Ecuador

Indiginous Justice and a sideways skidding car!

La Compañía de Jesús, Quito, Ecuador

A few years back I was deputed to help bid for a water-treatment project in Ecuador’s largest city in and one of the busiest ports in the Pacific ocean, Guayaquil (Ooya-KEEL). So, I took the early morning flight, a LAN (Linea Aerea Nacional), one of the oldest airlines in the world (founded in 1920s) from Santiago with my colleague Joaquín (wah-KEEN) who is a native of Santiago.

It turned out to be a memorable trip with some near brush with disaster. Well, as soon as we landed in Guayaquil we walked a couple of blocks north of the airport terminal to the CARMAX outlet and drove off in a Chevrolet sedan. Having finished much of our work the same day, the next morning we drove off to the provincial town of Milagro for a meeting and by late afternoon we were driving back. There had been a light drizzle, the road was a bit slippery and Joaquín was driving cautiously.

Then as we came around a bend, out of nowhere a motorcycle came onto the road and abruptly slowed. Joaquín instinctively slammed the break sending the Chevrolet into a sideways skid. So, when we passed the now-stationary motorcycle we were actually drifting sideways, our front fender barely missed it by an inch or two. Thus we came to a dramatic stop. Soon the man whom we missed running over, walked up to us and launched into a long harangue on unsafe driving by out of towners! He was a native elder and spoke respectfully often flashing a friendly smile.

We were lucky we missed hitting him and also we had decided not to down any beer, how much ever tempting it was after a hard day’s work — until we reached back to Guayaquil. Drinking and driving in Ecuador is asking for an intimate acquaintance with its judicial system. The Policia Transito is always on the roads looking for intoxicated drivers and checking licensing, registration if the car has safety equipment as required by law, that the tires are not bald, etc.,

There are checkpoints set up on most weekends in and out of all the major resort cities — which are plenty. As much as the American government hates Ecuador, the Americans love it there and many have holiday homes and it’s a favorite place for pensioners too. It’s a peaceful country with none of the gun violence wracking the U.S.

There are cops then there is Indigenous Justice! Joaquín explained to me; “The first time, a bunch of Elders with tall thick sticks, stand in front of your home and pound their sticks on the ground until they get your attention. If you commit the same or similar offense again, you must leave the village. If you come back, and commit any notable offense, you are never seen again.” (i.e at the bottom of lake Cuicocha)!

But one huge disappointment was that, though there are three airlines flying every day to Baltra airport and it’s just a 2-hour flight, due to lack of time I couldn’t visit Galápagos! Maybe I will catch up with Mr Darwin sometime in the future.


Header image:

The Church of the Society of Jesus, a Jesuit church in Quito, Ecuador. 
Groundbreaking: 1605
Opened: 1765
Architectural style: Spanish Baroque

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