Monday, September 5, 2011

Corn and Tourism

Now those are two things worth celebrating. These past two weeks have been a big deal for Sangolqui and the surrounding towns in the valley as they have been holding various events to celebrate their annual festival of Maíz y Turismo. We Program Directors have had the opportunity to collaborate with the Ecuadorian Red Cross during some of these events. We are lucky enough to live right next to the Monumento de Rumiñahui, a large statue of the famous Incan warrior for which our district is named. The festival’s parade route ended right in front of the monument, and a majority of the festival’s events happened just a short walk away from the Manna house.

Last Saturday’s parade was a bigger event than any of us had expected, with roads closed off all around the monument and thousands of people crowding the streets (this made getting to the Centro a difficult task). During the event, I had the pleasure of volunteering in the Red Cross tent where I was taught how to give an IV… and then given the opportunity to practice on a fellow volunteer. Luckily for everyone involved, I was never called upon to use my newfound skill. The parade lasted hours, with a continuous flow of musicians, indigenous dancers, Sangolqui beauty queens, and small children dressed like corn. Since people from all over the district showed up for the parade, we had an awesome opportunity to mingle with community members and spread the word about Manna Project.

This weekend’s Corrida de Toros (bullfight) was another story altogether. Traditional bullfights in Spain involve trained Matadors and skilled horsemen collaborating to kill a bull. There is a lot of controversy over the sport, and in some parts of the world it is prohibited to kill the bull in front of the crowd. Sangolqui’s toros give the bulls a chance to fight back. A few days before the Corrida a makeshift ring and stands are constructed out of wood and… what appears to be socks, to hold the bull, the participants, and hundreds of spectators. Unarmed, untrained Ecuadorian men (and once in a great while women) enter the ring with the bull to try their hand as amateur bullfighters, or just for the thrill of being close to such a powerful animal. Participants antagonize the bull and then run terrified for the stands when the bull starts to chase them. Props to our very own Nicole Hamilton and our friend Evo Vaca for being the only mujeres to enter the ring this year. Although it is very entertaining to watch, people do get badly injured during the festival. Needless to say, volunteering with the Red Cross this weekend was a very different experience than helping out during the parade. Our future health care professional Emily was thrilled at the chance to help the injured toreros, and has spent the last three days helping out in the tent. I on the other hand saw enough the first day and have officially retired as a Red Cross volunteer.

Nicole and I volunteering in the Red Cross tent

Some very happy corn
View of the backside of the stands for the bulls

Los toros de Sangolqui

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