Indigenous cultures, volcanoes, and refugees

As the beat of the SST drum marches on, students shifted from a focus on Ecuador’s biodiversity to Ecuador’s ethnic diversity.  Depending how you subdivide it, Ecuador has 14 distinct languages and more than 30 unique people groups and subgroups.   The Ecuadorian constitution was amended significantly in 2008 to recognize that it is a multi-national country; in other words a nation of nations.  Students discovered that finding consensus among dramatically different people groups within extremely bio-diverse regions in a country the size of Colorado is quite daunting.

Throughout the week students learned about community development projects, educational and other challenges facing indigenous groups and the philosophical differences between the indigenous mindset on life and the western (North American/European) mindset.  At the end of the week we visited Otavalo and its crater lakes and massive market of indigenous handicrafts.  Students were in awe of the surrounding volcanoes and the clouds swirling in and among the massive peaks.

Upon our return to Quito we had the opportunity to work with the refugee project at the Quito Mennonite church.  The project continuously services the extensive needs of refugees fleeing violence and hardship primarily from neighboring Colombia and Venezuela.  We shared songs, artwork, food, and love with the refugees there that day.  We listened to their stories and talked about our shared human experiences.  One striking comment made by a Venezuelan refugee was that criminal and unethical behavior should never be attributed to a particular nationality.  They pointed out that there are criminals and unethical people among all nations of the world just as there are people who share love and compassion with one another among all nations of the world…..