The Páramo

The short, raw background story below - translated into English on Oct 20, then translated again from the author’s updated Spanish version on Oct 29 - was shared publicly by an indigenous friend William Eduardo Paña from the province of Chimborazo in Ecuador, who currently lives in the States. It was a short history he shared in light of the recent protest movement in Ecuador, and I share it with you just to give a little first-hand context of Ecuadorian history and current events and culture, particularly with respect to the indigenous people and their struggle. It also corrects and deepens some of the context that I shared in the last post - better to hear it all first-hand!

First a little background: The use of the words ‘indio’ and ‘páramo’ have a strong derogatory tone in reference to indigenous people. Indio, meaning indian, is the derogatory word for indigenous. The word ‘páramo’ roughly means a moor or wasteland, a highland that is vast and largely infertile. These are located in the colder, higher altitudes in the Andes Mountains. Considered the harshest and least desirable place to live, it is the modern home for the indigenous of the mountains regions. The páramo is a main focus of William’s story, which, as you’ll see, is also in part a response to the use of this term by Jaime Nebot, the long-time mayor of the coastal city of Guayaquil and a frequent candidate for Ecuadorian presidency who has a long history of public friction with indigenous political and popular leadership.

Here is a picture of me in a páramo, where lie the villages of Alao and Llactapamba that I visited on a few occasions a few years ago:


I hope you enjoy the text.

Why was I born in the Páramo of Ecuador?

Because my ancestors, The Puruhaes "were not born with the soul of slaves" and were exiled to the Páramo when they saw their freedom threatened. Originating in the valleys of the inter-Andean alley, perhaps Liribamba or Tapi, they have survived in the Páramo for about 500 years. They defended our homeland with their blood and have cultivated our cultural and historical heritage until today. Instead, the ancestors of the useless, miserable, “shua” (thief) Jaime Nebot arrived in the country only about 100 years ago. Since then they have only been living as parasites taking advantage of the country and sowing hatred and racism in our people. Finally, he has pronounced that the natives "stay in the Páramo", thus pretending to insult us. Without realizing in his great ignorance that the word wasteland is very significant for us.

This loafer from the always complex Middle East obviously hates Ecuador and its culture. And what is worse he has shown to know almost nothing about our history. The man of the Páramo is and will be much more Ecuadorian than he. And on this note, as the man of the Páramo that I am, let me give you a lesson in the history and courage of the Ecuadorian man.

My ancestors lived in peace until the Incas broke into their lives. They resisted heroically for 50 years until in Yaguar Cocha they paid dearly their defeat. Without accepting defeat, however, they retreated to the eastern region. When they finally managed to expel them, the Spanish invasion came to those who also fought alongside Rumiñahui in the battle of Tiocajas and continued fighting until the fall of Quito. Again, they refused to accept defeat and returned to the east.

In Sevilla del Oro (now Macas), they were forced to work in those gold mines, but never settled for their fate. Allying with the Shuar they organized a bloody revolt and escaped from there. The strongest marched to the top of the mountain range, the Páramo. They were my most direct ancestors. Seeing that the invader did not dare to fight in that inhospitable geography, they decided to plant their flag and stay there. That land of contrast sheltered them and provided the freedom they sought. They embraced their extreme conditions and saw their traditions and customs preserved, but yearned to return one day to the land of their ancestors.

At the beginning of the Republican era, they passed through a learning stage. They dominated the Spanish language and amassed fortune with the raising and commercialization of cattle. That caused envy in the landowners (hacendados, owners of haciendas, or large tracts of land)  and once again they were invaded. But history began to change and this time they were not willing to give in. Open-field battles were fought in the open plains of Atillo. Brave and hardened riders rammed into those hacenderos and they cracked their weapons over their backs. But the fight was also in the legal field. They filed a lawsuit against the Ecuadorian state and sacrificed their fortune to pay the fees of renowned lawyers in Quito.

Their fight paid off and after 30 years of litigation, also a month of October, Atillo won the trial and was declared the country's first hacienda-free community. Thus "we kicked out" the hacenderos. After that they lived free and in peace for a few decades. Always loving and maintaining the tried and true customs and traditions of Ecuador. There I was born, exiled in the Páramo, free and beautiful land. And I had the happiest childhood possible with the care and teaching of my mother Delia. You can only ask to breathe pure air, drink from natural springs, amid friendly people and a spectacular landscape with lagoons, rivers, and green meadows.

My parents saw that the country had changed and that freedom now had another dimension. Although they loved the Páramo, they saw the need for their children to return to the land of their ancestors. In addition, they saw that education was a primary weapon for these times to keep up with the rest of the country. I had to take that step, with courage and determination, but also with tears I left my place, my parents and my friends maybe forever. One cold night I rode a white-faced red horse. My father Alberto, a cowboy with a dry character, broad shoulders, and a slow voice, took me to a point where we could board an old and dusty truck. I was trembling with cold and fear, he comforted me.

And on a beautiful and sunny morning I saw the land where my ancestors had lived years ago. I saw the colossal volcanos Chimborazo, Carihuairazo, Tungurahua, and Altar all clear and cloudless, as if giving me a welcome hug, and far below was the great valley of the Puruhaes. In my tender mind I accepted that new battles would come for me just like my ancestors. I also agreed that the stage would be the city and classrooms. But this time the enemies were new, invisible, and more macabre: racism, discrimination, ignorance, and injustice. Just turned 12, I finished primary school there.

Nebot should know that this story is repeated perhaps in every citizen who went out to repudiate him and his puppet of Carondelet (the seat of Ecuadorian government) this October. The Páramo is a symbol of resistance, perseverance, hope, and freedom. What does Nebot know about that, as he has only lived taking advantage of the country and sending the money to tax havens. He has never respected our history and identity. Of course it is understandable, as his roots are from Lebanon and Catalonia. His limited ability to see the reality of the country makes him pronounce reproachful insults. Unfortunately he was born on our soil. I wish he was born far away.

There is a phrase from Plato that makes me reconsider things: "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors." I have been a little apathetic to politics, but this abuse against the weak pushes me to be closer and vigilant. I'm going to put in my grain of sand to prevent Nebot from ever being president of Ecuador. This uprising was special, we saw that our roots are alive, people ready and able to govern our Ecuador. It is time to bloom again. No more resistance, it's time for the counteroffensive. It is time to return to the valley.