Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Greetings from Ecuador, where Halloween preparations are in full gear! A little strange, since it is actually FINADOS which is traditionally celebrated here. People have already had community work parties to tidy up Guayabillas´ local cemetery, and families will soon be getting together to make delicious colada morada - a purple corn-based, mildly fermented beverage which features reddish fruits such as tiny blueberries and the andes blackberries as well as pineapple, naranjilla -even araza- with a multitude of spices (cinnamon, star anise, whole cloves, allpspice and ishpingo) and special herb bundles with amaranth, orange leaves, elderberry branches, lemongrass and lemon balm. Very yummy stuff, made in huge batches to take to the cemeteries with "guaguas de pan" - breads made in little human figures- and crowns of flowers for a picnic with the ancestors. people get an extra day off from work, since the traditional holiday (all souls, the day after all saints, which is the day after all hallows eve (Halloween).

Earlier this month, Shunku Llacta sponsored a workshop for interested residents of Sahuangal, Guayabillas and Santa Rosa in working with the native bamboo (Guadua angustifolia). Community representatives spent the day learning how to select the bamboo and prepare it for basket weaving from Santa Rosa maestro Celino Vasco. It was fascinating to watch Don Celino work the material, he made it look easy. But then we all struggled to figure out how he could weave those strands into a basket, and all agreed we needed some followup tutelage if we were to ever get it right! Don Celino was patient and adept. It was a great pleasure to work with him. We are hoping to add some sort of bamboo products to our line, as it is a truly sustainable material, native to the area.

In other news, Santa Rosa and Guayabillas, indeed many of the communities in our part of Northwestern Ecuador are now challenged to respond to the threat posed by a large-scale effort on the part of Avalanche Resources, Ltd. of Canada to open the entire area up to mining for metals. There is evidence that the many people engaged in projects to promote sustainable development and environmental conservation in the same area are beginning to join forces to create a resistance network. If we are able to show that sustainable alternatives are better for Ecuador in the long run, perhaps there will be government support for creating a special sustainable economic area free of large-scale mining and non-sustainably produced lumber.

Shunku Llacta is also involved in developing environmental education materials to share in schools, and bringing in volunteers to help community members and teachers understand this special environment and the watersheds which sustain us all. Stay tuned!

Mimi Foyle

Saturday, October 13, 2007

My experience with Shunku Llacta

I became very interested in Shunku Llacta because they were working with the communities of Guayabillas and Santa Rosa, communities very close to the property my husband and I bought in 2005 and will be our permanent home in few years. Thanks to Abby and Mimi I began helping Shunku Llacta by selling some of the artesanias. Since all the artesanias are hand made and signed, I became very familiar with all the names of the women of Santa Rosa and Guayabillas. The next step was to get to know them in person, so I took advantage of the Shunku LLacta 2007 trip and joined it. After spending three days in Santa Rosa and three days in Guayabillas, I sure feel like those people I shared the days with will be my friends for a long time. I look forward to moving to Ecuador and participating in the communities of Guayabillas and Santa Rosa.

One of the highlights of my three days in Santa Rosa was to be hosted by a local family, Miche and Franklin's household. Miche was a great host, she made sure I felt comfortable in her house and I was well fed! Their life in Santa Rosa is very different from my life in the Bay Area in California. I spend all day in front of a computer and attending to phone calls, and they spend their day caring for their animals such as chickens, pigs, guinea pigs, and their crops, which are their food source and their income.
I am glad I got to know Miche and her family in a more profound way by sharing their house. I hope to come back next year and I hope to continue to be their friend.

Another highlight of my visit to Santa Rosa was to work with the community on our second day. We painted the walls of the public bathrooms. It was a great day and we all felt a great sense of accomplishment. Working together is the best way to make community and get to know each other.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Jungle Hike

Don Orlando led the '07 volunteer group on this totally incredible hike to his farm through the jungle. Here we are pausing in the jungle: (L to R) me, Anita, Jadira, Lexi, Katy, Heber, Orlando.

And below . . . a flower we saw, I think the kids called it "Christmas decoration" or something like that.