Monday, March 27, 2006
The Panama Hat Factory
Down a narrow alley way, off a busy street in Cuenca, we found one of several hat factories. We were cordially greeted and taken on a tour of the small factory where our guide showed us the steps in producing a fine Panama hat.
He showed us samples of the toquilla fiber and how some hats are very finely woven of thin strips of the fiber and less expensive hats are woven from thicker fibers. A form is used to weave the crown around to ensure that it will be even and the correct size.
After the hat is woven into a generic form it is bleached to the typical white color and then pressed over a form to give it one of several distinctive shapes.
Notice the metal forms that the hats are shaped by.
This is the press that is used for shaping the hat.
Panama hats range in price from about $30 up to hundreds of dollars for a finely woven hat. The best hats can be rolled up and folded and packed in a suitcase with no damage to the fiber.
Friday, March 24, 2006
A Day in the campo
Unlike the city houses, the country house has a big yard with grass and plenty of places to relax, both inside and on the porch.
The hammock proved to be a popular spot. Even the dogs managed a nap in the hammock with Eliana.
Lobo struck a meditative pose in the hammock.
Chela, of course, prepared a huge meal. Cayo fixed ceviche with shrimp—delicious! Everyone found a spot to doze or watch the kids play in the yard.
Pedro's little boy, also named Pedro, seemed to especially enjoy the sunshine and open space and delighted us by being as adorable as only a 2-year-old can be.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
A little history of the Ano Viejo burning
I don't know if this story is true, but sounds plausible. (though I don't know that burning the clothing would have any effect on the spread of malaria) It does seem that this is a uniquely Ecuadorean custom. I love the idea and found it both fun and festive and, at some level, contemplative and quite cathartic.
Friday, March 17, 2006
Lobito y Maria Jose
On new years day, Emily and I went with Eliana and Lobo to get his new Christmas bike. We took his old bike to a neighbor to give to their child, then on to the bike shop to retrieve his new one. On the way back, Lobo rode his bike. We stopped at a school yard, where he proceeded to show off for some other kids. Unfortunately, the bike got the best of him. His finger became entangled in the brake handle as the two separated and resulted in a trip to the emergency room to repair his finger. He spent the rest of the day and evening with a huge bandage on his finger. He was pretty brave. I don't think it was his first encounter with pain. The first photo shows him trying a circus act. The second one was taken just as he was falling.
The other Lobo theme throughout the New Years holiday was that he had a very loose tooth that was driving him (and everyone else) crazy. He couldn't leave it alone. Andy and Cayo kept wanting to tie a string between the tooth and a doorknob and shut the door. But Lobo didn't want any of that. Besides, if he actually lost the tooth, he would relinquish much of the attention he could get by wiggling and turning it. Finally, sometime on New Year's eve, his mom tired of the drama and grabbed Lobo by the head and yanked it out.
Here is a picture of the two of them following the crime. He is not really in anguish, just posing for the picture. He is sort of a drama king.
Lobo's sister, Maria Jose, is a sweet girl of about 14. She is very patient with her brother, despite his efforts to irritate her. She is an outstanding salsa dancer and she loves her dog. Her grandma, Chela, is teaching her to play chess. I played a few games with her. She is pretty good, but I found myself letting her win sometimes. I hope she doesn't read this.
I have enjoyed spending time with both of these kids. They are being raised by their extended family and they are the recipients of much love. On New Year's day, they tried to teach me a card game. MJ's english is pretty good and Lobo knows a few words. We had fun.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Ringing out the old year
Around 10:30 we gathered in the diningroom for a big dinner. You can see the tamales we had made earlier, set out as our appetizer course. They were followed by soup, roast pork, potatoes, avocados, salad, broccoli, corn and dessert of preserved figs and confections.
As midnight approached, Chela hustled everyone away from the table and out into the street with our figure.
As the new year approached, the figure was set on fire and everyone gathered around to watch it burn. We could see similar fires up and down the street and there was music and fireworks as well.
At the stroke of midnight Chela circulated with a bowl of grapes and urged everyone to quickly eat 12 grapes to ensure good luck in the new year. As the fire burned down, everyone took turns jumping over it, signifying leaving the old year behind and jumping into the new.
Little Lobo appeared dressed like the widow of the old year, another custom carried out by children, and went around begging for coins.
Once the fire burned out, we went back in the house for dancing. Emily and Cayo, on the left, love to dance together and are fun to watch. Even Andy, who had earlier declared he did not dance, was up dancing with Cayo's sister, Paola. The party was still in full swing an hour or so later, when we headed back to our hotel. The next morning the streets were littered with the burned remains of many, many Ano Viejos.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
As Terry said, they are for sale on almost every street corner and they vary considerably in quality. I think most people buy a mask instead of making one. They are not very expensive and many are made to represent celebrities. You can buy an entire dummy with mask, but many folks just buy the mask separately and make their own body to put it on.
Cayo's sister, Eliana, bought a mask for her son, Wolfgang. Now, there will be more posts later regarding this precocious lad, but I must tell you the story of his name. He was named after a German priest who is a friend of the family. His nickname is Lobo. Get it? Anyway everyone calls him Lobo or Lobito.
The first photo below is of Lobo in the mask. Behind him are his mother, Cayo, and Emily. The second picture is of Terry trying on the mask. I don't think this mask is a caricature of anyone in particular. I think it just appealed to Eliana and Lobo.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Old Year/ New Year in Cuenca
The yellow banners indicate that there was a competition being held for these large displays, but there were also many small displays on balconies and in doorways of businesses and homes. Most families buy or make an ano viejo figure, that represents the old year. These are displayed during the day and burned at midnight on New Year's Eve. We also saw ano viejo figures displayed on cars and taxis and many people in masks around town.
Probably the most common ano viejo figure this year represented Lucio Gutierrez, the former president of Ecuador who was ousted earlier in the year and fled the country in a helicopter. His rather large nose made for some wicked caricatures, like the fellow on the motorcycle in his Lucio mask.
Even the new Pope made an appearance.
This one shows Gutierrez in his helicopter and the grim reaper pointing to a boat labeled "Coyote Titanic" which refers to a tragic event last year when a group of Ecuadoreans, who were paying to be smuggled, illegally, to the United States drowned. The crew saw that the boat was sinking and made a hasty departure in the life boats, leaving all the passengers with no way to escape or stay afloat.
Monday, March 06, 2006
Paso del Ninos
Terry and I rose before Andy and decided to go across town to the Molina's house to see Emily and Cayo and Cayo's family. We started walking and when we got to Parque Calderon there were a bunch of people getting ready for a parade. We learned later that it is called Paso del Ninos, or the children's parade.
As you can see from these pictures, there were lots of children dressed in fancy costumes. The boys had painted mustaches and beards. There were also horses loaded down with complex collections of food and decorations. There was probably quite a lot of symbolism that escaped us. The people were very friendly and loved to have their pictures taken. We hung around for awhile but didn't stay for the actual parade. We found a taxi to take us to the Molina's house.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Posada del Angel, Cuenca
Like so many of the Colonial buildings it is built around a central courtyard, now the lobby, and covered by a big skylight.
The sun pours in and bathes the interior in sunlight and warmth. Along the balconies are seating areas with comfy chairs and lots of reading materials. Breakfast is served in the sunny breakfast room.
You can step out onto your outside balcony and watch the traffic on the cobblestoned streets or the city coming to life first thing in the morning. Ray caught this fellow dozing on his balcony in the next building.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Nubia, and her husband Diego, have a son who is about 2 years old, I think. He is extremely photogenic, as you can see in the picture with his Mom. His name is Pedro, after his uncle. A friend of the family, Erika, was visiting and we enjoyed talking with her about her work in the jungle. I remember her from when we visited their family in 1999.
Terry and Emily helped Nubia make lunch which was carrot soup. While they were cooking, Andy and I entertained Pedro and the baby. We had a fun time cooking, eating, and visiting. Cayo wasn't with us. He had to work and flew to Cuenca on a later flight than us. Diego came home for lunch so we got to see him also.