Ecuador: Where nature has rights… but do the people?

Ah Ecuador. A lifetime ago I had a girlfriend who lived there and sent back microscopically small handwritten letters about the Galapagos Islands, addictive soap operas and late night forest adventures. As a result, although I’ve never been, it holds a special place in my heart. I therefore decided to celebrate this week’s Armchair Travels by inviting said ex to dinner to see if I could make her food that reminded her of the past.

The first shock happened within moments of her arriving when she calmly explained that we weren’t a couple when she lived there and that at most, the letters were just “some flirting”. The second shock was that my Ecuadorian hat was probably from Peru… but other than such revisions to my personal history the evening seemed to be a success.

We started by drinking Blood Orange Camparis, following a recipe that was at least written by an Ecuadorian! This was followed by minestra, a lentil stew that sits in a bowl with an island of rice! It is served with finely sliced avocado and steak — the latter of which I swapped for finely sliced flavoured tofu. I put it down as a triumph.

For desert we ate chocolate, for Ecuador is another country that produces “single origin” bars. Sadly they were nowhere near as nice as the chocolate we got from Dominican Republic.

All of this week’s recipes came from Laylita.com, and there are 100s more veggie recipes on there so I decided to try some others out, such as a kind of potato pancake called llapingachos with peanut sauce (salsa de mani) and this tropical margarita (which gave me an excuse to use my pineapple cutter!)

But it is not just great food that Ecuador has bequeathed to the world! It was the first country to declare rights for nature and has just recently declared stronger land rights for Indigenous communities. They also were one of the first countries to come up with a plan to keep the “oil in the soil” — by getting paid to not exploit oil reserves in the Yasuni national park. To try to find out more about this initiative we watched the documentary Yasuni Man, which is rather more challenging about the positive face Ecuador shows to the world. It reveals that despite politicians’ good words, the reality on the ground is still very worrying. Having fought off missionaries and earlier oil industry incursions, the Waorani people are still fighting for their lives, and the most biodiverse forest on earth is still being destroyed. It is a powerful film that I would highly recommend if you need a reminder of why it’s worth fighting to reduce our fossil fuel dependency.

Human rights were also at the heart of this week’s book, the Queen of Water by Laura Resau and María Virginia Farinango which tells the story of a girl brought up in an Indígenas community whose parents send her off to work for a rich(ish) family. It is a young adult book and as such the story can come across as too simple and at times hard to believe, but none-the-less you can feel the honesty and the reason why this was a story that “had to be written.” It doesn’t attempt to romanticise Indigenous life but also doesn’t pull punches in terms of showing how poorly many people are treated. It is also a hopeful book though, so hopeful in fact that I am sure it will drive cynics mad!

So that just leaves the music. I imagine you are expecting pan pipes and I assure you that you can find them everywhere — even Dewsbury, but instead of focussing on that I chose to listen to some good old fashioned Ecuadorian psychedelia. I hope you will enjoy that too! Meanwhile I will prepare for Egypt.

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Armchair traveller

Armchair traveller

Zero carbon lockdown travel through books, drinks, food, films, music and the magic of living in multicultural #Birmingham.