It is Sunday and I am leaving Ecuador in six days. I have been here for almost 2 ½ years with two trips back to the US for short periods of time. I have not been back to the US since April of last year and part of me is not looking forward to going back. Ecuador is a very special place, especially Cuenca, nestled in the Andes Mountains at about 8,500 ft. It is difficult not to think of the people that lived here hundreds of years ago because evidence of their existence is everywhere. This country is truly steeped in tradition. I never really understood what that phrase meant until I came here to live.
A great example of this was a parade that passed my house today. I am not certain what the parade was for, but it seemed to be a thanksgiving celebration of sorts. What I did notice was the costumes that represented certain times and things in Ecuadorian history – the Spaniards, the Mayans, the Incas and the traditional Ecuadorian outfits. There were also children dressed as fruits, not doubt symbolizing their gratitude for their blessings no matter how big or small. The respect they have for their heritage is abundant and I felt honored to be a part of it even if I was just a spectator.
In Ecuador, you never know when a parade is going to break out, but you can be sure that they will happen on a regular basis. I didn’t know about this particular parade until I heard the music from the bands. I knew it was close and since I live right off the major road that runs through my barrio (neighborhood), San Joaquin, all I needed to do was journey to the top of my driveway to be right in the thick of things.
I was greeted by my Ecuadorian neighbors who know my Spanish isn’t very good. One of them even said “Good Morning” in English. I told them that in English this event is known as a parade and asked what it is called in Spanish. I was told the word is “desfile”. While there is always a little lack of understanding when I converse with my neighbors, it doesn’t discourage us from developing our friendship with one another. It is truly magical and I am going to really miss how friendly and helpful the Ecuadorians have been to me.
Lately, in the US, we seem to forget that the word “American” does not belong to us. We are North Americans, yes, but then too, so are Canadians. There are also Central Americans and South Americans so the truth is, we are all Americans. One of the things I am not looking forward to in returning to the US, are the close minded people that think just because someone doesn’t speak English means they aren’t American. The fact is, if you trace the ancestry of many of the Central and South American people living in the United States, they have been “Americans” a lot longer than most of us have. I know my family originated from Whales on the other side of the ocean.
Despite what you read in your history books, neither Christopher Columbus nor Amerigo Vespucci discovered America – there were already people here and those people were Americans long before any of us were. In the short time I was watching the parade this morning I reminded myself that while I am from the United States, I am no more American than anyone else on this continent. It is a humbling and sobering realization.
View all parade pictures in the gallery below:
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