Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ecuador tidbits

Just to write them down before they fade (amazing how quickly that happens), some final thoughts on our trip to Ecuador.
  • Southern Stars. It being my first trip to the southern hemisphere (albeit, barely) I was looking forward to seeing the southern stars. Unfortunately, the only nights spent outside of Quito were spent in the rain forest, where (it turns out) it rains a lot. We could see the stars one night while we were driving, and it was definitely neat to see Orion in the northern sky, but no primo star-gazing opportunities. Reason to go back, I guess.

  • Volcán. The Andes mountains are really cool and we got to see several active-ish volcanoes. In addition to Guagua Pichincha--which looms over Quito and erupted spectacularly in 1999--we also spied El Reventador and Sumaco from the air on our flight to Coca and we drove right past the base of Tungurahua en route to Baños (which owes its thermal hot springs to the volcano's proximity).

  • Chevron. In this week's Economist you can read the basic pro-corporate defense of Chevron. The authors do not seem to have bothered to interview anyone from the other side of the lawsuit and several of their assertions do not pass the smell test IMHO. In particular, the idea that Ecuador made tens of billions from oil exploration while poor, pitiful Texaco only made $500 million is laughable and inconsistent with other facts presented in the article. Chevron Pit has the full rebuttal here.

  • Organize! We heard an interesting bit of history from Yury, our guide, about Monseñor Leonidas Proaño. Before the land reform laws of the 1960s, Ecuador's poor were essentially serfs, bound to the large haciendas. When Proaño became bishop of Riobamba in 1954, a region that was poor and mostly Quichua-speaking, he began to preach liberation and agitate for social justice. He even convinced parts of the Church to give up their large land-holdings. He also founded something called the Popular Radiophonic Schools, which trained leaders and community organizers. According to Yury many of young volunteers from the Radiophonic School are now leaders of the national indigenous rights organizations or are making policy in the national assembly and the Correa government.

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