Saturday, March 7, 2009

An Uncomfortable Situation, Indeed.

So I'm sitting in the kitchen at Hostel Residencial Sucre, having a conversation with a feller from Colombia. He's quite serious, and the rate at which he speaks, and evidently expects me to understand, is quite a bit more rapid than the speed of Quito traffic, whose story is told daily in a somewhat endearing cacaphony of honks, whistles, and Daddy Yankee.

We're discussing what we're here for, and I begin talking about my goals here and where my inspirations lie. Inevitably, Pedagogy of the Oppressed comes up, amongst other sources. I'm doing my best to convey to him the idea that I'm still coming to terms with my identity and how that will effect my message in my teaching. We're talking about sexuality, gender, race, class, geography...the same stuff I've talked with many Austinites about. Of course, the trip from A to B is about as graceful as rollerskating in the pouring rain on a hurdles sand. We're getting there, but my knees are gonna be wrecked manana.

As we chat, Don Jose Miguel Abad Carrion comes into the kitchen. Chances are, he was somewhat goofy from aguardiente, our local favorite spirit. He gets word that we're discussing indigenous peoples here in Ecuador and elsewhere, and he begins to brag, chest bulging, about his roots in Loja, a town in Southern Ecuador. He tells me the following things while glowing with pride.
1. Loja has Spanish roots.
2. The Spaniards came and *bleeped* all the natives, producing babies in many cases.
3. Names in Loja are really nice - Cuevas, Torres, Sanches, Carrion.
4. He has alot up there (in his brain).
5. Many people of Ecuador are 'gente baja,' low people. He seems to be talking about intellectual and cognitive abilities.

These five things have come out every night I've been here, especially when he gets goofy in the booze. He is talking about not having a single drop of indigenous blood in his roots, another point of extreme pride. The Colombian feller is quite annoyed by this. Actually, annoyed is a euphamism. He's pretty pissed, and probably pretty disgusted.

He tells DJMAC about how he's proud of his indigenous roots, and the culture thereof that still remains in his family and in their lives. DJMAC can only respond with a simple, 'no,' and a swipe of the hand through the air. My Colombian friend, politely asks our permission to leave, which we grant of course.

So, it seems pretty clear that DJMAC is appealing to what he assumes is a very prideful thing in my life, which is to say my European roots. I feel as if he wants me to think more of him than other Ecuadorians, as if we share something in common that makes us transcendent than most of the population of 'gente baja.' I really don't know how to respond to this. I've never been in this situation. I don't want to speak of indigenous people in a condescending manner, as if I'm here to help them out of a situation, because that's not why I'm here. But I do want to be involved, if only as a student of culture, with all different types of people.

I want to tell DJMAC that I couldn't care less about his Spanish roots, and maybe even that I resent most of the things the Spaniards have done to Mexico and other parts of the Americas. I want to tell him that he probably has more in common with the indigenous Ecuadorian than any Spaniard in the old country. I want to tell him all of this, though he has been good to me, and he clearly respects me as a friend.

So what do I do? Nothing glorious. Nothing showstopping. I simply tell DJMAC that I'm all mixed up. I tell him I have impure blood...that I'm part of the mestizaje, albeit a mix of different elements than Yupanqui, Inca, etc...I tell him that I am interested in the cultures of Ecuador, both as a united Ecuadorian people as well as a potpourri of indigenous cultures, who over the years, have combined with each other, and with Spaniards, Americans, Asians, Islanders, and others. I tell him I would like to learn Quichua. At the end of this mini-diatribe, which occurred over the course of probably 15 minutes (see above metaphor which describes my current speaking troubles), DJMAC puts out his hand and says simply, 'Mi Pan.'

Looking back, he was probably drunk and not too interested. Who knows? Anyway, I found the whole situation to be very uncomfortable, though I think the experience was one of learning more than anything else.

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