Soccer stars such as Agustin Delgado put his small black community of Valle de Chota on the map.
My visit to Valle de Chota, EcuadorI had a nice little cultural exchange with local youth who gave me the rundown on their community and asked about my community in the U.S.
A funny thing happened while riding the bus from Quito to Valle de Chota, a black community in the Andes. As I went towards the back to use the restroom, I struck up a conversation with one of the many black passengers. They all noticed my non-Ecuadorian accent and began to pay close attention. When I "busted" some English, they all fell out laughing in astonishment as though they never heard a black person speak English before.
Future world class soccer stars involved in a pick-up game.
My reception by the people of Valle de Chota was mixed. The fact that I was a total stranger entering the area cold and speaking Spanish with a funny accent made some people nervous. One lady went to get the police at the station right next door to her shop. I wished I could have taken her picture the way she wagged her finger and shook her head as if to say, “don’t bring your touristy ass up in here!” Instead, I ended up taking pictures of the police officers at the station as I explained why I was in their town. The officers thoroughly understood. I gave them each a Barack Obama post card and an Oakland, CA post card. I found this gesture to be very much appreciated throughout my travels in Latin America.
People were suspicious of me until we began to chat
As I walked around, I can see the looks I was getting from people as though they were wondering if I were Five-0 (an undercover cop checking them out). Then, of course, there were others who felt better about my presence once we began to chat. When I left Chota later in the afternoon, I felt so exhilarated to have to met and chatted with friendly men, women, and children as they gave me information about their community, and especially about their star soccer players. I was told about some venues where I could party that evening in Valle de Chota, and get a better feel for their culture; unfortunately, I already made a commitment to be back Quito with my friend Gloria who was giving a going-away party for her son headed for school in the Netherlands.
Cops wanted to know what I was doing in their town.
I got the impression that blacks in Valle de Chota were more in touch with their heritage than those in Quito. I remember asking blacks in Quito about the location of the Afro-Ecuadorian Museum, and they would immediately turn to a non-black Ecuadorian and ask about its location as though they themselves were oblivious to their own heritage.
Team Ecuador--Whipping Poland in 2006 World Cup