Scene & Heard: 55 Minutes in Quito’s Centro Historico – Easter Edition
The first mistake I made on Easter was to buy an umbrella, breaking an old rule: don’t ever buy a cheap umbrella from a vendor who emerges from an alley next to a church as soon the skies open.
But I did. Because the skies opened. Wide. The umbrella barely did. It broke about a half hour and five blocks later before it could ever be folded back together. A short woman wrapped in a bright orange skirt and wearing a midnight blue bowler hat selling avocados laughs out loud when she sees me try and fail to shove the umbrella through a small opening in a trash receptacle.
“Ponchos are only one dollar,” she says, still laughing. I paid three for an umbrella I couldn’t even dispose of properly.
I was expecting a relaxed, jovial holiday vibe when I arrived at the central Plaza Grande in early afternoon. Ecuador’s ninety percent Catholic, devout. I imagined a small choir on the cathedral steps, worshippers lined up for mass, kids in their Sunday finest.
Instead, I was met with an even busier and louder crowd than usual, the sounds of commerce everywhere. Loud Easter-style commerce: hawkers moving toys, lottery tickets, coca tea, umbrellas and chocolates; socks, underwear, small plastic chairs, sticky espumillas and rain ponchos. One woman offered chocolates, another washcloths and a third small portraits of Jesus in wooden technicolor frames. Finally – someone who recognized the reason for the season.
On the way home, I’m stopped in my tracks on Esmeraldas, a block up from the Plaza del Teatro, when a cross-dressing hooker who introduced himself a few weeks ago as Juana yells towards me across the street. The cut-off denim shorts he’s wearing are shorter than usual and impossibly tighter.
“Honey Bob! Honey Bob! Happy Easter my Honey Bob!”
“Happy Easter to you too,” I said. “Where’s your Easter dress?”
He laughed. “I don’t wear dresses on Easter. I’m working!” He smiles again, and walks off.
As he disappears into a doorway, I’m reminded of a line from the Bruce Cockburn song, “Cry of a Tiny Babe”:
For it isn’t to the palace that the Christ child comes
But to shepherds and street people, hookers and bums
Jesus would be proud.
I’m feeling proud, too: transvestite prostitutes recognize me on the street. That’s an Easter Sunday first for me and I decide that my Quito ‘moment’ had finally arrived.
A few blocks up, just beyond the corner of Venezuela and Galapagos, a man stops to pee between two parked cars. Both are facing down the steepest section of Galapagos. The driver is sitting in the first car but waits patiently for the man to finish before driving away.
Below, a smattering of random Easter Sunday scenes snapped with my phone camera. The soundtrack was recorded in an arched walkway at the edge of the Plaza Grande shortly after people scurried there for cover when a brief rain came. Press play on the Soundcloud soundtrack, scroll at your leisure and enjoy.
And for the record: the lead photo, Shelter From the Storm II, serves as today’s Pic du Jour, the blog’s 454th straight.