Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Funny Ecuadorian Memory

 Juncal (Valle de Chota), Ecuador

While riding a long-distance bus into the Andes Mountains in Ecuador to visit a small black community that produces many of Ecuador's best soccer players, I struck up a conversation with a young black teen wearing a New York baseball cap. I asked him in Spanish if he knew what he is wearing. 

 Retired Afro-Ecuadorian World Cup soccer star 
Augustín Delgado

I found that in many of the foreign countries I have visited (14 to date), people like to wear American garments with English writing across as a fashion statement not knowing what is written. Wisely, this young man pronounced “New York” very well versus the Spanish name Nueva York. I continued the conversation in Spanish telling him that i grew up in New York City. 

Afro-Ecuadorian Cultural Center

That got the attention of other Afro-Ecuadorians riding the bus as they looked at me astonished that a black American was riding among them. A mestizo woman who also overheard me asked me a question in English. When I answered her in English, there was a roar of laughter so loud and hard that I thought my eardrums were going to pop.

My dear, late friend Gloria Chalá who showed me
 the ropes while visiting her country (RIP)

What was so funny? These young Afro-Ecuadorians never heard a black man speak any other language than Spanish, let alone English. For me this was just another indication that we members of the African diaspora throughout the western hemisphere have a lot to learn from and about each other.

My place of residence in Ecuador's capital, Quito

In Oakland, CA where I have been living for many years, I received similar reactions from African Americans (and Mexican Americans) who are not used to hearing a black man speak Spanish. People would look me right in the face and ask me if I am black. Duhhhhhh! What else could I be? A Mexican woman told one of my black co-workers that I was not black.

Freddy Cevallos, a university Afro-Ecuadorian Studies Consultant who met with me on my second trip to Ecuador

We black folks in the western world, from Canada all the way down to Argentina speak English, Spanish, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Creole, Patois, Geechee/Gullah, and Garífuna. We have a lot to learn about how our African roots evolved in our respective environments since the slave trade.

The soccer field where young black youth train to become Ecuadorian superstars.


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