Lying roughly 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador lie the Galapagos Islands, which are owned by Ecuador.
These islands, home to ecosystems and animals that do not exist anywhere else in the world, have long fascinated and inspired scientists around the world. Scientists like Charles Darwin, whose experience and observations in the Galapagos helped him develop his theory of natural selection.
For Ecuadorians, Nature is intertwined with Ecuadorian culture. It is so respected by the people and government that, in 2008, Nature was granted rights under Article 71 of the Ecuador Constitution.
Finding a Voice in Ecuador
To learn what it is like to live in this remarkable country I contacted Maria, a young mother who lives in Quito, Ecuador. I found Maria with the help of fellow ChicagoNow blogger John Arguella, one of the authors of Cubs Den. He and Maria are cousins.
Thank you, Maria. Thank you, John.
(Photos courtesy of Maria).
Talking to Maria
When you look out your window, what do you see?
I see Pichincha Volcano.
If I came to your house for dinner, what would you cook for me?
I will cook the traditional Ecuadorian potato soup, and as a principal dish a trout seasoned with onion, garlic, and pepper. Wrapped with a bijao leaf, it is served with rice, green banana, or yucca.
What myth or stereotype about Ecuador would you like to set straight?
Some people think that Ecuador is not a safe place to visit or in which to live. But, if it would not be a safe place, I would not have spent 37 years of my life enjoying my country.
What brings you joy? Hope?
Watching my son growing with happiness and health. He is the light of my life.
What are your greatest fears?
I am afraid of getting sick, dying, and leaving my son under the care of nobody.
In your opinion, what is the most unusual thing about life in Ecuador?
It would have to be that the products produced here in Ecuador are the same cost as products from abroad.
I would also like to say that we have our own roots originating from indigenous people. They still live and are examples of hard working, honest people who still live from products of nature.We should be proud of those roots and we must fight to maintain them intact.
What do you want the world to know about your country?
I want to show to the world that Ecuador is a small country but with a tremendous diversity on it. It has beautiful beaches, mountains, jungle, and Galapagos Island. You can go from the capital to the nearest beach in four hours, and in the middle of the road you can find a beautiful place called Mindo, it is an ecological place full of nature, birds and rivers, there you can enjoy practicing extreme sports.
What does your country do really well? What do you wish your country did better?
At present, my country is not doing well. Bad politicians are the poison of every nation, and we are not outside of that. The socialism that governs my country damages the evolution. We need the opposite of the socialism and outside investment that helps explore our natural resources and export to the world.
What is your opinion of the United States? Chicago?
I think Chicago is an elegant city with beautiful shopping malls, buildings, and the best scientific museums, but I am accustomed to life in the middle of nature. That is why I spend weekends outside of the big city.
Is there one song or book that best captures the essence of your culture?
Yes. A beautiful song is Yo naci aqui from Juan Fernando Velasco.
In one word, describe your country.