My Sisyphus Garden

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Dear Friends – Sissinghurst Gardens in England, made famous (for me) by Virginia Woolf’s love affair with its owner and author, Vita Sackville-West, has nothing in common with my Sisyphus Garden in Cañar. But I like the sound of the two names together (and the coincidence that Sackville-West wrote a novella called Seducers in Ecuador). And another coincidence I just discovered: today, January 25, is Virginia Woolf’s birthday.  So I thought I’d start with that and see where it takes us….

I’m calling my Cañar garden the Sisyphus Garden because no matter what I do one year to the next to improve it, I come back to find it exactly as it was before – new flowers gone, same weeds back in force, kitchen garden eaten by the neighbor’s chickens, trees trimmed further up by the bulls brought in to plow the back field, scrubby grass front and back full of sheep droppings, and the aggressive vinca major (periwinkle) and bushy fuchsia voraciously covering the side yard, even though I cut them back severely before we left last June. And there’s the hedge of quinoa (a native bush, not the grain) that has grown to over 15 feet and blocked our view to the west.

When it comes to my Cañar garden, I start over every year, just like Sisyphus endlessly pushing that stone up the hill.  (Forgive my co-opting a suffragist image; couldn’t resisit.)

The fact is, we are living on a working farm operated by our compadres Jose Maria and Narcisa. It is their sheep that trim and fertilize the lawn while we’re gone, their bulls that eat the lower branches of the trees, their irrigating the back field that floods the front yard. But they have contributed so tremendously to our experience living in Cañar, and as compadres we are considered extended family, with responsibilities that go both ways.

As I write, I hear the pump, drawing from the irrigation canal that runs in front of our property. Yards and yards of black pipe snake around the house to irrigate the potato field behind. Jose Maria has access to the canal only today – it has been released from above – and there seems to be no control. Water gushes out of the pipes and into sprinkler heads in the field, soaking the back lawn, the kitchen garden, the back of the house, the neighbor’s clothes hung on the fence. In front, water overflows the canal and runs down the hill, creating rivulets in the dirt road that will become ruts, and creeps along the pathway up to our house and threatens to dampen our adobe walls. Jose María runs back and forth from the pump in front to the field in back; It appears to us that he is flooding the field. Yesterday, the canal was blocked, and we regularly saw neighbors in the yard, looking down into the canal and poking it with a long stick, trying to unblock it. For farmers, water is life and livelihood –  and in this part of the world as hotly political as property lines.

 Which is not to say that I don’t love things as they are in my Sisyphean garden. First of all, since I have no talent as a gardener – unable to plan or imagine or create a white garden, as Vita Sackville-West did at Sissinghurst – there’s little disappointment in coming back to find I have to start over again.

I never tire of pulling weeds, trimming back the crazy climbing roses, replanting things lost, digging out the crocosmia that is all over the yard because it gets distributed through the compost, cutting back the passiflora vine that threatens to take down the fence, tracking down and pulling up the aggressive kikuyu grass that grows over and under everything and is one of the most noxious weeds that somehow made it to Cañar from its native East Africa. But my pleasure comes from what I see when I look out the windows – flowers I’ve forgotten that bloom year after year; something I’ve stuck in the ground that makes an incredible display of tiny yellow blooms (photo #1), the aggressive fuchsia bush that fills our bedroom window, the white daises along the front that insist on taking over.

 

And for those who want to see the hated “creeping” kikuyu” up close, here it is.  Most often it goes underground, strangling the roots of good plants, or displacing flagstones, before springing up as tall grass. I’ve spent many happy hours chasing it down; farmers throw it in the road to fill ruts. But in fact our lush lawn is mostly made of it, cut short. 

Back to Sisyphus: Camus imagined him smiling while pushing the rock and embracing his situation without thinking of the past or the future. “He refused to surrender to gravity…he is remembered for his labor towards his purpose” Well, I’m not sure I’ve refused to surrender to gravity (I take a look in the mirror), but I certainly feel I have a purpose here in my Sisyphean Cañar garden.

And to finish with Virginia Woolf, from her diary, May 31, 1920: “The first pure joy of the garden . . . weeding all day to finish the beds in a queer sort of enthusiasm which made me say this is happiness. … We were out till nine at night, though the evening was cold. Both stiff and scratched all over today, with chocolate earth in our nails.”

 

CANAR BOOK CLUB (what you’ve all been waiting for)

The first 2020 meeting of the Cañar Book Club was a rousing success!  Our members were obviously anxious to reconvene after six months and share news of books. So I”ll start with our international members’ comments and save my own for the end.

Francie in Portland is reading  Like Falling Through a Cloud: A Lyrical Memoir  by Eugenia Zukerman, an internationally renowned flutist and writer facing a dreaded diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

Joanne in Mexico: “I read The Topeka School, by Ben Lerner, on the plane and liked it a lot. Fascinating mix of voices and ways of thinking about language. Definitely recommend. I’m about to start Drive you Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarzcuk… and will report.”

Nancy In Portland: How to Catch a Mole. by Marc Hammer. “It’s about moles, but also about a Welsh book editor and gardener growing older, his love and deep connection with nature and determination to stop killing moles. A beautifully reflective book!”

Nancy Also read: Beyond the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo, 2012 National book award winning nonfiction centered around the lives of slum dwellers near the Mumbai airport. “Deeply empathetic. Harrowing, heartbreaking stories. Reminded me a bit in tone of Matthew Desmond’s book, Evicted. And I also enjoyed Full Catastrophe Living, by Jon Kabat-Zinn— the groundbreaking 1999 introduction to mindfulness meditation.”

And from an indefatigable reader in Austin: “Love your book lists, Judy, and always love how many of your favorites I’ve read and loved. A couple recent reads that I thoroughly enjoyed:” All my Puny Sorrows, by Miriam Towes, Severance by Ling Ma, The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrent, Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli, Disoriental by Niger Dyaneli, Overstory by Richard Powers, The Museum of Modern Love, by Heather Rose, The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, Educated by Tara Westover, Meet me at the Museum by Anne Youngson, Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot, My Life of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, The Monk of Mokha, by Dave Eggers, Here in Berlin by Cristina Garcia, Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday, The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid, The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami.

Liv from Oslo wrote, responding to authors I mentioned in our last meeting:  “Books: Towles- I have the same experience.  Patrick Modiano – mysterious and fascinating. Linn Ullmann- I read it fast – rather nasty to her mother, Liv Ullmann. It seems to be a trend in Norway right now.  I got presents:  Ruth First and Joe Slovo against Apatheid by Alan Wieder, and Upside Down. A Primer for the Looking Glass World by Eduardo Galeano.  To recommend: Trieste, by Dasa Drndic.-One of the strongest novel I have read in many years.  East West Street, by Philippe Sands.

Two Oregon readers, Shirley and Pat, both recommended  Deep River, by Karl Marlantes. Pat writes: “It’s about the Finns who settled both sides of the Columbia R., starting in the 1800’s logging and fishing. It’s 5-stars, very good.”

From Laura in Upstate New York: “What an ambitious list of books. I continue to recommend Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things. It’s also a great audio book, read by the incomparable Juliet Stevenson.”

From Bruce in Portland:  Marc Hamer’s How to Catch a Mole. Brilliant. He’s a Welsh writer and his luminous meditations on nature have strong parallels to Wendell Berry’s writing.

Claire from London: My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite is brilliant. Seemingly almost comic to start with, it’s actually a dark tale revealing much about life for young, educated women living and working in Lagos. Short and bittersweet.

Richard from Oslo: I am reading an amazingly constructed book, The Overstory, by Richard Powers, on a psychic revenge taken by trees, some of whom seem to have memories going back 4 million years, and who suddenly are being helped to save greenery in America by certain drop-out, off-the-bend, Americans who, once leaving civilization can groove with trees. For me it is his best since The Echo Maker and also The Prisoner’s Dilemma.

Sister Char in Santa Fe: This is How it Always Is, Laurie Frankel, “Frankel’s portrayal of even the most openhearted parents’ doubts and fears around a child’s gender identity elevates this novel.”  New York Times Bestseller, 2017

And from Arlene in Toronto, late last year, neatly presented as a bulleted list:

  • The House of Names, Colm Toibin
  • The Testament of Mary, Colm Toibin
  • Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
  • The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes
  • What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence by Michele Filgate

Whew!  And now for those who’ve made it this far, my report:

Since our last meeting I have read A Gentleman in Moscow – charming in the end but such a time sink – it took me 3 tries to get into it; Bad Blood I ordered and read for the second time; an amazing memoir by the English academic feminist, Lorna Sage, growing up in rural England in the 1950s. Won many prizes when it came out in 2000, right before she died at age 58. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue – author of Room – about a “fasting girl” of 19th century Ireland where I learned a tremendous amount about the power of Catholic belief, sin and redemption. Reads a bit like a mystery (nominated for Shirley Jackson Award). I’m now reading The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, the German author I so admired last year with Go, Went, Gone and The Visitation. Jury’s still out on this one – I’ll report in next time.

I’m still struggling to connect with e-books. Those I download from the library I forget or barely start, then after 3 weeks they’re gone. I have bought and partially read Life in The Garden by Penelope Lively, a writer I’ve long admired but I find her essays on gardens a little boring (but she brought me to Virginia Woolf’s love of garden). Oliver Sack’s’ last book of essays, Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales, came and went. I love him, but I realized many were essays I’d already read.  Bottom line: there’s nothing like having a quality-paper book in one’s hands for a long bus ride, or those fleeting minutes before the lights go out at night.

Until next time, dear readers. Keep those book suggestions and comments coming for our February book club meeting.

 

 

 

 

Hello Cañar, Goodbye 2019

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Dear Friends: I have missed you these past seven months and I’m so happy to be back in touch, writing the Chronicles. (If anyone didn’t see the 2019 Scholarship update sent in November, you can find it here with a PayPal donate button or mailing information.

I start this on Christmas Day, when we have been in Cañar one week. After the cold, dark and short days of Portland, nothing compares to waking up that first morning in our east-facing bedroom to see early morning light coming through the giant fuchsia bush outside. A welcome back.

Before that, upon opening the door to our first sight of our interior patio, we saw plants grown wild. We had to take out one monster to get the fountain going, and days later I found three birds’ nests in the tall aloe plants. But what a safe place it is for nesting and hatching by the common sparrows that are a constant in our domestic life here – flying in and out at will through the opening between the glass and tile roofs, peeking into the bedroom door in the morning, occasionally getting stuck in a room.

That first day we walked around inside and out, opening shutters, checking lights, phone, gas, Internet, water. Amazing that everything works. Some years nothing does. One year we had lots of mice. This year just cobwebs and dust and a moldy fridge. Outside, I gather other evidence of months gone by – a broken wooden plow, the orchid that is finally blooming, a dry vegetable garden the neighbor’s chickens have ravaged, a beautiful crop of potatoes in the back field.

First Sunday market day, Michael takes the requested hat from Portland to his fish guy, César, and gets a pound of shrimp in return. And I visit my favorite lunch vendor – an 85+ woman who prepares and sells roasted pig and llapingachos every day on the street or in the market.

As I follow Michael in his shopping, I snap photos on my phone of the grand cornucopia that is the Sunday market.

*. *. * *

OK, here’s what you’ve all been waiting for – the first meeting of the…

Cañar Book Club

This year I have an eclectic batch of books, acquired in eclectic ways: some ordered online after reading reviews or on recommendations of friends, others picked up for $5 at the library sale at our annual Portland Book Festival, and even a couple found in a sidewalk Little Library. I’ve also given in to weight considerations (Michael says: “I’m not carrying another damn book in my luggage!”) and ordered some e-books for my iPad. (Only problem I’ve found is I cannot see text in bright sunlight of patio, where I always read while eating lunch. So I have two books going at once.) I’ve also started ordering ebooks from my Portland library. Problem is: you only get three weeks to read and don’t get to keep it!

So here is the list. Because I was impatient, I finished two of them before I got here, one on the plane –  marked by asterisks with notes. And because we don’t always get what we want, when we want it, I’ve added my wish list for 2020. Now – Dear Readers – I look forward to hearing book reports and recommendations from all of you. Until the next meeting…

(KINDLE)

  • A Writer of our Time: The Life and Work of John Berger, Joshua Sperling
  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong
  • Margaret the First: A Novel, Danielle Dutton
  • Life in the Garden, Penelope Lively
  • Images and Shadows, Part of a Life, Iris Origo (follow-up to excellent WW II war diary War in Val d’Orcia.
  • The Parisian, Isabella Hammand * (reading now and not yet engaged, will give it time)

(PAPER)

  • There, There, Tommy Orange
  • The Wrong Blood, Manuel de Lope
  • A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles * (reading now – third try)
  • In the Distance, Hernan Diaz
  • Iceberg, Marion Coutts * (finished – excellent, moving memoir)
  • Pure, Andrew Miller
  • Mission to Paris, Alan Furst * (finished, not great, don’t bother)
  • The Wonder, Emma Donoghue
  • Frog Music, Emma Donoghue
  • Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan
  • The Patron Saint of Liars, Ann Pachett
  • Saving Agnes, Rachel Cusk
  • The Long Loneliness, Dorothy Day
  • Great House, Nicole Krauss
  • Autumn, Ali Smith
  • Bad Blood, Lorna Sage
  • The End of Days, Jenny Erpenbeck
  • Late in the Day, Tessa Hadley
  • Dora Bruder, Patrick Modiano* (read on plane, very good and follow-up to Modiano’s The Night Watch)

WISH LIST

  • Disappearing Earth, Julia Phillips
  • The Club, Leo Damrosch
  • Say Nothing, Patrick Radden Keefe
  • Olive Again, Elizabeth Strout
  • The Accomplice, Joseph Kanon
  • Unquiet, Linn Ullmann
  • On Chapel Sands, Laura Cumming
  • Essays by Lydia Davis
  • To Calais, in Ordinary Time, James Meek
  • Girl, Woman, Other, Bernadine Evaristo
  • Permanent Record, Edward Snowden
  • How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell
  • Prairie Fires, Caroline Fraser
  • The Witches, Stacey Schiff
  • The Warmth of Other Sons, Isabel Wilkerson
  • The Yellow House, Sarah Broom
  • When Death Takes Something from You, Give It Back, Naja Marie Aidt
  • Belonging, Nora Krug
  • The Odd Woman and the City, Vivian Gornick
  • Optic Nerve, Maria Gainza * (just got notification from library)

2019 Cañari Women’s Scholarship Foundation Update

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I begin this year’s update with exciting news related to Ana Margarita Gasteazoro, the original inspiration for our scholarship program. Ana was a Salvadoran friend from my Costa Rica days, a political refugee after years of resistance and imprisonment during the El Salvador civil war (1979-92/75,000 lives lost). During the late 80’s and early 90’s, with friend/colleague Andrew Wilson, we recorded, transcribed and edited Ana’s oral history. But before we could make a book together – our original plan – Ana died of breast cancer, at age 41, in 1993. Just before, she had visited Michael and me in Cuenca, Ecuador, and we had a chance to spend a night in Cañar. On hearing the news of Ana’s death, I established a women’s education fund (that later became Cañari Women’s Education Foundation). A born teacher, feminist and organizer, Ana fervently believed that women’s education was one of the most important tools for social justice and political progress in Latin America.

Twenty-six years later, we not only have thirty-four university graduates and current scholars, but we have a book! In October I was in El Salvador for the launch of Tell Mother I’m in Paradise: Memoir of a Political Prisoner, based on Ana’s oral history. Many dedicated volunteers helped bring this Spanish edition to life: from translators, transcribers, editors and artists to the director of MUPI, Museum of the Word and Image, in San Salvador, publisher of the book. The banner/poster pictured above was presented various times during the visit to El Salvador, along with the story of Ana’s scholarship. I heard so many of her family, friends, and others who had known her, say – “Ana lives again!” And that is never more true than in our Cañari women’s scholarship program. Stay tuned for an English edition that we hope will be published in a year or two.

Book presentation at MUPI in San Salvador, October 8, 2019

Our early graduates are now mid-career (a term their modesty would never allow), but I thought it would be fun to do some updates – where are they now? – along with before/after photos.

 

Alexandra Mariana Solano (2006/Cuenca/Agronomy) is the new director of CENAGRAP, the potable water organization that serves rural regions of highland Cañar. Here she signs a convenio with city officials. Alexandra is also midway into a new master’s program at University of Azuay in Cuenca: “Climate Change, Sustainability and Development.” (Our program provides $3000 over two years for master’s degrees for our graduates.

Mercedes Guamán (2006/Cuenca/Law) represented Ecuador at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in 2019, as she had in 2018. She is president of her local community of Quilloac and, as a lawyer, serves a wide contingent of Quichua-speaking clients. She is also our first graduate to receive an honorary degree in jurisprudence for her service to the community and social justice.

Pacha Pichisaca (2011/Cuenca/Medicine) has just finished an advanced diploma in dentistry. Pacha has established her own clinic in Cañar and told me recently that she has added a “second chair” (e.g., business is good). She too serves her neighbors and others as one of the only Quichua-speaking women dentists in Cañar.

Juana Chuma (2015/Cuenca/Veterinary Medicine), finished her master’s at UNAM in Mexico in 2019, and is charging ahead for a PhD in the same program. Although CWEF is not able to support doctoral studies, we are so proud that Juana will be our first graduate to get a doctorate. Juana appears in the photo above with her fellow graduates (first row, far right, white blouse). And on the right, her proud parents in Cañar. Juana has several younger sisters yet to be sent to university, but in order to serve a wider population of young Cañari women, CWEF has a policy of one scholarship per family.

 

In January we had two special visitors to Cañar from Oregon, representing the Bend Giving Circle, a group of six women (now eight!) who have chosen CWEF for monthly support. We had a great gathering of the scholarship women, past and present, and families to meet Helen and Laurel. Maria Esthela, our board treasurer, made red bead necklaces for the group and I recently received this photo taken at their October meeting, showing off their Cañari jewelry. We are so grateful to them – as well as to all of you – for sustained interest and support.

So – a quick recap: the Cañari Women’s Education Foundation has 21 graduates, 13 current scholars, and an amazing board in Cañar that we couldn’t do without, but that could manage very well without me. We meet two or three times a year to look over applications, assess where each woman is in her studies, and decide how many spaces we have to fill. We keep the current group at about 12, which makes the accounting and monthly payments easy to handle. We pay stipends in cash so as to have personal contact with each scholar on a regular basis. Charlotte Rubin, our treasurer in Portland, keeps track of contributions and manages the banking. Michael and I have willed our Cañar house and property to the program – a long time off, we hope – in a move that will help insure long-term sustainability.

The Cañari Women’s Education Foundation is an official 501(c)3 nonprofit, which means your contributions are tax deductible. We have zero administrative costs other than a yearly mailing, so every dollar goes to the women’s education. Please make checks to CWEF and send to Charlotte Rubin, 2147 NW Irving St., Portland, OR 97210 (some of you will receive this letter by snail mail with return envelopes), or you can contribute through PayPal with the secure “DONATE” button below.

Last note: We are returning to Ecuador on December 16 and the regular Cañar Chronicles will begin in January, along with the Cañar Book Club. I have missed you all, and we will have so much book news to share!

“Indigenous Ecuadorians Too Strong to be Ignored After Deal to End Protests”

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Dear Friends: We are not returning to Cañar until December, but I wanted to post blogs on current events: the recent protests in Ecuador (and resolution – with headline from The Guardian, October 16), and my recent trip to El Salvador for the launch of a book that was inspired by Ana Margarita Gasteazoro, for whom the Cañari Women’s Scholarship Program is named. So…first the protests and the resolution, in an online article published by my good friend Alan Adams, a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador in the 1960’s who has rekindled his Canari friendships in retirement, working with Mushuk Yuyay, a local community development organization and reconnecting with those local indigenous leaders he knew back then. Thanks to Alan, and thanks to his editor at https://www.esperanzaproject.com for allowing me to reprint the article. (I have edited lightly and added a few extra photos from various sources). Next chronicle about El Salvador coming soon…

UPDATE, October 12: At publication time, the Cañari caravan was in Quito joining the throng of demonstrators in a victory celebration. The Moreno government agreed to rescind the austerity decree and has promised to rewrite it with input from the people. Nicolás Pichazaca of Mushuk Yuyay wrote me: “Our work and strategy have not been in vain, not only for the Indigenous people, but for all Ecuadorians. It is one more story.”

Superheroes don’t wear capes. They wear ponchos and sombreros.” The phrase is often repeated in the Andean highlands. And now as they see their lands and their culture under increasing threat, the Indigenous people of Ecuador are employing that phrase once again, as they go out into the streets in the face of danger, as they have many times during their history.

High in the Andes of southern Ecuador live the Cañari people, who have been struggling for their freedom and for Sumak Kawsay, a good life, for thousands of years. Their present challenge comes at the hands of the President of the Republic who made a pact with the International Monetary Fund and expects the poor of Ecuador to pay. When Lenín Moreno Garcés took office, the Cañari people were cautious, hopeful, and patient because he promised to break with the extractive policies of his predecessor, Rafael Correa. He humbled himself before Indigenous people in a solemn ceremony where he accepted the blessing of the many nations that comprise the State of Ecuador.

Lenin Moreno becomes president, February 2017, Reuters.

Slowly it became obvious that the winds in Quito had shifted, as the President began to move in a different direction. I often describe Lenín Moreno in Shakespeare’s words, “Commanded always by the greater gust…” The greater gust these days was coming from the IMF, which demanded austerity, and Moreno decided to find cash by removing fuel price subsidies that have been in place since 1970. Fuel prices shot up by a dollar a gallon, enough to wipe out the budgets of most small businesses as well as of most families. In addition to the gas prices going up, the IMF is requesting an increase in fees for all government services and for utilities, a new value-added tax, a consumption tax, and an increase in the ceiling on interest rates so that banks can charge whatever interest rates they want.

Immediately, the Cañari people responded with peaceful, but vocal, demonstrations throughout their communities. They joined in support of labor unions and other groups, but mostly in collaboration with other indigenous communities and organizations of Ecuador. They blocked roads and joined the general strike. They requested dialogue with the government. Violence began to erupt in the protests — which some, in civilian as well as governmental sectors, suspect was being incited by infiltrators paid by Correa. President Moreno declared a State of Emergency to quell the violence, which only increased the people’s determination to find a solution that would benefit all and lead toward a more secure future for the country. 

President Moreno responded that the austerity policies would not be changed. He said that the demonstrations did not originate with the people but were encouraged by the former president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, working with President Maduro of Venezuela. The statement only fanned the flames of resistance. However, there is evidence that Correa and other actors are taking advantage of the situation to sow doubt and suspicion. The Indigenous organizations need to weave through this confusion cautiously to keep the issues in focus.

Disrespect is not new for the Cañari people. After centuries of being used as beasts of burden, as the Cañari poet José Buñay put it years ago, they are determined not to go back to the abuses of the hacienda days. Last week, as the protests continued to escalate and began to grow violent, Moreno took his government from the capital of Quito to the coastal city of Guayaquil. When the demonstrators set out to meet him there, the mayor of that city stated bluntly that “Indians” are not welcome in her city. They should go back to the páramos, the high mountain grasslands. 

Mayor of Guayaquil Cynthia Viteri in her signature white shirt. Photo El Universo

But Cañaris will not be humiliated. Indigenous people don’t take abuse lightly. A movement was launched to withhold  food from the highland farms to Guayaquil. Several Indigenous people posted photos of their páramo homes with pride. They also posted the reminder that Indigenous peoples can be found in the universities, the professions, government offices, elected positions, and everywhere in Ecuadorian society. They even live in Guayaquil.

The declarations that I read over and over again from Cañari friends are not simply that the price of gas should go down, but that neoliberal policies must end. The IMF must go. What they are demanding is a complex set of changes, each affecting the other, that cannot be oversimplified. There is no simple fix. They are proposing a comprehensive solution on the other side of the insults and accusations that will insure that a way toward a peaceful and lasting social and economic system can be secured. This solution will be sought by large numbers of determined and united people.

Faced with this necessity, the people of the Cañari communities, both those in Ecuador and those who have emigrated, decided to add their voices. Truckloads of people departed. They made laughing videos of people climbing aboard moving overcrowded vehicles. Wave after wave of men, women, and children declared their determination to protect their rights as Ecuadorian citizens.

The last trucks to departed Cañari on Saturday morning. It was not lost on anyone that this was Columbus Day, the day set aside to commemorate the beginning of the struggle that they have been involved in for over 500 years. They drove slowly over roads that had been blocked and made contacts with others along the way. On Saturday evening, the caravan announced that they had Puruhua People in their company now. They are the Indigenous Nation to the north of the Kañari in the province of Chimborazo. On Sunday they set off again in trucks, cars, buses, and on foot on a cold and cloudy day.

Photo by Kusikayo Naula, Zhud.

The plan was to arrive in Quito in time to lend force to the words of the leaders in a meeting with the President, to show the strength of a united people and to prove that hardship and danger will not deter them. We remember, too, that over the recent Ecuadorian history, Indigenous demonstrations have led to changes of government and policy changes. What sets this demonstration apart is its spontaneity and comprehensiveness.  The people responded immediately to a threat with thought and care to find a solution consistent with their goals. To get elected, President Moreno said and did some things he seems to have forgotten, but the people didn’t forget.

This is but one more chapter in the history of the people who developed their science and art over the millennia, resisted the Inca, survived the haciendas, rebuilt their lives through the Agrarian Reform, ended the agro-chemical-based Green Revolution, confronted (and continue to confront) climate change, and now are dedicated to help redesign the social and economic institutions of Ecuador. The significance of this continuing struggle cannot be overemphasized.

ALAN ADAMS

Back to Cañar 2019

Hello Friends: 

Three days, delayed flights, missed connections, two hotel nights, $12 food vouchers for 24 hours in Miami airport, a taxi from Guayaquil and we are finally here in Cañar, on January 5. Below is Michael blowing his $12 voucher on a Cuban sandwich and guava cheese pastry in Miami Airport at La Carreta, one of our favorite layover stops.

If I count right, this is our 25th year of knowing this chilly, homely, lovely place; our fourteenth year living here half-years, and twelve years in our house. Which, amazingly, stays safe and sound for the time we’re gone. Perhaps because this guy was guarding it?

At least he was on duty the day we arrived, cropping and fertilizing the grass. It’s obvious from the droppings all around the house that our compadres José Maria and Narcisa and family and animals have been an effective security presence around the property during the eight months we have been gone. Inside, some dust and spiderwebs but otherwise dry and ready to settle in. It takes a couple of days (with altitude headaches, me) to open the shutters, uncover the furniture, unpack the sheets, towels, pillows and such, before the house begins to look like home. We uncover San Antonio in his nicho and take a look at the plants

Michael finally agrees that we have to do something about the massive macho aloe that is taking over the interior garden; in a couple of years it will reach the glass ceiling. From the time we moved in I have tended my (low) side of the patio, and Michael his. Many of the flowers I planted early on died during our times away (although volunteer geraniums are thriving along with a variety of sedums). But slowly, M. has invaded my side by planting cacti and jade and that big spiky blue-green creature a friend gave us years ago that keeps producing hijuelos. We’ll wait to see how things get resolved on the pruning issue.

Staying with the patio, a few days after we arrived I was crossing it to the living room with a large 3T hard drive in my hands, when my foot slipped off the brick edge and I went flying. Trying to hang onto the hard drive, I landed nose-first in the garden (hard drive went flying anyway), exactly between a rock and an watering spigot. Either would have done terrible damage, though my face still left a clear impression in the ground. We had no ice yet, but Michael had frozen two pork chops, so those went onto my nose in the first few minutes. After that, things got very ugly with purplish black eye and cheek and scrapes and scratches (no photo please!). During this past week I’ve had to explain over and over why my face is such a mess. Today I’m entering the bluish-green stage with patches of white skin showing through. (In photo below: I landed just to the right of the rock you see at knee-height.)

On to Michael – who is delighted with the result of his hip replacement in September, which means he can climb the hill into town without pain for his daily shopping. At home: cooking, chopping wood, building the fire, cleaning the chimney, hauling the propane tanks that give us the luxury of hot water. He’s so happy to be back in the land where a pound of large shrimp at the Sunday market costs $5.00. He’s in the kitchen now, cooking them along with camote (sweet potato) for a Peruvian-style ceviche tonight.

This is a short chronicle because I want to get it out before a busy week begins. But I must end by thanking all of you who contributed to the Cañari Women’s Scholarship Program these past couple of months. (Thank-you letters will be going out soon.) Gracias to our faithful contributors, we had a successful fundraising campaign to continuing support eleven women in universities full-time, two doing their masters, and various applicants waiting in line. Next Sunday will be our first meeting, with special visitors from the Women’s Circle of Giving in Bend, Oregon.

Cañar Book Club 2019

Finally, I’m anxious to hear what you all are reading and what books you have on your lists for 2019. For my report, I can say that the three-day trip to get here seriously cut into my stash of books. I finished The Gunrunner’s Daughter by Neil Gordon (fascinating, complex, still haven’t figured out all the twists and turns), The Rules Don’t Apply memoir by Ariel Levy, a New Yorker writer who must be one of the world’s most neurotic but charming journalists. Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett (hmm, no comment; found in a sidewalk library in Portland), and I’ve begun A Place in the Country by W. G. Sebald (a favorite writer but I believe these linked essays were pulled together and translated after his death and I’m not yet engaged), and a book by Paulette Giles, whom I knew as a writer in Canada but turns out she’s an American now living on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas. In News of the World she has written a lovely account set in post-Civil War Texas of an itinerant older man who makes his living riding from town to town to read newspapers aloud to live audiences, and the 10-year old Kiowa captive girl he agrees to return to her family. Reading, I cannot help but think of my mother, a great reader, who would have loved this book. Tomorrow will be her 99th birthday, and I dedicate this meeting of the Cañar Book Club to her memory. I miss her every day.

Please leave a reply here or email at: judyblanken@gmail.com. I do love hearing from you.