Week three of Ecuador SST was a deep dive into the rich and diverse indigenous culture present within this small country. Depending how you define the indigenous groups in Ecuador their are 14 distinct indigenous groups and as many as 34 subgroups. These groups speak 7 linguistically unique languages with many local dialects of those same languages. The diversity of the groups is enhanced by the topographical diversity of Ecuador including Amazonian rainforests, Andean highlands, and Pacific coastal regions. The week began with lectures from both Amazonian and Highland indigenous speakers and ended with a trip to the world famous Otavalo artesanal region. In Otavalo students met with an indigenous author, heard a variety of indigenous musical styles, and visited the Plaza de Ponchos, the largest artesanal market in South America.
Students wrestled with the complex issues of land rights, water rights, food systems, and deforestation that are pressing and significant issues in Ecuador today. Above all each of us here in Ecuador are constantly reminded of the disparities that exist throughout Ecuador and are challenged to find the ways in which we can work to reduce those disparities. We have also continued to see the ways in which we are united as human beings by ties of friendship, hospitality, and love for our neighbor.