Dear Friends: For those of you in the northern hemisphere, imagine waking up this June 24 morning and reaching to put on an undershirt, long-sleeve t-shirt, sweater #1, sweater #2, and scarf. And that’s before I get out of bed. The temperature outside is 52 F; inside about 57 F (and that’s warmer than it’s been these last two weeks). Michael has taken to starting a fire right after breakfast, and if there’s no sun that day we stay in the vicinity of the fireplace all day into night. Oh, and some days the wind blows furiously. Our lights are blinking, with frequent brown-outs, creating havoc with my work in the darkroom. Last week, my colleague Allison and I spent a long day at the Cuenca airport waiting for a flight to Quito. Three flights canceled for rain and one for crosswinds. Gave up the trip to Quito and canceled our presentation at the Fulbright Commission and my appointments related to archive. Since a plane slide off the wet runway in Cuenca April 28, a hundred flights have been canceled; Michael and I have made alternative plans for getting to Quito next week on the first leg of our trip home to Portland.
So goes life in Cañar in June.
Staying with the weather…. A couple of weeks ago Michael and I spent a long day at 12,000+ feet for a baptism in a mountain lake. Culebrillas figures in the myth of origin of the Cañaris and has enormous symbolic significance. Our indigenous friends Segundo and Alexandra wanted their two children, Saiwa and Waymi, to be baptised in the lake (and later in the church in town, to cover all bases). The weather was terrible all week and we kept looking at the mountains, hoping the baptism would be canceled. But Cañaris never cancel anything for bad weather. So after an early breakfast at the parents’ house
of chicken soup…
We climbed in a mini-bus and joined a procession of cars and trucks up the mountain.Culebrillas is beautiful but famous for bad weather. Last time we were there, about two years ago, Michael jumped off this bridge, then unfinished and without steps, and wrecked his knee. So this day he was pleased to be here hiking around with a functioning knee, thanks to a series of shots.
Once there, the baptism lasted about four hours. It was miserable weather all day, my cameras fogged up, making it a most difficult photo shoot, but at the end of the day Michael and I were happy to be included in this special moment (knowing we’ll never have to do it again).Above: Two yachacs of the ceremony – Pablo in poncho, son of Mama Michi, and Mama Mariana, grandmother of the two children, giving him a blessing with an eagle feather. At about this point several gavilanes (hawks) circled the event, giving it nice touch. * * * *
Here are some sounds we won’t be hearing for the next five months: our neighbor’s calf tied to the fence, bawling all day. The charismatic church members in the “rogue” chapel below us singing a plaintive hymn. The San Antonio mass wafting out on speakers from the “legitimate” Catholic church high on the hill above Cañar. The sound of drums of students practicing their mindless marching for the civic parade tomorrow.
I’ll be there too – marching with the municipal employees, teachers, students, unions, cooperatives and artisan associations. Since joining the board of the Casa de la Cultura in January, I’ve been firmly inducted into the town culture. More than I bargained for, but nonetheless I’m pleased for what it means for the archive project. Two weeks ago I prepared an exhibit of photographs made by Peace Corps volunteers in Cañar fifty years ago (1968-1970). A simple show of rich Kodachrome images tacked on boards and propped on wooden easels. People came to reminisce, point, touch, photograph with their phones, and in my mind make the exhibit a success.
And with that, I want to give final and fond mention of the two wonderful colleagues I’ve worked with these past months. Ethnomusicologist Dr. Allsion Adrian came to Cuenca in January with a sabbatical, a Fulbright, three children under nine years and a supportive husband. She drove to Cañar innumerable times to make video interviews with musicians and record the fiestas – raymis – related to the agricultural cycle. We said goodbye yesterday and I will miss her tireless energy and wonderful work.Archivist Natalie Baur will, I hope, be a continuing presence in my Cañar life and the archive project as she begins her PhD at Florida State University, with plans to include the Archivo Cultural de Cañar as part of her thesis research. She was here for two weeks in June when she helped me with the exhibit and many technical issues related to metadata and archive work.That’s all, folks, for Cañar 2016. Well, at least until November, when we’ll be back and I’ll pick up again on the Cañar Chronicles. From now forward we’re changing our Ecuador schedule to November – May. Too many past travel disasters in the US in January, and too many chilly Junes in Ecuador. Until then….please stay in touch.