Shawl Vendors, Quito

Shawl vendors knitting, Plaza de San Francisco, Quito

At the Plaza de San Francisco in Quito’s centro historico, just two of the dozens of vendors who hawk shawls, scarves, fruit, drinks, gum, cigarettes, meals and sweets there each day, and among the multitudes who fan out across the city.

This was taken during the tail end of an anti-government demonstration as protesters gathered and milled about the square. These three weren’t paying much attention, enjoying instead each others’ company, gossiping, laughing and sharing tea as they knitted.


Today’s Pic du Jour, the 437th straight, was taken on 19 March 2015, and is this week’s contribution to Lost in Translation, a new-to-me blog, and host Paula’s Thursday challenge, ‘multitudes‘.


In Quito – Arte en Orbita: an Exhibit Examining the Democratization of Space Exploration

Arte en Orbita, Quito 01

What does documentation of UFO sightings in Ecuador, a proposal to merge Cuba and Quebec into a new political entity and Bolivia’s Tupac Katari telecommunications satellite have in common?

A collective space and voice for starters, at Arte en Orbita, an exhibit at the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo Quito which despite its outward whimsical flair, raises some important questions about the democratization of space exploration, its commercialization and its great north-south / rich-poor divide.

Arte en Órbita
Centro de Arte Contemporaneo, Quito
March 7 – June 6, 2015
admission free

Since man first stared into the night sky, the exhibit’s introduction reminds us, outer space has provided the brain food for humankind’s collective imagination, helped create its mythologies and fostered its scientific research and discovery. With more than 1,100 active satellites orbiting the planet at any given time –along with some 2,500 that no longer function– that relationship remains as true and vital now as ever.

Well before the dawn of colonization, the Ecuadorean capital was already serving as a center of astronomical observation. With the recent launching of Pegaso and Krysaor, the country’s first commercial satellites, the city provides a timely setting from which to attempt to generate a link between the ancient tools used to help understand the cosmos to modern technologies whose proliferation, wide availability and relative low cost can reconnect humankind to space in a more participatory and democratic way.

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‘Marcha de las Putas’ Slutwalk Attracts Hundreds in Quito Demanding an End to Sexual Violence – 46 Images

Marcha de las Putas 01

QUITO — Several hundred people gathered in Quito to take part in the fourth annual ‘Marcha de las Putas’ on Saturday, part of the growing trans-national network of ‘Slutwalk’ marches to protest sexual and domestic violence towards women.

NOTE: There are 46 images below, a few of which are probably NSFW.

With an infectious rhythm of beating drums and the shrieks of loud whistles as a non-stop soundtrack, marchers chanted slogans demanding sexual and reproductive freedom and an end to rape culture as they set out on the two-hour march from the Parque El Ejido, a few kilometers north of the city’s historical center district. Night descended by the time the parade route reached its end at the Plaza Foch entertainment district.

One of the goals of the demonstration was to loudly denounce slut-shaming, victim-blaming and gender violence, which, organizers claim, is becoming less invisible thanks largely to awareness-raising actions such as the annual Slutwalks.

Another objective, said coordinator Ana Almeida prior to the march, was to challenge society into accepting responsibility for sexual violence, harassment and violence against women in general.

Indeed, the prevailing theme was one of women, tired of intolerance, male chauvinism and machismo, demanding respect and control over their own bodies. The mood was energetic, colorful, festive and confident.

While the majority of participants were women, men made up a substantial portion of the crowd, which also included families with young children, tourists and members of the LGBTI community from throughout Ecuador.

Marcha de las Putas 07

There was a sizable police presence whose role was limited to traffic control, with one notable exception.

A heavy metal guitarist, who La Hora identified as Juan David Benitez, stripped down to his socks for a three song set under the shadow cast by a statue called ‘La Lucha Eterna’, or ‘The Eternal Struggle’.

Two policemen approached and asked him to put his pants on, requests that went ignored. The standoff, accompanied by a growing crowd’s calls for encore after encore, ended in a surreal scene a few minutes later when Benitez found himself surround by nearly a dozen helmeted officers dressed in full riot gear who didn’t back off until they watched him put his pants back on. Yes, I have a photo; sroll way down.

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Have You Ever Tried a Chontacuro?

Rhynchophorus palmarum, or Chontaduro aka chontacuro.

Rhynchophorus palmarum, or Chontaduro aka chontacuro.

Or, chontaduro?

Me neither. When I crossed paths with this one on Thursday afternoon, I was on my way home from lunch with a full belly, so I passed.

What is it, exactly?

It’s not a colorful worm, nor is it an earth-toned caterpillar. It’s the larvae of the Rhynchophorus palmarum beetle, or South American palm weevil, which typically dwells in and kills the palm trees it’s named after. When a dying contaduro palm is found, the crawling nests are carved out and the larvae harvested.

They’re considered a delicacy, a protein-rich font of countless curative properties. The keeper of this one told me it’s to be swallowed raw when digestive problems pop up. But, she insisted, they’re just as good grilled or fried.

Fairly common throughout the tropics, they’re most prevalent in coastal zones of Colombia, where they’re also known as chontacuro, and in the Ecuadorean Amazon, which is how they made their way to a natural foods stall at the inaugural “Ecuador First” fair in Quito last Thursday, a showcase of domestically-produced handicrafts and specialty foods organized by the national government.

A close up of jewelry maker at work

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Quito Kebobs

Shish kebob stand in Quito, Ecuador

QUITO – Besides the rain poncho and umbrella vendors who worked along the fringes of Thursday’s anti-government demonstration here, yesterday was also a good day for kebob vendors working near the Plaza de San Francisco. Like this one on Calle Simon Bolivar, just west of the plaza, who prepared my dinner.

Shish kebobs are ubiquitous in the Ecuadorian capital, whose variety of combinations is limited only to the imagination of the vendors grilling them up each evening. Most have either have skewered chicken or beef as the main attraction, with vegetables, potatoes and/or slices of sausage added to fill out the foot-long stick. I’m trying to convince my neighborhood favorite to add more veggies, maybe even swapping out a potato. Mayonnaise is always offered and I always refuse, preferring aji, or a hot sauce, instead.

What doesn’t vary much is the price, standard at just a dollar; only once do I recall paying $1.25, but parting with that extra quarter was well worth it.

For the record, today’s Pic du Jour, the 431st straight, was taken on 19 March 2015 in Quito.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Addresses Press Freedom, Demonstrations and Texaco Case

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Addresses Press Freedom, Demonstrations and Texaco Case

On the heels of the anti-government demonstrations that took place throughout the country yesterday, the Foreign Minister of Ecuador Ricardo Patino addressed some of the criticisms levied towards his government in recent months in an interview with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez this morning on Democracy Now.

On charges that the Correa administration is trying to muzzle the press:

We, citizens, have the right of freedom of expression—everyone, not just a few. But us citizens also have the right to receive accurate information that has been verified. And citizens, including politicians or members of the government, we also have the right to honor. All of these elements constitute the thinking in our government.

And some people try to criticize this. Why? Because what we do now—and this did not happen before—is that we respond to the distortions or the omissions that many large television networks commit in Ecuador. And that’s not fair. When they exercise their freedom of expression, we say they have the right—even if they lie. But we also have the right to refute those things that are said, and they don’t like that.

Listen to the rest here, transcript included.

Thousands March in Quito to Protest Correa Government’s Policies – a 30-Image Gallery

A protester stands before the Church of San Francisco during a demonstration in Quito on March 19, 215

QUITO – Several thousand people marched through heavy rain in the Ecuadorian capital Quito on Thursday to protest a large slate of grievances against the government of President Rafael Correa. On that list is a proposed constitutional amendment that would eliminate term limits, the president’s included. Above, a protester standing in front of the 16th century Church of San Francisco holds a sign that reads, Indefinite re-election is indefinite corruption.

The demonstration in Quito was one of a dozen protests that took place across the country yesterday, an attempt to unify the disparate pockets of opposition to Correa, who has led Ecuador since January 2007.

Thousands march through rainy streets at a demonstration in Quito on March 19, 2015

Organized by a very loosely-knit coalition of indigenous, labor, student and environmental groups, the two-kilometer march, from the Parque el Ejido to Plaza San Francisco, was largely peaceful, although there were a few clashes reported between protesters and police after the demonstration. I didn’t witness any. The march began at about 4 pm and was scheduled to last until 8; I followed along and shot it from just after the start until about 7 pm.

Correa remains very popular among Ecuadorians, largely for the social programs his government has introduced and implemented through it’s so-called “citizen’s revolution”. One recent poll by the Madrid-based International Political Communications Association found that 79 percent of Ecuadorians view him favorably.

But he’s also widely criticized, both at home and abroad, for an increasing intolerance in recent years of criticism and dissent.

Thirty photos in all. All images © Bob Ramsak 2013-2015. All rights reserved. For editorial use, please check out the 22 images I filed for Demotix / Corbis. Or, simply get in touch. Enjoy!

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Atahualpa on a Bus, Quito

Atahualpa on a bus, Quito, Mar 2015

Atahualpa on a bus, Quito, Mar 2015


QUITO — Atahualpa, the last emperor of the Inca Empire, was very much a Quiteño. His father, the Inca Huayna Capac, was from Tomebamba to the south; his mother, the princess Pacha Duchicela, from Caranqui, to the north. By most accounts Atahualpa was born in Quito. His palace ruins lie deep beneath the Church of San Francisco and its eponymous square.

When he accepted Francisco Pizarro’s invitation to a feast in his honor in the small Peruvian Incan town of Cajamarca, he was ambushed upon arrival and imprisoned, his men slaughtered. Appealing to the Spaniards’ greed, Atahualpa offered a room full of gold and silver in exchange for his release. Pizarro agreed, only to have him executed after the ransom, the largest ever demanded, was received. That was August 29, 1533, effectively marking the end of the Inca Empire and the birth of European colonization in South America.

Atahualpa’s 518th birthday will be celebrated on Friday. The buses will be full.

Today’s Pic du Jour, the 429th straight on the blog, was snapped on 7 March 2015, near the Presidential Palace, Quito, Ecuador. And is part of this week’s linkup at Travel Photo Thursday.

ISO 1000
Canon EF-S 18-135 IS kit lens