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As the Beans Burn

Today is a lovely day in Cotacachi—sunny and warm. And quiet. A slight breeze teases the shiny green leaves of the orange hibiscus on our terrace. It’s almost noon and all I hear is soft Latin music wafting up from a nearby tienda. No indigenous marching in circles, whistling and gesticulating. No riot police in gray and black uniforms standing unified and alert as the celebrants approached their ranks.

And no tear gas. Yesterday Gary walked out on our terrace to watch the marchers heading for the main square. He immediately ran back into the apartment, red-faced and sputtering. It seems like overkill to me, since the crowds appeared intent and serious but quite orderly.

The same thing happened last year. One of the three deaths occurring during the San Juan celebrations in Cotacachi was the result of tear gas sprayed by police.

Today’s lull is just a respite from the boisterous activities of yesterday. An Ecuadorian friend told us that San Juan is celebrated by a different group each day and night, with children on the first day, older men the second, culminating with marches by families, including young children and women. Evidently the march of the women brings a peaceful end. There is even a day that the gringos can dance with them.

I am wondering what to prepare for lunch and then stop to ask myself if I have left anything cooking on the stove. Our kitchen is separated from the living room/office by three doors and a patio, so when I am concentrating on work and writing, I often forget about anything else, including beans bubbling on the stove.

Only the acrid odor assaulting my nose reminds me of my culinary task. My nose is not an early enough warning system and I forget to set the bright green timer we bought, which sits prominently but ignored alongside my computer.

Both Gary and I have forgotten who is winning the contest for the most beans burned, but we do know we have ruined 3 pots between us and will probably have to repaint the white walls of our apartment. Right now I am hungry for the taste of those fat green, white and red beans we buy in the Sunday market, but rarely get to taste because of the above-mentioned cycle of disaster. In this high altitude they require longer cooking and the water evaporates more quickly.

Oh well, Cotacachi has a surfeit of restaurants, food stands and street vendors with more than enough variety to satisfy my hunger. Rather than worry about the hours it will take to “cook” more beans, I think I’ll just follow my nose for more immediate gustatory gratification. Where is that roasted chicken smell coming from?

It Starts Again

From a short distance I hear new sounds. The lilt of bamboo flutes, the deep resonance of a conch shell, the stomp of boots in cadence. Heading down Bolivar Calle is a small group of men from the lower communities, dressed in black hats, white shirts and chaps.

Shortly afterward a larger crowd of men outfitted in oversized black hats and black costumes approaches, led inadvertently by a woman in traditional dress holding her cell phone over her head to capture the scene.

This second group is somewhat more ominous, louder. No flutes, just whistling and chanting, waving sticks as the police scurry. And a bit later, another group wearing black comes into view. Each group represents a different indigenous barrio from the surrounding area.

It is so interesting to feel the energy. Once cannot help but get caught up in the excitement and adrenalin. In fact, I am feeling the urge to head out onto the street and take pictures.

Stay tuned for further developments as the week of San Juan unfolds.

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