Sunday, September 9, 2012

ECUADOR: Flagging Taxis While Black

Scores of empty cabs passed me by, ignoring my signal 
to stop in the Mariscal District of Quito, Ecuador

When I arrived in the Mariscal District of Ecuador's capital, Quito, better known as Gringolandia (Gringo Land), where so many foreigners, expats, and tourists stay, that was when I began to have trouble catching cabs. Droves of empty cabs would pass me by, especially on Friday nights, ignoring my signal to stop. I was offended, but not surprised, when one cab purposely bypassed me to pick up a white man about 25 feet from where I was standing. It seems easier for a black woman to catch a cab, as my friend Gloria walked me to an intersection one evening and flagged a taxi for me. When the cabbie learned that I was from the U.S., he asked me to sit up front with him, and began questioning me about my work and my salary. I inflated the salary. LOL.

One Friday evening while trying to get to back to Gloria's house on the other side of town, I approached a cab who had just let off a white couple. The driver wagged his finger to indicate no way!  However, he abruptly changed his mind when I started waving five-dollar bills. Now that was funny!. 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. This all seemed too familiar as Black foreigners in the US are often perceived to be less threatening than we home grown African-Americans. I personally know of blacks from other countries who loudly thicken their foreign accents around white folks so they can have the same impact I inadvertently had on this cab driver in Ecuador.

It was an Afro-Ecuadorian friend who works at a local university who told me that there were black guys from his home province of Esmeraldas, where descendants of runaway slaves live, who'd catch a bus to Quito to rob tourists and cabbies in the Mariscal/Gringolandia District of Quito and head back to Esmeraldas. Cabbies, like so many here in the U.S., look at me and assume that I'm just a Black man from the streets with evil intentions. It makes no difference how I carry myself, how I'm dressed, or whether I'm carrying books or groceries. They fear the color of my skin, and nothing more. The Maricscal District of Quito, Ecuador made me feel right at home!

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