On the Fringes of Protest: Quito

Two women at an anti-government protest, Plaza de San Francisco, Quito

That’s the title of a project I prepared today to submit for an open call for an evening projections contest for the Photonic Moments – Month of Photography 2016 festival held biennially here in Ljubljana, Slovenia, which in June will celebrate its eighth edition.

This year’s festival, set for June 2-5, “is dedicated to promote, popularize and present local and international developments in the field of contemporary photography”. I’m not entirely sure how organizers are setting the limitations of their definition of “contemporary photography” but I’m operating under the assumption that this project will fall somewhere under that broad brush.

In any case, a working synopsis of “On the Fringes of Protest: Quito”:

I spent three months in the Ecuadorean capital in 2015, during which I attended and covered several political demonstrations. Like many other countries in the region, Ecuador has a rich tradition of political protest, with an active and relatively well-engaged citizenry. Like other protests and rallies I’ve covered and observed in other Latin America countries, the ones in Quito were colorful and loud, with participants as passionate as you’ll find anywhere.

There were also the more dispassionate ones who were nonetheless attracted for one reason or another to the sidelines. So for this project I decided to focus not on what was happening in the parades and on the stages by active participants, but instead on those who were on the fringes — to watch their reactions (or lack thereof), their shifts in curiosity and the varied and ample commercial activity that accompanied each mass gathering.

If you’re a regular Piran Café reader you’ll have seen several of these shots already, which have been published here in one form or another over the past 11 months. Some are new, like the lead image above taken at the Plaza de San Francisco in the center of Quito’s historical center. Like most indigenous women I observed at the protests, these two woman were there to chat and socialize, and sell a few drinks or bags of sliced fruit.

Below are 12 more shots I selected from three demonstrations: a large anti-government march held on March 19, 2015, and from a pair of opposing marches held on May Day six weeks later, one organized and led by president Rafael Correa and his supporters, and another by a coalition of opposition groups and parties.

I’d like to cull this down to ten before submitting. Are there two or three shots you firmly believe don’t belong? Let me know!


Hat and bag peddler during a May Day parade in Quito 2015

Bag and Hat Peddler, Plaza de San Francisco, 1 May 2015.


Two girls watching a drone at the Plaza de San Francisco Quito

Two Girls Watching a Drone, Plaza de San Francisco, 19 March 2015.


Five women at a May Day Parade in Quito 2015

Supporters of President Rafael Correa at a pro-government May Day march. 1 May 2015


Watching an anti-government protest Quito 2015

Shopkeepers watch as marchers approach during an anti-government demonstration. 19 March 2015


Shawl knitter at the Plaza de San Francisco in Quito

Shawl knitters, Plaza de San Francisco. 19 March 2015


man selling reading glasses during a May Day parade in Quito 2015

Man selling reading glasses, Avenida Sucre, 1 May 2015


Woman watching an anti-government protest in Quito 2015

Woman spontaneously joins marchers’ chants. Avenida Guayaquil, 19 March 2015


Women watching an anti-government protest Quito 2015

Three generations of a family watch an anti-government demonstration, Avenida Simon Bolivar, 19 March 2015


Couple sitting outside of a shop calle Happy Club in Quito

Avenida Cuenca, a quiet street separating the pro- and anti-government May Day Marches. 1 May 2015


Woman watching anti-government demonstrators watching at a May Day Parade in Quito 2015

Anti-government May Day march, Avenida Sucre. 1 May 2015


Children watching a May Day Parade in Quito 2015

Sisters watching a pro-government May Day march. Avenida Pedro Vicente Maldonado, 1 May 2015


Two cafe employees watch a May Day Parade in Quito

Service with a smile. Anti-government May Day march, Avenida Sucre. 1 May 2015


And for the record: the lead photo, which serves as today’s Pic du Jour, the site’s 818th straight, was taken in Quito, Ecuador, on 19 March 2015.

All images © Bob Ramsak. All rights reserved. High resolution images available.
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  1. paula graham says

    Amazing and thought provoking photos, there is so much unrest in the world, such differences twixt Haves and have nots…the inequality of wealth , imho, is an exposive mixture.

    1. Bob R says

      I agree. It’s coming to the fore in many places.

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