I haven’t written much about my work in Ecuador before, but the Cañar Digital Archive is so central to my life here, and so close to my heart- where it will remain for years to come, I suspect – that I thought I’d write about it. Also, I’ve just received a Fulbright grant for 2015-16, giving me a great boost of hope and enthusiasm for the project.
Having been a documentarian of Cañar life off and on since 1991, my own archive of materials – videos, music recordings, documents, oral histories and thousands of photographs – long ago reached a critical mass. And then there are others who have so generously shared a piece of their Cañar history. Peace Corps volunteers from the late 1960s found me on the web and sent documents and some 300 color images, many beautiful Kodachrome slides. These then-young people, with their idealism and Pentax cameras, captured a Cañar that was in the process of cataclysmic change. New agrarian reform laws were demanding land redistribution to indigenous communities after nearly 500 years of serfdom. A few Peace Corps volunteers were sent to Cañar to help create agricultural cooperatives and initiate leadership training. (They were eventually ousted as “communists” by mean-spirited townsfolk.)
Two years ago, I contacted Danish anthropologists Niels Fock and Eva Krener, who had done research in the early 1970s in a village about 15 miles from Cañar that seemed locked in time even then. They sent me over 500 scanned images, and we are about to print a Spanish version of their book, “Juncal: An Indian Community in Ecuador,” originally published in Denmark in 1976.
The family of the town photographer, Rigoberto Navas, who for fifty years faithfully recorded marriages, baptisms, funerals and everyday life in and around Cañar has given me permission to print Navas’s glass plates and early celluloid negatives. These images provide us a incredible visual history of the region and an era that would otherwise have been lost forever on the dusty shelves of his studio.
I’ve known for several years that I had to do something. Almost all these materials are now digitized, but stored in growing towers of external hard drives on closet shelves in Portland, on hard drives here in Cañar that I guard with my life and struggle to keep up to date, and on my two laptops.
Fortunately my need to codify Cañar cultural history, and make it available locally and on the Internet, coincides with a surge of interest in community digital archives, public access, open source software, and some wonderful archivists at academic institutions in the U.S. willing to be my collaborators. In fact, a group from the Society of American Archivists interested in Latin America are planning a trip to Ecuador in September – with a stop in Cañar to give a helping hand! I intend to be here.
All right – back to the present and living color. As I write, a bird flies under the glass roof and into the patio. Acting as if she owns it, she looks for bugs in the spiky flowers of the macho aloe, then takes a little bath in the fountain. I knew it would fly when I went for my camera, but here’s my view.And here’s what she was after:
Finally, I know you’re waiting to hear more about Michael’s experiences in his new cook shack. Let’s ask him: “I’m trying a new recipe for grilled chicken for visitors coming on Monday,” he says. First, the marinade/paste: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup fresh orange juice, 3 cloves of garlic minced, 6 whole grains black peppercorns, 1.5 t dried oregano, 1.5 t cumin, 1 T fresh chopped fresh cilantro, .5 t salt. Put in mini-blender or mortar and pestle and mash or liquify. Add heaping T of achiote (Mexico condiment) or mild paprika and stir into a paste. Salt chicken pieces (skinless, boneless breast in my case) or pork or other meat. Slater paste over surface and leave overnight in fridge before barbecuing. ¡Buen provecho!