Ecuador’s Indigenous Protest Mining in the Amazon Rainforest

March 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

Indigenous women perform a ritual during a march in Ecuador to protest against the policies of President Rafael Correa which they say will result in more mining in the Amazon region and threaten the environment and their way of life.

Protests in Ecuador yesterday shut down the capital city of Quito while indigenous protested the governments signing of new mining contracts.  The Amazon Rainforest is one of the most bio-diverse areas in the world.  As the largest tract of tropical rainforest in the Americas, one in 10 species in the world can be found within the Amazon Basin.

This area is also home to a number of indigenous groups, including groups within the Brazilian Amazon which have remained without contact from the outside world.  For decades the Amazon Region has also been exploited for its wealth of natural resources including deforestation, oil production, and mining operations.

Environmentalists are concerned about loss of biodiversity that will result from destruction of the forest, and also about the release of the carbon contained within the vegetation, which could accelerate  global warming.  As regions within the Amazon Basin continue to succumb to eco-side the many of the indigenous groups from the area have become the voice for the Amazon through community based conservation efforts.

Quito Tour Bus

December 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

teaser quito tour bus from santiago proaño on Vimeo

A new option for travelers wanting to tour the Quito began this month with the Quito Tour Bus.  Located high in the Andes Mountains, Quito is the capital of Ecuador and a UNESCO world heritage site.  Acclaimed as the best preserved colonial city in Latin America, the old city of Quito is a beautiful city with cobblestone streets, large parks, fountain filled plazas and art filled churches.

The Quito Tour Bus makes it possible for visitors to view the wonders of Quito on a safe and comfortable double decker bus.  The service which began on December 1st offers a multilingual tour of Quito and the unlimited ability to hop on and off during the day.

The bus stops at twelve different locations along a pre-determined route that features the modern financial district of Avenida Naciones Unidas to the Historic Old City and runs between 9am and 7pm.  As well as a night route that departs at 7pm.  The cost of the bus is $12 per person with a 50% discount for children and the elderly.

The service is similar to the Guayaquil Vision Tour service available in Guayaquil and the two services currently operating in Lima.

Hacienda Pesillo

September 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

By Martí Quintana

The Ecuadorian hacienda Pesillo, built on the land once owned by conquistador Francisco Pizarro and was also the birthplace of the movement for the liberation of indigenous people in the early twentieth century, will be restored after decades of neglect to regain their social and symbolic value.

Built in the seventeenth century, the house fell into disuse in the mid-twentieth century and was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1987.

 The Ecuadorian government will invest more than $ 2.5 million (approximately $ 3.4 million) in the recovery of this architectural jewel, which in its three patios, several rooms and porches, drink and colonial styles, Renaissance and Romanesque.

“There are many purposes to improve the quality of life of indigenous people and farmers in the area, but also entails a historical and heritage value,” he told Efe coordinator of Ecuador’s Ministry of Heritage, María Fernanda Espinosa.

After the reconstruction, the space will include everything from a medical center, rooms for training sessions with the villagers, an administrative area, a museum, a collection center of the milk produced in the area, and even an inn, where the inhabitants work area.

The hacienda and its green areas have 12,000 square meters and stands on land that belonged to Pizarro, who in the sixteenth century was defeated the Inca Empire, which encompassed the Ecuadorian Andes.

The estate was managed by the Catholic Order of Mercy and parents also hosted a “two indigenous women struggling for the right to land and for Indian education,” which were “concerning the struggles in Latin America,” according Espinosa. It was Amaguaña and Dolores Cacuango Transit, who fought the early twentieth century Indian exploitation from this corner of Canton Cayambe, Ecuador’s florist center today in the Andes.

Therefore, the historian Maria Elena Porras highlights the historical significance of the place, where in his opinion “originate indigenous movements’ in Ecuador.

Its restoration “is the accumulation of all these productivity gains, cultural and social factors that are of direct impact for 5,000 people in the community and 20,000 people across the region,” Echevarria said Oswaldo, a resident of Pesillo who participated in the development of project.

Judging by the state of some walls and ceilings, practically in ruins, as experts say, the work will be arduous.

“We must rehabilitate the structures that make these materials, flooring (floor), decks and walls, many of whom were collapsed, with cracks in the roofs, poor drainage and engineering,” remarked the director of Project Ministry of Heritage, Joaquin Moscoso.

Beyond the symbolic recovery, several neighbors said they hoped Pesillo that this work is also a boost for the area to prevent the migration of young people to other places in Ecuador or abroad.

“As there are no jobs many people most migrate,” said Toribio Compues, who wished that the Hacienda Pesillo would include a school and college.

 The inhabitants of this place also hope that there are “medical services, sports centers and parks,” concluded Juan Lechón, another neighbor, who said the proposal is, above all, “very good for tourism.”

Hacienda Pesillo is located in the Pinchincha Province north of Quito near the town of Cayambe.

7 Wonders of Quito

July 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Quito is the capital of Ecuador.  The historic center of Quito was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978 as it is the best preserved, least altered colonial city in Latin America.  Located high in the Andes Mountains Quito has stunning baroque churches, broad plazas, cobblestone streets and ornate architecture featuring stone carvings and ornate iron works.

Quito was named the Capital of Culture of the Americas this year.  To celebrate the beauty of the city the Municipal District of Metropolitan Quito has launched a new website the 7 Wonders of Quito.  While the site is in Spanish many of the photographs are beautiful and are a wonderful representation of why most visitors to the Galapagos Islands choose to fly via Quito.

View the 7 Wonders of Quito.

Ecuador makes plans to avoid measels outbreak

July 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Measles is a disease we learned in school no longer exsited or at least was no longer a modern day threat due to childhood immunizations.  However in recent years many parents have opted against the vaccination due in part to a theory that ties the vaccine to the onset of autism.  The result of this decision has led to recent outbreaks of both the measles and German measels (rubella) in Europe and the U.S.

The government of Ecuador has launched a campaign to avoid the spread of the disease to their country.  They are requesting all travelers who are not already vaccinated to receive a vacination at least 15 days prior to their arrival.  Additionally tourist agents, hotel staff, airport and migration authorities in Ecuador are all being vaccinated as a preventative measure.  Travelers to Ecuador who have not received their shots can take advantage of health centers at the Quito and Guayaquil Airport where visitors can receive the immunizations free of charge.

New Airport in Quito to Open in 2012

June 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

The new 683 million dollar airport servicing Quito, Ecuador is now 78% complete.  Officials predict that the airport will be finished by April 2012 and in full operation by October 2012.

The new airport will replace the existing Mariscal Sucre Airport in the center of the city. It will be located in Tababela, roughly 15 miles outside Ecuador’s capital heading north towards Otavalo.

The existing Mariscal Sucre Airport is located within the Quito city limits and has a limited runway as well as noise restrictions.  The new airport will open up the ability for Quito to receive larger planes as well as increase exports from the country.

The majority of travelers visiting the Galapagos Islands fly into Quito and visit the city’s historic old city prior to visiting the Galapagos. 

The Guayaquil Airport on the coast of Ecuador was voted the #2 Airport  by Skytracks Researchbehind the Lima Airport.   The new airport in Quito, will provide passengers with similar services as both the Guayaquil and Lima airports ushering in a new level of service for air travel to Quito.

Inti Raymi at the Pyramids of Cochasqui

June 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

The trenches on the top of Pyramid 13 mark the solstices and equinoxes each year

Cochasqui is located approximately 40 miles (65 km) north of Quito virtually on the equator 0°3′ and 35″. Here at an elevation of 9,000 feet (3100 km) between 950 AD and 1250 AD the Cara people built a series of 15 pyramids and 20 funeral knolls that is the largest solar calendar in the Americas.

The flat topped pyramids were constructed out of adobe and a volcanic material (cangahua) and have perfect alignment with the surrounding mountains. The name Cochasaqui translates to Lake of the Stars, undoubtedly due to the incredible panoramic vista from the site. Here on this high Andean plateau during the day you are able to see all the major volcanoes of the area including Cayambe, Pichincha (and the city of Quito), Antisana, Cotopaxi and Illinizas. While at night you can observe the stars of the northern and southern hemisphere at the same time.

The pyramids were covered by dirt to protect them when the Incas invaded the area. A serious study of the area did not begin until 1933 when German archaeologist and treasure hunter Max Uhle destroyed the largest pyramid, No. 9, in the hunt for gold.

Today only a few of the pyramid have been partially excavated.  The most important is pyramid 13.    On the top of this pyramid are several trenches built into the stone top.  One of the trenches aligns perfectly, casting a shadow in the trench with the sunrise on December 21st, the summer solstice.  While others mark both the equator and the equinoxes. A final trench marks the sunset on June 21st the winter solstice.  The trenches have a tilt of 23.5′  corresponding to the axis of the earth.

Each year between June 19 – 22 locals come to Cochasqui to celebrate the festival of Inti Raymi a festival celebrating the passage of the sun. This is a celebration that has been passed down through generations.  In ancient times their ancestors would meet here on the solstices and equinoxes  to celebrate the solar seasons.  These seasons indicated the time of sowing and harvesting. Potatoes, corn, beans and quinoa were the most important crops for the inhabitants of the area. Shamans would gather at the sacred site of the pyramids in order to bless the multitudes of people who come and to bless the coming harvests. The shamans believed the sun to be the true “giver” of life on our planet and that Cochasqui is a special place to honor the sun.

Ecuador asks US Ambassador to leave in response to WikiLeaks Cable

April 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

Ecuador declared US Ambassador Heather Hodges a “persona non grata” today and asked her to leave the country in response to a cable signed by her and released by WikiLeaks about the corruption in the Ecuadorian Police.

Foreign Minister Ricard Patino said in a press conference “We have asked to leave the country in the shortest time possible” he further clarified “in no way is this intended to effect relations with the United States”.

Ecuador is not recalling their ambassador in Washington because this is not an action against the United States but against an official who made these statements.

In the 2009 diplomatic cable the US Embassy in Ecuador said that “corruption is widespread in the ranks of the police” in that country. The document described Jaime Hurado Vaca who resigned his post in May 2009 “position “to extort cash and property, misappropriate public funds, facilitate human trafficking, and obstruct the investigation and prosecution of corrupt colleagues.” The cable was published Monday by the Madrid newspaper El Pais.

It also alleges that President Rafeal Correa was aware of this points and wanted a head of police who could be easily manipulate.

While the ambassador is being asked to leave the country, the US Embassy in Quito remains open as does the Consulate in Guayaquil.  The action does not affect US relations with the country or visitors to the country in anyway.

Quito – American Capital of Culture 2011

January 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

For those traveling to the Galapagos Islands your international itinerary includes either Quito or Guayaquil. While Guayaquil is the commercial center of Ecuador, Quito is rich in history and culture.

- From the Quito Convention Bureau

Declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO 32 years ago, Quito was named last September American Capital of Culture 2011 by the International Bureau of Cultural Capitals (IBOCC).

In 2011, Quito will be a global cultural reference point, motivating locals and foreigners alike to learn about the city’s treasures and understand why it has been chosen as the American Capital of Culture.

One of these treasures is the Historic Centre, an artistic jewel covering 320 hectares, with monuments and 5.000 building listed as heritage sites. Quito’s Historic Centre is considered the largest, least altered, and best preserved in America.

Quito was the cradle of ancient peoples and cultures that over the centuries have converted the city into a unique place. Nowadays, it amasses four centuries of memories, creation, faith, art, ancestral knowledge, consciousness and rebelliousness, life, determination and hope.

Throughout history, Quito has played host to religious orders, scientists, warriors, architects, emperors, and a great number of men and women that understood the value of this land and contributed to the development of this metropolis.

Thus, being declared the American Capital of Culture is not merely a title; it is a merit to all those generations that transformed this city into the cultural treasure it is today.

Getting to the Galapagos Islands – planning your Galapagos Island Trip

May 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked from people wanting to go to the Galapagos is how do I get there?

You will begin your trip by flying to Ecuador – either Quito (UIO) or Guayaquil (GYE). Quito is located in the Andes Mountains at 9,600 feet elevation. The capital of Ecuador, Quito is a beautiful city surrounded by high peaks and was named a UNESCO world heritage site due to the historic old city – the best-preserved Colonial City in all of Latin America. Guayaquil is located right about sea level, it is a busy coastal city located along the Guayas River.

If you are arriving from North America, most of the flights arrive at night. No matter where you are arriving from chances are you will need to spend at least one night in either city prior to boarding your cruise or flying to the islands to start your tour or hotel stay.

The first day of your cruise, you will fly out to the islands where you will board your boat. If you are starting a tour or a hotel stay you will also fly to the Galapagos to begin your trip.

There are two airports in Galapagos one in Baltra – which services cruises starting in Baltra or in Puerto Ayora as well as people staying in either Santa Cruz or Isabela. The other airport is on San Cristobal servicing cruises beginning in San Cristobal or people staying on San Cristobal. You will want to arrange your flights out to the islands either as part of your cruise or with someone who knows your itinerary to insure you are flying into the correct island. (If you wind up on the wrong island, there are speedboats once a day that can take you to the other island; the trip is about 2 hours each way.)

If you are boarding a cruise in Baltra, your guide will be waiting at the airport for you. You will board a bus to the main dock and a small boat will take you over to board your boat and begin your cruise.

If you are staying in Puerto Ayora, traveling to Isabela or boarding a boat in Isabela you will take a different bus to the Canal where you will board a boat that will take you across to Santa Cruz. Once on Santa Cruz you will board either another bus or take a taxi to your Puerto Ayora it’s approximately a 45-minute drive from one side of the island to the other.

If you are boarding a boat in San Cristobal, again your guide will be waiting for you at the airport. You’ll take a bus down to the main dock and a small boat will take you to your boat to begin your cruise. If you are staying on San Cristobal or taking a tour beginning in San Cristobal, you’ll either take a taxi to your hotel or you can walk to some hotels as the airport is just on the outskirts of town.

Returning from the Galapagos is somewhat the same thing – you’ll need to get back to the airport by the same means of transportation that people leave the airport and fly back to the mainland. The flights depart the islands in the late morning arriving on the continent mid to late afternoon meaning that most people will have an overnight on the way out just like they did on the way to the islands.

Our top 10 tips for Getting to the Galapagos Islands

1. You’ll need to fly to the Galapagos – Unless you are traveling on your own personal boat, the only way to get to the Galapagos is to fly. There are no boats offering service between the continent and the islands.
2. There are set airfares to the Galapagos – The government sets all the airfares, foreigners pay a specified rate and there are no advanced purchase discounts.
3. Make a reservation in advance – The flights are frequently full so you will need to make a reservation in advance.
4. Most people need to stay in either Quito or Guayaquil 1 night before and 1 night after their trip to the Galapagos
5. You need a Permit to enter Galapagos – you do need to get permits to enter the park, most cruises and tour operators will arrange these permits for you, but it is possible to do them at the airport.
6. Double check your itinerary – make sure your reservations are flying to the island where you need to go.
7. Pack Smart – there are 20km weight limits on the flight for check-in luggage. If you are over this weight the airline may allow you to take extra luggage the same day you fly or may make you ship it and it will arrive in the future either way you will have to pay the extra cost.
8. The airlines assign seats at the airport
9. All of the flights are coach – there is no first class
10. Make sure to arrive at the airport early – if you miss your flight you, you may not be able to get another flight until the next day or several days later.

Learn more about Flights to the Galapagos and getting to the Galapagos Islands

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