Betty Boop in the Andes and other surprises on a visit to an artisanal farm near Cuenca
By Susan L. Hart
Twenty-plus years of traveling and living abroad have taught me that the world is full of surprises, and it’s the incongruous bits you discover in unexpected corners of it that are the real travel treasures.
This was absolutely the case this past November 30th! I was privileged to be part of an intimate group tour of a small organic farm high in the Andes mountains, run by an Ecuadorian lady farmer named Fanny. She was introduced to us as the owner of the establishment, which in a typically machismo society was my first surprise of the day.
The tour of gardens and animals was very interesting, but upon entering the front hall of Fanny’s humbly charming house, the tour took on an intriguing twist. There I was collectively greeted by largish renditions of Mary, Mother of Jesus, (not at all surprising in a predominantly Catholic country), Marilyn Monroe, and Betty Boop.
Betty is the proud main feature of Fanny’s front vestibule, positioned notably front and center above a doorway to the Van Gogh yellow living room. Mary and Marilyn observe Betty from a nearby side wall, and two corners display other little treasures that further speak of Fanny’s love of art and creativity. She likely doesn’t have time for her own, though, with a young babe in arms and a busy farm to run. Or perhaps that’s not true. It seems to me that being that connected to nature and growing food is an art form unto itself.
In any case, the juxtaposition of these three female icons immediately set my mind to whirring. I could only postulate what the connection between them might be for Fanny. Is there one? The permutations of possible meaning in a grouping of Mary, Marilyn, and Betty are practically infinite. I do know that the unexpected puzzle of this trio in a rural Andean farmhouse made it a particularly memorable visit for me.
I am also pretty sure of this: All of the data points I took away from this 4-hour excursion suggest that Fanny is not only a strong woman and capable farmer of the Andes, she is also a dreamer. I’d love to have a 1:1 conversation with Fanny over a spicy cup of horchata tea some time, and learn more about the woman behind this little corner of the world.
Wednesday’s tour was hosted the Azuay Provincial Government and its AgroAzuay program. Apparently Fanny’s farm is the first in a planned series of tours of other farms in 2023. Please watch for the announcements! All in all, it was a beautiful day out in the Andes.
If you are interested in visiting the farm in Cabogana,15 minutes northwest of Cuenca, or spending the night there (the cost is $6), contact owner Fanny Tenorio at tel. 098 939 7884.
Photos by Susan L. Hart
Susan L. Hart is a long-time Cuenca resident and author of the Hart Inspirations website.