SUNDAY FEB 9 DAY 15….
So we passed over the elusive equator …. and did receive a certificate…I guess it’s official… whatever all that means…..The depth of the water we were traveling in was about 10,000’…. about 900 stories, a hard number to get my head around.
So 2 days and a 1000 plus nautical miles from Guatemala we arrived in Manta, Ecuador.
Ecuador lays claim to its location as “the center of the world”…..equal proximity to the north and South Poles…..and in a small town outside of the capital is a monument that commemorates this. Ecuadors’ capital, Quito, sits at an elevation of 9000 ft and has the highest elevation of any capital city in the world.
Ecuador is a country of 17 million. Mestizos (Spanish colonists and 21 indigenous tribes) are 72 percent of the population. Like other tribes in central and South America, Mestizos are not very tall, mid complected skin and 90 percent catholic.
Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America, about 280 square miles. (2x bigger then NY state). The countries’ currency is in US dollars, converting to US currency in 1991, when the country had runaway inflation….so monetary transactions are easy…. maybe to easy.
The average wage of an Ecuadorian is $400/month and 2 incomes are needed to feed a family. The average home is $200 per month and you can buy 60 lemons for about a $1. (Not sure what I would do with 60 lemons).
Ecuadorians are required to vote. A ticket is given to each person by going house to house. Elections are held on Sunday 5am to 7pm so everyone has time to vote …If they don’t vote they are fined $90. ( Almost a weeks salary)
The number one. two and there sport is Soccer, Soccer and Soccer. They love it!….the native language is Spanish and temperatures range from 65 to 75 all year.
They have two seasons, wet and dry ….and like other countries in this region the mountain areas have active volcanoes
Ecuador is a primary exporter of oil to the US and China and processed fish to the US and Japan. Agriculture is the second biggest export, specifically bananas, coffee, chocolate….(3000 lbs of chocolate a year) and flowers (roses) are shipped worldwide.
…so with that as the backdrop…time to discover Manta, the major port of Equator …..
So….Typically when our ship arrives in port we are welcomed by local Musicians and dancers sharing there cultural traditions … However in this case we were welcomed with a big bottle of purell ….and a group of masked men with sterilized gloves in uniforms….certainly understand taking precaution …but we have not been anywhere near China….
…. I suppose it is a better then the greeting in ElSalvador where we had musicians playing while we had our temperature taken as we got off the boat.. (Luckily they no longer use rectal thermometers) Clearly the coronavirus is having its impact even in the most remote parts of the world.
Fortunately transportation was waiting for us. We toured in “Chivas”….. traditional farm vehicles that are used to transport bananas… Ecuador being the biggest producer of Chiquita bananas in the world.
Manta, is a coastal city of 300k and is known throughout the world for its tuna export ….over 105,000 tons of tuna. Bumble Bee and other major companies have large factories in Manta ….
the harbor typically has over a thousand vessels and wooden boats fishing the seas
with all this fish the area is known for great seafood.
The area is also known for its beaches….-Colorful murals painted on concrete walls depict scenes and symbols of daily life
homes in the surrounding areas are constructed in cinderblock and concrete and the church is typically the most elaborate building in the city
Some homes still carry the influence of Spanish architecture
Values revolve around the church and family
Beyond mass…Sunday is dancing… starting at 5:am and ending at dusk
From Manta we headed to Montechristi ….10 miles southeast of Manta, named for the Mountain of Christi…a city of 40,000 and home of the famous Panama hat.
In entering the city we were welcomed with an incredible 30’ statue depicting “the art of hat making”
The details of the mosaic tiles are beautiful
Hat making is a labor of love.. the process involves 3 to 4 people, typically a family.
It starts with a plant. The palm leaves are extracted and peeled in spaghetti like threads. These threads are boiled and softened….sulfur is added to whiten them and then dried.
Next is creating the crown of the hat…A cork form serves as a mold to create the shape.
A special chair is used so hands are free to wave and they can see the detail of their work…. thework at these chairs for hours at a a time.
The third step is creating the brim.
And the final step is to soften the hat by pounding it with a mallet. The entire process takes 3 to 4 months.
Men women and children of all ages make these hats ….weaving for hours at a time.
Hats range in price from $40 to $5000 depending on the tightness and size of the weaving….
The economy today still sustains itself on hats created by local families.
The Panama hat was started by Manuel Alfaro in 1835. He exported them through the isthmus of Panama….that is how they got the name “Panama hat”…. and they were incredibility popular with the likes of Teddy Roosevelt wearing one.
So the city of Montichristo is forever grateful to Alfaro…the square hosts a commemorative statue of Alfaro their local hero….the man that started it all.
….on the opposite wall in the city center is a beautiful mosaic of Alfaros’ son…..Ecuadors president from 1895 to1901.
The square is anchored by the church…. surrounded by artisans stalls….selling Panama hats and other local crafts.
Alpaca blankets, weavings, carvings from the local Tagua nut and jewelry ….
The country of Ecuador includes the Galápagos Islands. Ecuador is a country with a rich natural Habitat and an amazing ecosystem.
Lush tropical jungles, highlands, 150,000 species of birds…..1200 birds per kilometer (6/10 of a mile)…. cannot get my head around that one…sounds like Hitchcock’s “The Birds” as you walk around
… given my fear of birds it is good thing I did didn’t know this before leaving the ship…
and Ecuador is also home to the infamous condor….the largest flying bird in the world.
The Ecuadorian government recognizes its natural resources and is trying to protect them. In 2008 new regulations were put in place declaring 50 percent of the land a conservancy.
So the day was interesting….I knew nothing about Ecuador going into this…I couldn’t even spell its name correctly as you can see from my last post ….
So maybe you have learned something to. I am developing a new appreciation for the many kinds of people in our world and the amazing artistry and beauty around us.
And onto Peru ……