Tapping Cuenca’s well-spring of inspiration

Oct 20, 2018

I have shared my stories with you since the very first days of my arrival in Cuenca. I remember fondly how a dear friend encouraged me to submit to CuencaHighLife a letter I wrote about my journey to Cuenca, complete with missed flights, lost baggage, and more crying children and restless parents than places to hide.  I sent it in, the editor accepted it, and I’ve been writing to you ever since.

I have the great fortune to be able to share with you some of the vibrant colors and soft hues of Cuenca while writing about visiting the flower market and wandering through shops as deep and exciting as any souk or bazaar.

I met the Machado family of artisans.  While talking with them and watching them work their copper and silver, I learned of their history, and the well-spring of inspiration they have drawn from three generations of dedication to the craft. Sharing this with you has been an experience I will hold close for the remainder of my days.

I was able to report to you on an annual alpaca shearing operation in the Nudo del Azuay, a mountain range in the southern tier of Sangay National Park.

Shyone, aka Stuart White, is the founder of Fundación Cordillera Tropical (FCT), an organization that has tirelessly worked for the last 40 years to improve the sustainability and ancestral integrity of a large swath of land in Ecuador. His vision is broad yet focused. When I asked him to define his mission he replied, “The central pillar of FCT is to support the local communities and landowners in the conservation of the Nudo del Azuay’s nearly quarter of a million acres of montane evergreen forest and páramo grassland.”

A simple statement. A lifetime of work.

I recall writing to you about the woman with a child who, after answering my “standing at a bus stop” question on which bus to take to El Centro, returned the following day to find me, and to give me the family e-mail address in case I had another question or if there was some other way that they might help me.

I wrote of a woman who ran for a block in the pouring rain to correct the change she gave me moments before. It was three cents.

One of my favorite vignettes is about the time I was in the main IESS hospital filling out seemingly endless paperwork. When the person next to me noticed I was struggling, she casually turned towards her daughter and called out, “English!”, three people came up to help.

These are little stories that have profoundly influenced me, and I hope, give you a brief glimpse of the Cuenca I see laid before me. Of course, there are minor inconveniences throughout any day, but they are of no importance — and many that you hear are exaggerated expectations of, “I come first.”.

I for one, take exception to the squealing that local drivers intentionally aim for you out of some general animosity when they are driving. No. Road rage driving is a Yankee phenomenon.

I hope folks will become way less concerned with what other people think of them when they realize how seldom it happens.

Cuenca is a lovely, caring, and kind community steeped in the cultural traditions or honor, family, and homeland. I am as proud to be among them as I am to continue to write to you weekly about my growing, and growing old here.

I fell in love with Cuenca early and feel right at home.

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