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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Quito, Ecuador

After a couple of weeks in Perú, I decided to take a peek north into Ecuador and took a luxury bus from Lima. I was so surprised that it took 16 hours or so just to get out of Perú. When my bus stopped in Guayaquil, in Southern Ecuador, I decided to catch a cab to the airport, then fly to Quito, the nations capital.

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I was so surprised that it took my bus so long to get out of Perú and into Ecuador. Neither country is that large.

Quito was important to me because it is closer to two large black communities, and I had to make a choice. There was Esmeraldas on the west coast, 70% black, consisting mostly of descendants of escaped slaves who built fortresses for protection. I chose not to go there because I didn’t want to deal with the heat, the mosquitoes, nor the rumored crime and drugs. Instead, I chose to visit a quiet black community up in the Andes called Valle de Chota (Chota Valley) where descendants of emancipated slaves live. I was also attracted to Valle de Chota because it produced so many of Ecuador’s soccer stars who shined in the 2006 World Cup Games.

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Plaza Presidential (Presidential Plaza) in Quito, Ecuador

It was in Quito where I met Gloria who was introduced through an Ecuadorian Facebook friend living in Germany. Gloria was a wonderful guide who treated me like family. She escorted me to La Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world), right along the equator. This is the only touristy thing I did other than visit the Afro Ecuadorian Cultural Center, which was closed.

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Gloria, whom I met through a Facebook friend, showed me around Quito

Although Ecuador has a much larger black population than Perú, racism is alive and well. You will not find blacks, indigenous, or Asians working in banks or major office buildings, and very few working in shops. I didn't see any black police officers, bus drivers, or cab drivers. It’s hard for a black person to catch a taxi cab during certain hours, especially on Friday nights. In fact, one Friday evening while trying to get to Gloria's house, I had to wave five-dollar bills to get a taxi to accept me. It was so interesting how pleased and relaxed the driver became when he learned that I was a harmless African-American tourist and not the feared African-Ecuadorian native.