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  • Marilyn Saltzman

Indigenous wisdom

On the way to Cotacachi on Wednesday, we stopped at Mitad del Mundo, the center of the world. Actually there are two sites, only a few hundred meters apart. The “official” site, complete with a marble, pyramid-shaped monument with a museum inside, has lots of photo ops where you can straddle the two hemispheres. And 200 meters to the north is the Intinan Solar Museum, which the indigenous people claim is the true marking of the Equator and say recent GPS readings confirmed. At this site, Selam and Dian were deemed “eggsperts,” by accomplishing the feat of balancing a raw egg on a nail, supposedly only possible at this site. Our excellent tour guide also enthralled  us with water experiments, tales of shrunken heads and the dangerous penis fish.

Wednesday we had our first tour with Apak, an indigenous Kichwa, who brought us for a boat ride on Lake  Cuicocha, an active crater lake, which is  sometimes called rainbow lake because of how it looks when the sun reflects off it. Above, with an awesome view of the lake, there are solar and lunar calendars as well as sites for ritual baths,  gratitude sacrifices and festivals. The Kichwa are very connected to nature and grateful to Pacha Mama, the earth, and their ancestors.  They see time and space as intimately connected.

On Friday, we had an incredible day visiting Kichwa villages where some of the ancient arts are in danger of becoming lost. Alejandro, the weaver,

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cannot find a family member to take his place. However Maria Carmen’s daughter and son-in-law are following in her footsteps, combing the mountainside and extracting, with much difficulty and danger, three types of clay to make huge cooking and water-carrying vessels. Before using a newly fired pot, they bless it and create a relationship with its energy to keep it strong and usable. Finally we visited Ali, who creates his own instruments of bamboo. He had us all, including our guides and driver, play along on goats’ nails and other handmade instruments to create community.

We are learning so much about nature and connection  from these kind, humble and gracious people.

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