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!