As always, my daily destination is the Centro Historico. I had been waiting to visit the Colonial Art Museum, which opened Tuesday (its inauguration was last Thursday night). I was distracted today at the Plaza Grande, where a small protest was underway in front of the 'Carondelet' which is where the president of the country is supposed to live and work. A man with a megaphone led the crowd as it chanted songs and slogans encouraging Correa to listen, but I am not sure what they wanted him to hear. There have been marches and protests quite regularly at the National Assembly since we have lived here. The Ecuadorians like to assert their democratic rights, and Correa has written a new constitution with changes which have led to much discussion and disagreement and huge street demonstrations and some violence. Yesterday, large crowds of indigenous people protested against the Law of Water at the National Assembly. There are daily articles in the newspaper about the 'Law of Communication', the 'Law of Education' and the 'Law of Culture'. I have heard speech after speech at Maya's orchestra, most of which I struggle to understand. FOSJE (Fundacion Orchestre Symphonica Juvenil de Ecuador) has been administered under the Ministry of Education, but the new laws propose that it would now be part of the Ministry of Culture, which would take away its funding and thus alter its character and function.' El Comercio' (the paper I read every morning) complains daily about the new law of communication which limits what the newspapers and journalists can say about the government and the president. There were advertisements everywhere complaining about journalists and the horrible things they say about the government, and articles countering the government's position. My understanding however, is that the government has backed off from its original efforts to limit free speech. What appears healthy about the protests and the open discussion, is that Ecuadorians are definitely thinking and talking about the changes proposed by the president and their views are being heard. I am not sure how this will affect the final outcome.
Police Ready for Action
The indigenous groups seem to have more of a voice than they had in the past, and are particularly disturbed by the new 'Ley de Agua', which changes how water distribution is controlled. I am not sure which new or proposed change was being addressed today. There were riot police lined up and ready for a confrontation, which never came, at least while I was watching.
I arrived at the colonial museum when all the doors were locked and I was not sure if it had opened yet. I looked through the windows and found a guard who talked to me through the iron grill door and informed me that the museum had closed at 1:00 PM for an hour, but that it would open at 2:00 PM and it was free this week. I wandered back to the Plaza Grande to see what was happening with the protesters. The crowd had grown, but most of the participants were just milling about, as were the police in their riot gear.
Selling Oranges near La Merced
I visited the Teatro Bolivar, where Eric and Maya and I had seen a contemporary dance performance last week. The theatre was built in 1933 and was the premiere location for theatre and dance and music until it burned down in 1999. It is still used regularly, but has not been restored in its entirety. The stage and seats are useable, but the entrance remains blackened and damaged and I suppose there are no funds to properly rebuild and repaint it . I was looking for the dates and times of a ballet performance later in the week, but there were no relevant posters visible, and as is not unusual for Ecuador, the box office was closed, with no indication of when anyone would be back to help me.
I wandered to Junin street, where I passed a few prostitutes (it took a while to figure out who these inappropriately dressed women were) and found the Watercolour museum open. I am glad I waited to see it, because I was able to recognize each corner of Quito in every painting. Osvaldo Muñez Marino was a talented Ecuadorian artist who painted streets and churches and views and neighbourhoods of Quito. The museum is housed in a classical colonial home built in the 16th century.
Iglesia Carmen Alto
I had just enough time to get to the Colonial art museum, housed in a grandiose colonial mansion near La Merced. It was a well organized and informative museum, with beautiful examples of Quiteño paintings and sculpture from the 16th to the 19th century. Although I appreciate the skill and the beauty of the works, I found myself less excited than when I am looking at the pre-columbian works in the Banco Central or the Casa Alabado. I feel disturbed by the brutality of the Spanish conquest and its systematic destruction of the cultures that it conquered. Somehow the colonial art symbolizes the end of all that came before, and I am not yet comfortable with that.
Museum of Colonial Art on Mejia y CuencaI was pleased to feel the sun on my back as I rushed through the jam-packed streets of old Quito. I was almost too late to pick Maya up at the bustop and we raced across Carolina Park to get to orchestra on time (we are never on time because the bus arrives just before 4 and it takes 12 minutes to walk across the park and orchestra starts at 3:45). But start times are fluid in Ecuador, and I have learned to stress less about being late. I wanted to buy tickets at TACA airlines, which is open until 5:30 most days, so I ran back across the park to get to the office in time, only to find the guard shooing me away, telling me that the employees had a seminar to go to and the office was to close at 4:45 instead today. I arrive everywhere too early or too late and no one seems to stick to any regular schedule (except school), and I suppose I am not an Ecuadorian yet, because, as my daughter informs me regularly, I must 'chill' and know that everything works out in the end anyway....