top of page
  • Writer's pictureCharlys Trevino

Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with a passion

In my previous blog I wrote about the circumstances around how I came to stay with this family.

The Arotingo family have lived in the Santa Barbara community for most if not all of their lives. Digna, Ernesto, their two grown daughters (Huaita and Karen) and their two grandchildren (Muyuri and Jared) all live in a two bedroom house along the creek that runs through the community.

On one side of their homestead is the Cotacachi Volcano and on the other the Imbabura Volcano. Both are dormant but that doesn't mean they won't some day "wake up". I remember thinking, "man, I would be screwed if either decided to "wake up" during my stay".

Fifteen years ago Ernesto built a little guest casita to host guests as part of the rural tourism initiative the community supported. The casita was almost as big as their own house. We shared a terrace and the rent for the casita included sharing two meals with the family.

Digna, the matriarch ran a little community restaurant on the weekends out of the house. I became her sous chef. She cooked all indigenous meals so that I could eat authentically what was raised in the community. I love trying new foods so this was right up my ally! She appreciated the fact that I was willing to taste anything she put in front of me.

Even though the Paro was in full swing and food in the town was scarce, we lacked for nothing in the community. The sister near by had pigs she slaughtered, the sister in law had cows which gave us milk, Digna had chickens for eggs and if one of them wasn't laying we had her for lunch in a soup!

We harvested the corn, shelled and dried it along with a variety of legumes. Corn is their main crop, some of it is ground for flour, other is stored for fresh corn , a portion is saved to make popcorn which is like an appetizer for them and they put into their soups! A portion of the crop goes to feed the chickens.

The grandmother stops by to always help with the process.

The family introduced me to the community dressed in their traditional attire, Digna embroiders all the blouses herself. The older generation of women wear this traditional attire daily, the younger generation of women now wear more western clothes for every day. Surprisingly the long skirt ,called an Annaco, and blouse were very comfortable!

Family is priority for the indigenous community. Weekends were busy with aunts, uncles, cousins coming over and staying the night or even the weekend. All finding a place to sleep where ever there was space. The younger kids playing outdoors and the babies were passed around to those old enough to carrying them . Everyone helped with the cooking, cleaning, washing or whatever was necessary. The house was always full of people and laughter.

Ernesto and Digna are unapologetic about their beliefs, culture and heritage. They are strong supporters of indigenous organization CONAIE and volunteered their time on several occasions during the Paro to go out and protest. Despite the significant impact these mobilizations have on them financially, they stand strong with the cause.

They both remember as children how the rights of the indigenous people of their community were disregarded and abused. Owners of the lands around the community treated them like slaves, paying them little to nothing for the crops they grew.

Their strong ties to the land, traditions and nature are demonstrated in their celebrations, spiritual beliefs and giving back to Pachamama(Mother Earth). I was fortunate to have witnessed their summer solstice celebration of Inti Raymi . Though none of my pictures from this celebration turned out! Maybe it was meant to be observed but not captured.

I will forever hold a special place in my heart for the familia Arotingo. It was a rich and amazing experience and I will be forever grateful to them for allowing me to be a part of their life and family during a particularly difficult time in the community and Ecuador.

50 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All

1 Comment
Aug 18, 2022

"Maybe it was meant to be observed but not captured." ....profound words from a wise woman who well knows that things happen for a reason. I thoroughly enjoyed living vicariously through you via this post. Your photos are engaging, endearing and convey so much that words never could. What an amazing experience, and good on you for walking through the offered doorway. You are a strong woman.

bottom of page