Some of the photos in this series have been saved for a long time; others are as fresh as the week. In every case, these are our neighbors doing what they like to do best: being productive…
The clatter of workers climbing aboard the bus from Paute to Cuenca was the first indicator that today was going to be a very busy day; the traffic of cars and trucks maneuvering along the crowded highway was another. The people of Azuay are once again as busy as bees making honey.
I recognized our success a third time while standing in the aisle on the tranvia. All the seats were taken and everyone seemed ready to get to their jobs without fanfare. These riders were not festive visitors, they were the folks the tranvia was designed and built for: the thousands of Cuencanos who require ready access to food, shelter, recreation and work.
It was gratifying to see how popular light rail has become. It is readily apparent that this avenue of public transportation is very convenient for folks needing to do business downtown, is much easier on the environment than a fossil-fueled vehicle, and has the added bonus of allowing sleepy people to steep themselves in daydreams before rejoining the parade of office-workers and shopkeepers in the city.
By the time I got to El Centro, the joint was rocking. Folks were scattered everywhere, a few feigning surprise, or irritation, at taxi drivers who were honking their horns at pedestrians, trying to squeeze them onto sidewalks transformed into a labyrinth of bikes, baby carriages, and cell phone junkies swerving past one another with hurried steps, words of greeting, and the occasional bumpy con permiso.
I passed a coffeehouse that looked like the set of a disaster movie staged with freshly abandoned tables, half-full coffee cups and a litter of fluttering paper napkins. People felt thwarted; they hoped for a quick reset of the tables so they too could be seated, served, and set free.
They wanted someone to fill ‘em and bill ‘em.
I loved it.
Everywhere I looked I saw men and women blooming like crocus after a hard winter — shops and studios were swept clean of the detritus accumulated during the years of anxiety and withdrawal, and neighborly greetings, once hidden behind muffled masks were being replenished with toothy smiles and bouncy greetings.
“How are you?” (Cómo estás?) is again offered to others more as a token of friendly comradely rather than an inquiry of genuine concern.
People are back to work. Their lives are returning to normal, returning to the tasks of their calling, be it weaving baskets at the Rotary, pruning trees in Chican, or selling the latest model cell phone in a downtown shop because we like to pretend it is an essential accessory.
Restaurants and music venues are popping up like mushrooms after a long, hard rain. Art galleries are, too.
These are the people of Azuay; they long ago earned my highest admiration. I hope I have earned a small measure of theirs and am thankful to live among them.