about this all, but my keyboard is awful and the internet cafe is going to close and I want to write about where we´ll be for the next month. It´s a place called Bua, with 544 people of the Tsachila ethnic group. Alexis and I are in the same family for our homestay! We´re very excited. Bua is tiny- we´ll bathe in the river, talk to the SHAMAN(no joke), and admire the men with red hair and painted black stripes on their bodies to avoid evil spirits. Guys and girls aren´t supposed to have platonic relationships, so it´ll be a bit difficult. There´s some serious racism in the community, just like there is in all of Ecuador. The people in Bua are really quiet, especially the women. It´s very poor. We´ll be working with Yana Puma on installing ecological toilets, because currently the water systems are hugely unsanitary. Ecuador has tons of water resources, but deforestation and global warming are rapidly shrinking them. The glaciers that give Quito water are shrinking by ten meters a year!
It is so interesting here, and beautiful. We´re leaving for Bua tomorrow early, we´ll see how the internet situation goes.
Here are some photos from Costa Rica and Ecuador!