Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | July 1, 2010

Tsssk, Tssskk, President Correa

I’ve been asking myself, for how long could this possibly go on…In the summer of 2000, I traveled to El Oriente, near the town of Tena in Ecuador. I’d signed up for an anthropology course sponsored by the University of Arizona. In the three or four weeks I was supposed to be there, I aimed to grasp the basics of the Quechua language.

I lasted ten days.

It was not the mosquitoes. Nor the bland food. Nor the bathing in the river, nor the fear of malaria or leishmaniasis. I’d had my shots; I was diligent with the water tablets. In fact, I was relishing in how liberating it was to live without electricity and to sleep on an air mattress. At dusk, crickets lullabied, and at dawn, birds I’d gotten to know intimately gave their wake-up call. I was in some sort of eco-vacation that included the perk of seeing for myself how globalization was affecting the indigenous of Ecuador.

Until the eight-year-old boy told me members of the FARC were bathing in the same river as us. And it was the FARC’s music we heard at night.

Niño, you like practical jokes. Are you sure?

“Si, son ellos, los guerilleros colombianos,” the boy said. “They are on vacation as well. On vacation from war.”

My companions were American, some college-aged students who were more interested in hallucinating with ayahuasca tea, and some middle-aged women who regarded this experience as their break from washing dishes and raising children, and none understood my worry. Oh, I saw it perfectly—my companions were American-born citizens traveling with American passports. Imagine the loot the FARC would find there; these gringos were begging to become hostages.

The next morning, before the birds sang, I was in the chiva bus out of there. Alone. On the bus, the chickens pecked at my feet and the old women, bringing their produce to Tena’s market, offered me bits of mango. The bus was cramped and on my lap, I held string sacs of their onions.

Then, it happened. The FARC warrior got on one stop after me.

My looks begged, Take me! The water bottle hanging from the back-pack and the baseball cap that headlined “Columbia University” said, She is a hostage who will give you headlines in the USA.  His Ak-47 was shiny. If I could smell the sweat of the woman next to me, a blend of oranges and cinnamon, she could sniff my anxiety.

There were two school-aged girls on the bus, and I sensed them, as well as the older women, lowering their heads when the guerrillero got on, avoiding eye-contact. I followed their cue, the baseball cap shielding me. From a periphery, I took in the pink bows ornamenting the little girls’ hair. My own hair, cascading under the cap, was very blonde from the days in the sun, and I sensed it glittering amongst everyone else’s darker skin and darker hair. This girl does not belong here, said the blond hair, said the Patagonia vest, said the hiking boots.

The bus halted. I looked up. FARC was the emblem on his sleeve. He looked fit, the muscles visible through his camouflage uniform. He nodded at me. I acknowledged the nod. He got off.

Because to tell this story still takes my breath away, I ask, If I saw the FARC freely roaming in Ecuador as far back as 2000, and an 8-eight year-old knows “yes, it’s the Colombian FARC,” President Correa, why do you insult our intelligence? It worries the world that you harbor terrorists, and then, you treat the government of your neighboring country as if they are the terrorists? Tttssskk. Tttssskk.

Links:

Colombia Tapped Ecuador President Correa’s Telephones, El Universo Reports

Correa warns against repeat raids on Farc

Correa: Ecuador still waiting for FARC computer

Colombia alleges Farc-Correa link

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Responses

  1. What a sad story this is. Thanks for the information.


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