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Sunday, July 27, 2008

American knows how they want you to fly

People keep asking how my trip back from Ecuador was, so here is the story. I was supposed to fly from Quito thru Miami to Newark on Fri. The plane, however, was late leaving Quito so I missed my connection in Miami. American rebooked me on a flight that would have arrived into Newark at 12:50 am early Sat morning instead of 4pm on Fri afternoon. At the check-in counter in Quito I asked for other options, so they put me instead on a flight that was scheduled to arrived into JFK at 5:30. That flight, of course, was also late. And it also meant that I had to drag 2 heavy suitcases and 2 backpacks with almost 100 lbs of books on the AirTrain to Jamaica Station and on to the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to Penn Station, and then finally on the New Jersey Transit rail to Princeton where I was staying with Tim. Rather then a simple shot up the commuter train from Newark, it turned into a 2-hr odyssey with heavy luggage across My Third Favorite City In The World.

My beef with airline travel (and specifically American, cuz that is with whom I usually travel) is that roughly 75 percent of the time I am not flying the schedule or route I originally booked. If I changed my schedule, American would charge me a $100-150 fee. But they change my schedule all the time. If we held airlines to the same standards congress holds Amtrak, the airline industry would lose their corporate subsidies and we would have a First World train system in this country. In my experience, Amtrak (even though it is seriously and significantly underfunded) provides much more reliable service than does the airline industry that receives heavy tax-payer funded subsidies.

One bright cloud to the trip: I received a first class upgrade on the Quito-Miami portion of the trip because the main cabin had been overbooked. Because I travel so much with American, I often receive domestic upgrades. In Quito, they offered to upgrade me for 12,500 miles + a $50 fee. Since I already paid so much for my plane ticket, I did not want to give American more money (especially for such poor service). So, it was nice to get the free upgrade.

People keep welcoming be back home, but I'm not back home yet. I won't be back home for another week. I'm still in New York. I've never lived in New York, and as much as I hate Quito it is more of a home for me than New York. I am, though, very much looking forward to being back home in a week.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


Just for the record, today's take of digital images from the Ministerio de Prevision Social archive was 1653. That should keep me busy for quite a while. I much pretty managed to plow through everything I wanted to get, which in a way is a nice way to finish here.

Today's signature is from Luis Chavez.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Goodbye Ecuador

I debate rather to write another post about my life in Ecuador because it is going to be pissy and people begin to complain about my constant whining. It's not like anything really bad has happened to me here (I haven't been shot, robbed, or run over by a bus), but it is the cumulative affect of a lot of small things that just pile up after awhile. I like to think that usually I can roll with the punches, but I am just worn down to shreds by the constant drone of problems here.

On Monday some friends offered to take me to Cotopaxi. While I really should have stayed in the archives, I thought getting out of the city would do my soul good. Instead, we had car problems & spent too much time on the highway and didn't get as far as we thought we would. Oh well.

In Quito, most buses run north-south, and very few run east-west. To make matters worse, it seems like I am always traveling NW-SE or NE-SW, a direction in which NO buses go. So, either I have to take multiple buses or take my risk with taxistas (which I hate doing cuz they often want to rip me off). Yesterday I took 2 buses to get to a meeting, and neither went the way I thought they would and I ended up walking half the distance anyway. Today it was 3 buses. Every time I get on a bus I risk getting robbed. Yesterday it was my water bottle (and what's with that? it was an old, beat up, plastic bottle full of boiled water--hardly a steal).

I'm down to my last couple days and so feel very pressed for time. But I go to meetings and people show up hours late or meetings start hours late, while I get very antsy cuz I really do have other things I need to be doing than waiting for people.

And then there are the archives. Yesterday I went back to the Archivo de Funcion Legislativa where I originally planned to spend a lot of time, but they still do not have shelves after moving back into the rebuilt congressional building. Furthermore, everyone is off in Montecristi packing up after the current Constituent Assembly. So, I don't have anything from that collection.

So I go back to the Archivo Intermedio, but they are not happy to see me because by now it is an hour before they are supposed to close and obviously they could leave early if I had not shown up.

I've debated my whole month here whether to go out to the Biblioteca Auriel Espinosa Polit in Cotocollao. They have a great collection, but it is an hour from downtown. After my meeting this morning, I decide to take a taxi out there (mostly because I have no idea how to travel by bus in that SE-NW direction). I get there at noon, only to see a sign that they are closing at 12:30. I feel absolutely cursed here. So, it's an hour bus ride back into town, and back to the Archivo Intermedio, kicking myself the whole way for losing 2 more hrs out of an already overpressed time schedule.

To top everything off, I come home the last 2 nites to discover that the Internet is down (and you know what it's like being disconnected from the Borg Collective). And I bought too much food, so I dumped everything together in a pot & boiled it to pieces--so you can imagine what that tasted like.

It's not like everything is bad. Some good things have happened. Hanging out with friends here has been fun. The last 3 evenings I've gone to the UASB for a colloquium on the bicentennial of Andean independence, which has given me some nice opportunities to talk with colleagues. Betsy Hurtado at the congressional library has been very nice in helping me track down legal materials on tinterillos. And tonite just before leaving the Ministerio de Prevision Social archive I found a very thick volume of reclamos agricolas that looks like it could be a VERY rich source for my research. I thought about going back out to BAEAP tomorrow, but maybe I'll just stay at the Archivo Intermedio & fill my flash cards full of archival images. As long as I don't show up just before they leave, the staff there does treat me very nicely.

One day to go.

Friday, July 18, 2008


The rain has finally lifted over Quito, and the mornings dawn bright & beautiful. I go up to the rooftop to snap a picture of Cayambe, but apparently we are too far down in the Quito valley to see it (or our apartment building isn't high enough). Instead, I see Cotopaxi through the smog that now hangs heavy over Quito.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


I'm thinking of starting to collect signatures in the archive. Here is one of Jesús Gualavisí. I should be able to do something with these.

Digital image count for today: 1549. I think that is more than yesterday, tho I was really not trying to break that record. And there is even more--my camera ran out of juice, so there's probably about 100 more on Kenny's that I need to download.

But the Ecuatorianistas meeting starts tomorrow, so I'll be out of the archives until next week.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Today I blew past yesterday's number of digital images of archival documents: 1292 in total. I just randomly snapped thru folders, really not having a clear idea of what I am getting and dreadfully afraid that I'm skipping over the most important documents. It was a race to see which would give out first: space on my flash disk or my battery. By 3:15 it was all over, and the archive was still open for an hour more. I'm wishing I had bought more flash disks--I'm terribly nervous that I'll wipe one down now for tomorrow and then my hard drive will crash & all that time I spent snapping digital images in the archive will be for nothing.

I am picking up a lot of material from 1931 after the police shut down the Indigenous congress in Cayambe. I probably could easily write a book on just 1931. But would anyone read it? Would anyone publish it? Would anyone buy it?

Best quote of the day:

He llegado al convencimiento absolute de que no existe, ni ha existido nunca, la Comunidad de Sanancajas; pues se trata únicamente de la cínica audacia del abogado de mala ley, explotador, que en asocio del tinterillo Hilario Cuzco, ha dejado en la miseria a un reducido grupo de campesinos (no son indios propiamente) ignorantes, que están envenenados con ideas de absurdo comunismo.

That pretty much sums up my research in a nutshell. You can also see how poor of images I'm getting by doing this in such a big hurry. I really wish I had a good copystand & proper lighting to get clear, steady images. I'm really going to give myself a blazing migraine working thru all these images on my computer.

At most I have 5 more archive days left, and I'm really feeling the pressure. There is so much more I should get before I leave, and there is no way I can get it all. It would take years....

Monday, July 14, 2008

Gonzalo Oleas, Defensor

Spend most of the day in the Ministerio de Prevision Social archives. Shot digital images of documents like crazy, for a total of 857 images. That should be enough to keep me busy for a while. Hard drive is becoming awfully full. Gonzalo Oleas has his finger prints all over the place in the archive.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday in Quito

Sundays in conservative Quito have always had a reputation for being dreadfully boring. Besides, it is cloudy & not very nice outside. So, I'm staying inside instead listening to WORT & WPR streaming on my laptop and entering everything I've collected over the last 2 wks into my bibliographic database.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Guerra Loma

How do you capture history in a picture?

On Sunday January 10, 1954, the government sent in seventy police to the Pitaná section of the Guachalá hacienda to suppress an Indigenous uprising against administrator César Troya Salazar who had failed to pay them their wages. The police intercepted the workers as they came down the hill in the foreground of this photo to attend mass at the church in the middle. Armed with machine guns, the police fired on the assembled group. They killed four people, injured eleven more, and detained twelve people.

On maps this hill is labeled Loma de Ayacucho, but today people from Pitaná who took me to visit the site of the massacre told me that they now call it Guerra Loma. Although the massacre took place more than 50 years ago, it seems to be very much alive in people's memories today.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

I hate Ecuador

So, I pull myself out of bed & go check on my laptop which 8 hrs later STILL warns me against turning it off because it is stuck on installing 1 of 6 updates. I force it to shut down anyway (afraid that I'll crash another hard drive), but it boots back up, installs the updates, and then shuts all the way down for the first time. What a relief.

I head out to try to find the Archivo de Ministerio de Gobierno (which has moved), but I finally track it down. Patricio Davila, the very friendly archivist, welcomes me in but promptly tells me that they don't have anything on rios. Not rios, I try to explain, tinterillos. Well, nothing on that either, or in fact anything that might be of interest to me. I try to explain that I had been in the archive several years earlier with a colleague and indeed had looked at material that was precisely on this topic of tinterillos, so I know that the archive has material that is of interest to me.

Patricio then launches into this story of how several years ago one of my compatriots had spent a month in the archive researching Lago San Pablo and how well they had treated him--given him tea to drink, space to work, made copies for him, etc. This person promised to send Patricio a card or to call him when he finished his dissertation. Patricio assumes that he finished, but he has heard nothing from him. So, so sorry, but nothing in this archive would be of interest to me.

I try to explain that Kenny might actually be here next week for the Ecuatorianistas conference, and if so I'll bring him by. I think about printing out Kenny's dissertation on Lago San Pablo and giving it to him. Patricio proceeds to launch into this long monologue about how much better things are now in Ecuador and that now this archive is completely open for whomever might want to consult material. At this point I get up to leave because I'm about ready to explode. I have to bite my tongue to keep from shouting out BUT YOU WILL NOT LET ME INTO THE ARCHIVE!

Perhaps sensing this, Patricio tells me to try the "Archivo Intermedio" at the corner of Guayaquil and Espejo because they will have what I want, but he is so sorry that they do do not have any material that would be of use to me. So, I wonder off to this archive I had never heard of before and ring the door bell. The women asks me what I want, and I explain that Patricio sent me here to look for material on tinterillos. Well, they don't have anything on that. What DO you have, I ask? Well, we have material from ministries that no longer exist, like the Ministerio de Prevision Social and... THE MINISTERIO DE PREVISION SOCIAL!? I interrupt. Yes, she says. I want to see that, I say. And she lets me in.

A bit of a back story--several years ago Valeria told me she had found the Ministerio de Prevision Social archives but wouldn't take me there unless I came to Ecuador for more than a few days. I really wanted to see this archive because a lot of my work has been based on documents from this ministry scattered in other archives, and I thought that this would be a treasure trove of material.

I start looking thru the index and quickly find that they have a bunch of material from Zumbahua. I ask for that box, and find a carpeta with 248 documents on the land struggle there. The cautious but friendly staff say I can go with the cleaning person to make photocopies of the material, but I wonder what is the point since I already published my essay on Zumbahua. So, I get out my digital camera and click away instead. And I find more and more material on Gonzalo Oleas, even having him writing letters from up in Pichincha. What is up with that guy, and why don't more people talk about him?

But nothing on tinterillos--not a thing. I'm finding all sorts of great stuff--that would have been useful for me a couple years ago, but what am I going to do with it now?

So, what is a person to do? Buy books, of course! I go back to the La Maga bookstore to pickup the copy of Ecuador Debate that I should have picked up when I was there last time, and then go to the Banco Central to get a copy of Eduardo Larrea Stacey: visionario y precursor de un nuevo Ecuador but all of their copies are buried in storage.

I probably should have given up and gone home at this point, but the PUCE library is still open for 2 and a half hours so I go there instead to look at the Diarios de Debates--but I don't find much.

I have basically nothing to show for the day. I guess I could afford wasted days when I was here for a year working on my dissertation, but on short trips it is harder to justify these endless fishing expeditions.

Ecuador: 1 Marc: wasted

Dealing with small minded people like Patricio who lord it over their small domains is one of the things that has me completely ready to quit Ecuador. I never learned how to navigate those situations, and at this point in my career (or lack thereof) I have very little reason or motivation to do so. So why do I keep buying books then? And if I quit Ecuador, do I not just further reinforce this image of gringos as people who come to Ecuador (as historians or anthropologists) to mine the country for what it is worth and then leave and never never give anything back?

Kenny, if you want to kiss & make up with Patricio, and Valeria if you want to go on your own to the archive, it is:

Patricio Davila
Archivo General del Ministerio del Gobierno
Call Venezuela N2-51 entre Bolívar y Sucre, frente al cine Atahualpa
Telf. 2752-005

It's on the second floor, above a bunch of Colombians selling pirated CDs. BTW, the 2 documents that I have from this archive that talk about tinterillos that I picked up when I was there shortly with Kenny a couple years ago are:

Letter from A. Aguilar Vázquez, Ministerio de Gobierno, to Jefe Político del Cantón Cayambe, Cayambe, July 10, 1942, Oficio no. 1005-Gb, Sección Gobierno, Varios Autoridades, Julio-Setiembre 1942, #618, Ministerio de Gobierno y Policia, Archivo General del Ministerio de Gobierno.
Forwarding letter from Cangahua inhabitants regarding water and other demands. Solicitud to remove Teniente Político. Threatens to take their complaints to the press. Teniente Política does nothing to protect water supplies. Hacienda Isacata. Blames tinterrillos for nothing getting done.

Letter from Guillermo S. Cisnteros, Subsecretario, Ministerio de Gobierno, to Mariano Nama, Yaruquies, Cantón Riobamba, September 22, 1942, Oficio no. 1390-Gb, Sección Gobierno, Varios Autoridades, Julio-Diciembre 1942, #618, Ministerio de Gobierno y Policia, Archivo General del Ministerio de Gobierno.
Quotes from governor's oficio 143, September 18, 1942, in response to oficio 315-GB, September 7, 1942. Governor (Leonardo Dávalos D.) defends Jefe Político of Yaruques who was the target of complaints by Marinao Nama and other Indigenous who is charged with being a tinterillo who is using Indians for his own personal gain. Governor lists all of the accomplishments of the Teniente Político. Admits Indigenous were forced to labor on Obras Públicas.
p. 3-4: "Desgraciadamente estos infelices indígenas guiados por un tinterillo de vedados procedimientos, víctimas de la explotación de éste, que tras un siniestro velo de mistisismo, los engaña y anida las más grandes pasiones".

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Quito rains

A front came thru in the middle of the nite last nite, which woke me up & then my sinuses started hurting like everything. So, today was raining and my head was pounding like everything, but I pulled myself out of my apt (no sense staying here if I can't see Pichincha) and went to the Legislative Archive. The archive is in the congressional building that burned a couple yrs ago and they moved it next to the nat'l archives while they rebuilt the congressional building, and right now they are in the process of moving everything back. Just my luck--everything I would want to look at is in boxes & spread all over the place as they try to set up shop again. But the staff was super nice. But also my luck--the staff was going into a meeting, so they told me to come back in 2 hrs.

So, what to do? Well, go shopping for books, of course! Fortunately, close to the congressional building is what used to be my favorite bookstore, Autores Ecuatorianos. I liked it because they had older & off-beat books that I couldn't find elsewhere at prices that couldn't be beat. (But then I found Libreria Luz & Multilibros that sell even older used books for cheaper prices.) But I pick up an armload of books (best find: Bernard Lavallé, Al filo de la navaja: Luchas y derivas caciquiles en Latacunga, 1730-1790 published in 2002 that I had never heard of before but Valeria told me I could get in Libri Mundi but of course it is agotado but Autores Ecuatorianos of course had a copy).

I sometimes hesitate in buying stuff cuz I'm not sure whether I already own it. Yesterday I goofed, as that used book store had an old copy of Ecuador Debate that I do NOT have and would like. I guess I'll have to go back. At first I wished I had brought bigger suitcases, and then I was wondering whether I would fill up the ones I brought. But now my pile of books is growing (& my funds are being depleted).

So, I go back to the legislative archive and they have some stuff on tinterillos printed out for me. It's only noon, so I could go on to the Ministerio de Gobierno archives but my head hurts so much & I feel so out of it I'm just not up for it.

So, I play it safe & go back to the PUCE archive instead--that's easy to do. I take the cites from the legislative archive & spend the next 6 hrs following leads--which is MUCH better than diving blind thru random material. Coolest find: A court case from 1920 in which Luis F. Chaves is involved in a tinterillo case in Cayambe. That places him there almost a full decade earlier than what I previously had thought. I wonder where I can find out more of the story on that.

No images today. Everything is on paper. (and it is raining, so no pix of Pichincha)

Tomorrow I guess I'll try the Min de Gob archives and see if I can find it. And on Thurs I have another appointment with Silvia in Cayambe.

My computer continues to worry me. It takes a long time to start up and never really shuts down completely. Tonite I couldn't get the wireless network adapter to work. Great, I think. (And to make things worse, I left my USB mouse at home and only have a bluetooth mouse that won't work if the wireless network adapter does not work.) I log off and log back on--no go. So I shut down & restart, and it comes back to life. Whew. What a relief. Backups. Always keep good backups.

Monday, July 07, 2008


Quito wears on me. The high level of pollution gives me a nasty cold. Dealing with ecua-stuff gets old. My apartment is so nice that it's tempting just to stay in here as an easy out. But if I do that, then I might as well stay in Madison, right?

So, I drag myself out and go back to the Banco Central library. Of course they can't find the El Pueblo newspaper that I was looking at on Friday. Most libraries in Ecuador are closed stacks, which means that I can't wander around looking for stuff (which is the best way to find things in a library) and have to take their word that it is not there. But this happens all the time and is frustrating, because I know I've looked at it before even tho they say they don't have it.

But finally they find it, apparently shelved some place else. And I have two minor scores: they have Alberto Araujo's Informe del delegado al Congreso Sindical Latinamericano which is really going to help with my current research, and CEDEP's Una historia de rebeldía: La lucha campesina en el Ecuador that I read 15 yrs ago and have been looking for ever since but couldn't find anywhere. Now I have photocopies of both (oh, and don't get me started on not being able to do my own photocopying), but realize that after 15 yrs of research in Ecuador the CEDEP's publication is so basic as to be worthless now for me.

And then I have my first direct hit. I ask to see the Diario de Debates from 1944, and they only bring me one volume that I've seen before (who knows if they really don't have more--the catalog doesn't say, and I can't go into the stacks to check). But as the 'yapa' I guess, they bring me the Diario de Debates from the 1896-1897 Constituent Assembly. I flip thru it to see if I find anything interesting, and there it is--a discussion of tinterillos. This is what I'm supposed to be researching here this summer, and I find something almost by accident. After Valeria said I had picked a hard topic I was wondering whether I would find anything at all.

But they don't let me photocopy it, so I try to take a digital image instead. Others say that this is the way to go, but I really prefer photocopies instead. I can never get the light right, and since I don't have a copystand and something to hold the paper flat and straight the images are never that clear. Plus it's much easier for me to work with something like this on paper instead of as an image. Oh well. At least I have it.

And then I go to a used bookstore (best catch: 2 issues of the IIE publication Atahualpa from 1966) & to the PUCE library to get some other stuff.

So, I get home late & exhausted, but I guess in the end at least I got something today. Tomorrow I should really try going to a real archive. I'm still trying to decide btwn AFL or Min de Gobierno.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Another bright, beautiful morning

Today dawned as another bright and beautiful morning, and my hard drive is back up and running (tho not without some complications with drivers and the like).

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Hard drive vs. archives

Today dawned bright and beautiful, which was nice cuz the heavy smog in this city is really making my throat hurt. I got my first clear view out the window up to the peak of the Pichincha volcano. I would love to hike up there but can´t cuz 1) I don´t have anyone to go with me & it´s too dangerous to go alone; and 2) I have other things I need to attend to.

Like finding Chad to pick up my hard drive. I waited a couple hrs last nite for him to show up, but finally gave up. I´ve tried calling a couple times today, but he is always out. And rather than waiting around for him to show up I have other things I should be archives.

I had a chance to review materials in Leonardo Munoz´s personal archive, which really was just too good of an opportunity to pass up. I found some really cool things--really the coolest things I´ve found so far this trip. I´d upload some pix (and of Pichincha as well), but this computer in this internet cafe is not wanting to read my card & I´ve already crashed the computer once trying. Well, if I ever get my laptop back up & running maybe I´ll upload some pix.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Backup plans

It´s been one of those ecua days.

This morning I went back to the PUCE´s library to look at Diarios de Debates that I confirmed where there and available before leaving last nite. When I arrive this morning the library is closed because of some sort of inservice workshop. It leaves me wondering why the librarian (who was very nice and helpful, unlike those at the Nat´l Library) didn´t tell me that they would be closed today...

So, I go to the Banco Central´s library to look at El Pueblo newspapers. They say they don´t have the issues I ask for, even tho I´m sure that they must because it is listed in their catalog and I looked at it last time I was in the library. But they bring me other issues, so not all is lost. I find some interesting things, but nothing really earth shattering, I guess. So, I finish what they brought me and ask if there are any other issues I can look at. And guess what--they bring me the issues that I originally asked for. I´m not quite finished looking over them when they close, and I only hope that they can still find them when I return. And that they are open. The hours of operation listed on the door and what the librarian told me they are open bear only a passing resemblance to each other.

Chad is supposed to bring my hard drive tonite. He was supposed to be here 2 hrs ago but hasn´t arrived yet. I hope all is well. As you can imagine, I´m very anxious to get my computer back up & running.

Well, that´s ecua life. always have a backup plan.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


so, this is my day in a nutshell--went to CONAIE this morning to talk about web page stuff, and then this afternoon went to the PUCE library to photocopy a bunch of stuff, stopped at Abya Yala to buy a pile of books, and then went to a talk at FLACSO. Got home late & only thing to make was rice & lentils. Pretty boring day, eh? Tomorrow is more of the same--probably back to PUCE library in the morning, meeting with Pato for lunch, then back to CONAIE for more web work.

I´m waiting for my hard drive to arrive to get my life back together. tired

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