Cuenca’s magical expats Sally and Peter teach us that we can all use a little help from our friends

Apr 9, 2023 | 9 comments

When I was a kid I thought that alchemists were somewhat spooky. I recall reading about how they are said to possess strange visions and stranger incantations, producing results that befuddle or amaze, yet they are always mixed with a dose of suspicion or a liter of fear.

I read how they often wear a hooded velveteen cape embossed with ancient symbols embroidered on blood-red silk. Secret pockets are woven into the folds of the cape that secure magic potions said to have the power to induce strange dreams.
However, I recently learned that Cuenca’s finest alchemists are not into that kind of stuff; ours are most comfortable wearing striped pantaloons, message-bearing t-shirts, and long strands of colorful beads. They put away the magic potions a while ago. Now they carry sandwiches.

Peter Dudar and Sally Marr possess knowledge of alchemy that is not composed of studying the periodic table of rare minerals or conducting precise laboratory experiments with exotic elixirs; their magic is derived from harvesting the joyful kinetic energy of many hands working in unison to create an island of hope where no footing existed.

Welcome to the world of Peter and Sally, two of Ecuador’s most accomplished artists and finest practitioners of frontline community service. Their exploits are legendary.

Encouraged by the gods of good fortune and magic, Peter and Sally chose to leave the craziness of Los Angeles, California, for the calming virtues of Cuenca, Ecuador, shipping a entire boatload of creative energy with them. We couldn’t be more grateful.

When Dudar and Marr witnessed how unbearably depressing food insecurity is to folks mired in Cuenca’s casual economy, and the insurmountable suffering heaped on refugees discarded by their homeland, they decided to address the matter by joining hands with a collective of civic-minded neighbors willing to give a moment of their time to help.

Every day for the last many years, Marr and Dudar, supported by friends who help with shopping, assembling, and bagging, hand out between 150 and 200 healthy homemade sandwiches and a banana, or other fresh fruit, to the homeless, curious, hangers-on, buskers, seniors, trekkers, misfits, unlikely tourists, and just plain hungry passers-by adorning the landscape around the new cathedral and Parque Calderon.

This venture, Compassion Kitchen, is supported by donations and ticket sales for their annual Compassion Concert, headlined by an assortment of Cuenca’s most celebrated musicians and singers. This year’s inaugural concert will be at IdiomArt (Mariscal Lamar 14.25 y Estevez de Toral) on Saturday, April 15, beginning at 7 p.m. The performers include Teatro Barojo, Lumiere Danza, Cindy Benson, Cebra Circo, Peter Dubar, and David Zoering.

The concert is certain to sell out early, so do not wait to order your tickets. (res@idiomartcuenca.com)

Peter Dudar and Sally Marr recently celebrated their first decade in Cuenca by continuing to promote projects that have benefited the homeless, street dogs, battered women, earthquake victims, immigrants, the mentally disadvantaged, and street people of every shape, size, and hue — all with their art, hard work, and world-class musical talent.

Dudar’s classical training as a pianist and Marr’s whimsical paintings and sculptures are a most welcome addition to the creative landscape of Cuenca; our community would be much poorer were it not for their rich contribution of activism through art and steadfast commitment to serving the vulnerable.

Peter and Sally have certainly earned the admiration and love that Cuenca is known for. They serve as a shining example to us all to be fully engaged in service to others by advancing our own talent and honing the skills required to create a life artfully well-lived.

Thank you both. Your gracious generosity stems the hunger of those needing compassionate care.

When Dudar and Marr are not busying themselves caring for those in need, they spend their time leisurely creating bronze sculptures, painting with oils and watercolor, sketching with pen and ink, making movies, blogging, teaching, mentoring, composing music, and promoting world peace. Check out their website: VanishingKingdoms.com

As I grew older, I learned that many of the secret formulas attributed to Alchemy are not, in fact, true. No amount of magical thinking will ever transform lead into gold. No amount of newfound gold will ever be able to purchase happiness, and lasting contentment is never attained without practicing service for those in need.

I learned this, too; we’ll get by with a little help from our friends.

Robert Bradley

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