The Panecillo in the Mist
This is the rainy season in the highlands, and ordinarily it rains daily throughout the winter. Instead this has been the worst drought in 30 years, leading to the power outages (no rain in the hydroelectric dam in Paute) and daily sunshine, which I have been enjoying! Rain has been threatening for several days now, with grey and cloudy skies, and finally today, the clouds have burst, and it has been raining incessantly since midday. It was also the day of the Quito tour for the alumni group. They arrived last night and are staying at the Hilton Colon, where Eric too has a room. Several universities are represented, including Johns Hopkins, Bucknell, University of Idaho and Florida State. We met the group after lunch at the Museo del Banco Central, where our guide Marco led us from 14000 BC to 1534 AD. His emphasis was on the pre Incan history and cultures, intent on demonstrating that Ecuador had only a short 30 to 60 years of Inca rule, and is much more defined by the thousands of years of history before the Inca came. When the Spanish conquered, they were unable or interested in exploring the differences between the different tribes, and called all the natives 'Incas'.
We were driven to the Centro Historico, and bought umbrellas on the street when we arrived at the Plaza Grande (the vendors suddenly appear when it rains and charge double the price to desperate pedestrians). Our tour was altered to avoid as much rain as possible. We visited the statue in the middle of the square to hear a few words about the independence movement in Eucador, and hid under the arches of the Archbishop's palace to avoid getting wet. We walked by the Cathedral and the Sagrario and entered the Compañia, where we admired the gold and noted the synchretism and the different styles, from 'High' Baroque to neoClassical to Mudejar (the Moors were in Spain for 800 years and left their mark). We walked to San Francisco and entered the convent to see the choir stalls above the mass below, which turned out to be a 'Quincanera' or 'pink party". I was sure it was a wedding until Maya pointed out the pink dress.
Our final stop in the pouring rain was a lookout at 'St Juan'. I had been searching for a 'St. Juan' church yesterday when walking through the 'Calle de las Siete Cruces' yesterday ( I had read it was at the corner of Garcia Moreno and Galapagos, but I could not find it). The lookout was different than climbing the Panecillo and the old city was drenched in mist and mystery.
I found myself enjoying the rain. My feet were wet, but my broken umbrella gave me some shelter, and the city looked so different in the clouds. I wonder if this is a change in the weather pattern and if the usual daily rainstorms will reassert themselves, and the reservoirs will fill and the grass will turn green and agriculture will thrive and the dam will fill...but that is too much wishful thinking. I never expected to look forward for rain, but there is such great need for moisture here. Communities have been praying and dancing and drumming for rain for months. They start fires in the hopes to start the rain and that has been a cause of huge forest fires.
While we have been rejoicing in response to the rain, Baltimoreans have been enjoying over two feet of snow. The city is paralyzed and most businesses have shut down. Children and adults are building snowmen and engaging in snowball fights and staying close to home. I miss snow!