miércoles, 2 de abril de 2014

Two Famous Ecuadorians and The Pichincha Volcano


The mountains that surround Quito are a special attraction not only for the visitors but also for its inhabitants. Of course, all of them are volcanoes, more or less active; some have not seen activity perhaps in hundreds of years while one of them erupted just fourteen years ago, and this was precisely Pichincha.

In high school time I belonged to the Club of Mountaineering of Colegio San Gabriel, located just at the feet of Rucu Pichincha, one of the five summits belonging to Pichincha. It was a permanent invitation and we accepted it very often, specially after observing as two of our teachers, young Jesuit students at the time (‘maestrillos’ in the Jesuit argot), used to climb several of the summits in the morning and returned to lunch time!


This is a nice place to remember them: Hernán Rodríguez Castelo y Fabián Zurita. I don’t know if Hernán continued mountain activity upon returning to Ecuador after his studies of Theology in Comillas, Spain, and leaving the Jesuit Order, or if he ever climbed some while studying there. Fabián continued his passion for the mountain during and after his Theology studies in Granada, Spain, quiting the Jesuits afterwards and making mountaineering and education related to it a profession, and he keeps on working with groups that love mountain life and its values. Hernán, in the other hand, is perhaps the greatest humanist ever produced by Ecuador. He has written more than one hundred books and deals with several subjects with great rigor and skill: History, Art, Music, Literature, Theater, etc, and is member of the Academia Ecuatoriana de la Lengua and Academia Ecuatoriana de Historia. He is in his early 80’s and Fabián in his late 70’s. I remember both of them with special fondness.
I continued cultivating the taste for mountain during university time; however my climbing interests faded abruptly one day in 1967 when with a group of friends decided to go up to Rucu Pichincha’s summit, not through the route of the sandbanks but directly by the rocks that have the form of a backbone. It was not the first time that I had crossed this way, yet this time, as I got to the ‘Aguja’ and ‘Paso de la Muerte’ (Needle and Death Pass), I suddenly realized how dangerous it was and start asking myself what was I doing there! So I decided to go down the rocks through the south face of the Needle –that turned out to be a more dangerous route- and finally got to the summit and meet the other members of our group.


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jueves, 27 de marzo de 2014

Quito Seen by a Kid: City of Coup, and Politics

Coup! Politics! Those were the key words to remember in several periods of our History. However, I would like to remember a specific one: The day before the fall of President José María Velasco Ibarra, in Tuesday, November 7, 1961.

I remember the great demonstrations promoted by former allies, months before. You could not walk around freely because suddenly you may be involved in a big strike. Sometimes they erupted at night and the mounted police appeared menacing with their sabers. Of course there were some tricks, for example to throw marbles between the hulls of the horses so they slipped and the riders lost balance. All looked very funny and many of the young people were there just for the amusement, despite the danger.

Because, in fact, it was dangerous, specially when in our neighborhood the students of the Universidad Central (Central University) started firing at the police and it answered alike.

The day prior to the fall of the President -all schools have been closed for a while- a group of friends met at the house of one of us, just in the corner of the street that became the ‘battle field’. When fire started we went to the terrace, say a third floor. The police below spotted us but they soon discovered that we were simple onlookers; nevertheless they stared at us once in a while.

It seemed to us that the armed students had some Mauser rifles, the very ones used by the police, and they were three streets far and uphill from the corner where we were, so we could hear the firing just perfectly. Furthermore, some bullets were hitting against the walls and the balconies of the houses placed in their shooting range. So it was too dangerous leave the house and go out, worse still to cross the street. But it was exactly what happened next: A lady, dressed in a very red garment started to walk, despite police advise to stop and return. She walked a few paces before a bullet hit her and fell and started to bleed profusely. It was shocking. After that, all of us went down indoors until night, when police took control. We never knew what happened to the lady, although next day papers talked about deaths and injured people.

We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador, Peru and Southamerica.

sábado, 30 de noviembre de 2013

An Andean Condor visits Our Home

November 26, 2013


It was in 1959, a Saturday, when having lunch, our family had a rather odd experience. Quito was at that time a small city, numbering perhaps 500,000 inhabitants (the previous and very first census in 1950 said that Quito had 250,000), and most activities developed in downtown. There were not malls or supermarkets, and the concept of getting all what you needed in one single place was all but unknown. At most you had Almacenes El Globo, whose owner was Paco Dalmau, a very nice person, born in Spain. It was located one block from the Plaza Grande, that is to say, in the very heart of the city. You found there all kind of items for home use, as today’s Almacenes Sukasa, but at a very small scale. Besides, most of the main business, even car dealers, had their showrooms in downtown. I remember Caterpillar with its place very close to our home.

But even entertainment was very simple. We had several cinemas, the most important being Teatro Bolívar, less than two blocks from Plaza Grande, and there were others at the both ends of the city, as Teatro Colón, located as far as 10 de Agosto and Colón, and Teatro México in Chimbacalle, very close to the railway station. The bullfight ring was Plaza Arenas, in calle Vargas, close to the Basílica, in the center of Quito. We enjoyed performances of the most famous matadors from Ecuador, Spain, México, etc., but by far not as many as the ones that we appreciated in Plaza de Iñaquito afterwards, from 1960 to 2011.

Talking bullfight rings, there is another one named Plaza Belmonte (1920), after the famous Spanish matador Juan Belmonte. But as I remember, there were not bullfights any more on it but only popular dancing events and masking balls, around New Year season. This small plaza, actually very well restored and that is a wonderful place worth to visit it, received at that time a number of circus shows, with some animals and the like.

And that brings us to the start of this brief note, as a sudden big shadow covered the light of our octagonal patio and a banging noise in the roof of our home indicated that something fell there. All our family run out of the dining room to see what has happened, and our surprise was great as we saw a condor, the biggest bird in the world, just standing over the tiled roof, without moving much.

Now, our home limited in the north side with Plaza Belmonte, and in circus times we could actually smell the lions and hear all the paraphernalia. Few minutes later a group of people from the circus came, went up through a big ladder that we had and calmly feed the big bird, after its failed freedom attempt, and took him back to captivity.

We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.

viernes, 30 de agosto de 2013

Life in Quito 60 Years Ago

 Very early in the morning, sometimes under a light rain, as it was mid April, we, some of Colegio San Gabriel’s high school students, used to meet at the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús in the old Quito and join the procession known as “Rosario de la Aurora”, Rosary of the Dawn. During nine days we visited several downtown neighborhoods, that is: one day San Juan, other day La Loma, other San Marcos, San Roque, El Tejar, etc. In each of the local churches we stopped to pray a few moments and then returned to La Compañía, where at 5h00 a.m. mass was celebrated. There was always many people attending and you could find every year most of the same persons.

I guess that it made us love the city more than anything else because we were having a spiritual experience, at an extraordinary hour, mixed with the visual exposure to charming streets and churches visited when seldom you may see people walking around. One notable highlight was the clear, strong and unforgettable voice of Don Jaime Acosta Velasco, always leading the singing and praying. He and many of the participants are gone now. However, the central point was returning to La Compañía. Even at that epoch, late 50’s and early 60’s, our beloved church was dazzling and sharing its beauty with everyone.

But afterwards we had to hurry home to have breakfast and rush to school.

We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.

martes, 30 de julio de 2013

What Quito means for me: A life of experiences in this beautiful city

 Old Quito has been something I have treasured along all my life. Not surprisingly I was born there at a time when the city was a bit more than the colonial downtown. Thus I grew up surrounded by magnificent monuments and neighborhoods. But don’t be misleaded: Many of them were sometimes in bad shape or neglected by simple centuries-long use with little care.

Nevertheless, when I was a teenager, my friends and I used to walk along those streets, sometimes very narrow, at early down or even before. At that time, and with very few people walking around, it was possible to recognize all the beauty and its historical connotations.

Now-a-days there have been a deep change: Most monuments have been refurbished and lighted so one can admire them in full view, and the streets show their charm.

Earthquakes –along centuries- have charged their toll, as well. Not surprisingly some temples such as La Merced, San Francisco, La Compañía, suffered badly. However it took great pains and lots of time to fix them up.

Last weekend my wife and I walked around old downtown and rediscoveded much of it: San Francisco was unbilievably sparkling with its own beauty, not to mention the most significant monuments as La Compañía, La Merced, Cantuña chapel, etc., which have all been put on at its best.

How lucky we are in that we can visit our old magnificent place whenever we feel fit, even some places that we have even avoided for decades, as San Marcos quarter, La Ronda, El Panecillo, La Loma… and so on.

We will be happy to organize a great adventure or holiday for you. Visit us at: www.surpasstravel.com, specialized in-land tour operator from Ecuador.