QUITO – People here cross themselves. A lot. And not only when I’m passing by.
Walking by a church, chapel, shrine or even stores selling crucifixes and Jesus statuettes, the young, old and infirm use the opportunity for a quick sign of the cross. It’s not uncommon to see men remove their hats.
Like this one, who paused briefly to tip his to the Church of San Francisco that dominates its eponymous square.
It’s built atop an Incan temple and the palace of Atahualpa, the last Incan King. The Spanish wasted little time ridding Quito of all signs of Incan life; they began building the square, church and adjacent convent in 1535, just a month after they arrived. The three-hectare complex is the largest such colonial structure in Latin America. A Quichua woman once told me that the spirits of those who were unhappily buried here still make the ground grumble.
The man’s slightly disheveled look was misleading. Even carrying two heavy bags, he had a confident bounce to his step as he ascended the wide circular stairs.
A few steps from the church’s massive double doors, he paused again, this time to playfully snatch a cane from the blind woman who just moments before stood begging near the back of the church.
She stood motionless and quiet, stunned but not visibly scared. He waited for her eyes to follow him but they didn’t. Her gaze remained focused toward the church doors.
He took a step away then stopped, turned back towards her, smiled, took both of her hands and placed the worn wooden cane between them. They exchanged a few words but I didn’t hear what was said. I only saw the man smile as they parted in opposite directions. The woman crossed herself.
And for the record: Today’s Pic du Jour, the 418th straight, was taken this afternoon, 07-Mar-2015, in Quito’s historical center.