Over three years after the 7.8 earthquake, the city of Portoviejo continues to recover. Empty lots replace where historic buildings once stood. Lingering remnants of colonial houses reveal gaping holes through the roofs. Doves perch in convenient areas in the park while iguanas bask in the shade or nibble leaves and flowers.
Over the past two days I have ambled the streets near the museum, photographed the birds, iguanas and the sunlit streets. Something is missing, however.
Where are the cars?
My friend Alexandra sent words of warning, a bit too late, as I was already on the streets. “Lisa! Tomorrow might be bad! Don’t go out, seriously – don’t go out…”” I did not receive her warnings until I had walked the area in search of a cyber option. Military and Policemen stood guard, but all was calm as you can see in the slide show below.
One man pointed me several blocks ‘arriba’ for a cyber, but most stores were closed. I walked left and discovered a three-story gallery – wow, that’s another story!
After half an hour with the owner, I returned to the streets and greeted the owner of a small tienda where I often buy bananas and eggs. Excited, he pointed me half a block over and ‘arriba’ to see the march. “March?” Yes, a march – a peaceful one.
Lingering several blocks behind the march, I took photos and observed. When they turned left, so did I – across construction ones, and waited two blocks over until the march came closer.
Perusing images taken during the march, I often paused and wondered about each person. What personal and unique conflicts did each one face? What did they truly think about this present crisis which erupted with such force? Oftentimes the older folks seemed to be thinking, ‘What on earth has happened to my country?’ Some seemed to be proud to be part of the event, but maybe they were not sure why. Some were tapping into the collective power of the group and finding a voice they’d been unable to state alone. Some seemed curious, others maybe not so sure about what they’d been coaxed into joining. They really did not want trouble – they just wanted this to end.
Some had faces and expressions that stated, ‘I am a good person, and even now in this chaos, my inner core remains unchanged. we will get through this.’ Glancing behind, one man’s expression seemed to state, ‘I’m not sure if any of this is effective. Are we doing more harm than good?” His eyes looked sad.
With arms pulled straight down and tight against his torso, one man looked as if trying to be invisible, but he wanted to witness what was happening. I wondered if I appeared the same way! The smiles were always a welcome sight and oh so important for keeping the group in a peaceful mood.
One man’s t-shirt stated, ‘Grandpa knows everything,’ which made me smile. I wondered if he knew the message; his body English suggested that he made it a point to be informed, and he injected others with humor. Humor is important, and the man just beyond him peered directly at me as if to ponder, ‘Is she with us or against us?’ Looks like that make me uncomfortable, and probably necessary to keep me on guard.
Some were angry and happy to have an outlet. The latter remind me to always be careful, even when things seem to be peaceful.
Remaining at the corner I watched as the group meandered to the next curve, turned right and moved out of sight.
Returning via the ongoing closed-street renovation areas, I returned for a final walk near the museum and park. Pausing at the barricade I photographed the day before, I noted damage to the fence.
“When did this happen?” I asked the policeman guarding the barricade area.
“About an hour ago,” he stated.
Disappointment and sadness pounced on my psyche. “Serious?’ I replied, but of course he was serious, and the charred tires and barricade provided proof. “I just photographed this area yesterday…” I stated, still incredulous that the collective venom of the protest was released at this point. While I was in the lobby of Ceibo Dorado Hotel and answering emails, an ugly act of protest branded the streets about six blocks away.
The policeman gestured toward the charred leaves of the young tree, planted perhaps six months ago and just beginning its journey skyward. I touched the tree with compassion and again pondered the greater picture – so many angry people on this planet.. so many warning signs… another parallel with the Tale of Two Cities. It would be easy for me to retort with my own anger – to state, ‘STOP THIS VIOLENCE!’ – but I suppose this has to play out….
Nearby other policemen took their lunch break… life has to go on, and they have to rest between moments of conflict.
“Yes,” my neighbor who sells cold drinks at the corner, “they burned tires.. here is a video…” and his video seemed a bit surreal.
He warned me that it might get worse around 4, and I assured him that I was going home and planned to stay there for the rest of the day and night!
Little happened, but from time to time I went to the roof terrace and photographed a few smoke signals in different areas, and the helicopters which watched from higher vantage points.
The city appeared ‘normal’ this morning, but a walk to the corner newsstand confirmed that the country remains in crisis.
For a personal and up-close report from Cuenca, read Laurie Paternoster’s “Lessons from a Strike.”
Seeing footage and videos of the beautiful city of Quito makes me wince, and I wonder about my friends who live there – it must be very difficult to witness and also very scary.
Thank you for hanging through this extra-long post, which means you have a strong interest in Ecuador – and that you care. Thank you.
Until the next update,