Category Archives: Culture

Mary-Anne

The Pirates of the Galapagos Islands

During the centuries when the Spanish Empire extended deep into South America, the Galapagos Islands were a safe haven and hideout for pirates and buccaneers.

The location was close enough to the shipping routes used by merchant and government ships laden with riches and headed home to Spain that it made a good launching pad for attacks. It was also far enough away from the mainland for a clean get away.

Sites including Tagus Bay on Isabela and caves found on Floreana Island were safe refuge and storage for plunder. Local folklore says that some of the ill-gotten gains of the first people to visit the islands is still hidden in stashes around the islands.

Keep reading to discover the fascinating history of the Galapagos and a few of the notable pirates that visited the islands.

Continue reading

Medicinal plants of Ecuador

medicinal-herbs-plantsIt’s estimated seven out of ten Ecuadorians use medicinal plants. Ethnobiologist Omar Vacas has spent 15 years researching local flora used for centuries to cure diseases. He published an article about traditional medicine used by the Kichwa people in the Napo jungle province. He says the Kichwas are often unaware that this info can be useful in developing pharmaceutical drugs. For example, balsa can reduce labor pains. There are 23 conditions including toothache and rheumatism that can be cured by plants used by the Kichwas. These include uña de gato (cat’s claw), ortiga brava, achiote de venda, palo de tortuga, sábila (aloe), ruda, dulcamara, sangre de drago (dragon’s blood), chancapiedra, chaya, valeriana, boldo, condurango and zarzaparrilla.

Continue reading

Alpacas of Ecuador’s Andes

camelids-llamas-alpacasAlpacas roam the slopes of the Cotacachi Volcano. They belong to the indigenous community of Morochos. José Flores, vice-president of the community, says the alpacas are the best friends of the highland moors (páramos). He explains the animals don’t affect the topsoil because their legs have pads and their teeth cut the grass like scissors. That’s why the community decided to introduce Peruvian alpacas (currently 57) to replace cattle whose hooves eroded the surface of the moor. The area near the top of the volcano is considered an important buffer zone to the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve.

Continue reading

Pawkar Raymi, as celebrated in Otavalo, Ecuador

peguche-otavalo-raymiCarnival has an ethnic flavor in the Sierra Norte (northern Andes). There are mestizo, indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian celebrations. In the town of Peguche, near Otavalo, the Kichwa fiesta known as Pawkar Raymi features 11 days (February to early March) of crafts fairs, sports competitions and music. One of the rituals is called tumarina. It’s kind of a baptism with water and flower petals.

Pawkar Raymi means the Fiesta of the Flowering (of the crops). It’s a time to give thanks to Pacha Mama for her bounty. This is also the time of the year when indigenous merchants and musicians who work overseas come home to be with their families. It’s estimated that 10,000 Otavaleños earn their living abroad. They are considered the country’s cultural ambassadors. They usually stay for up to two months.

Continue reading