Monday, April 4, 2011

Contrasting Casas

Life is peculiar sometimes.  One can have very contrasting experiences in the same day and not know what the implications of that contrast are.  These experiences happened to us when we were visiting near Latacunga.  We were on our way to Quito, and we decided to break up the drive by stopping overnight at the Hacienda La Cienega (close to Cotopaxi Volcano) and traveling from there to Laguna Quilotoa (a lake in the collapsed volcano).  On the way back to the hacienda, we had the opportunity to visit a home of an indigenous family.  Thus our contrast.

The hacienda dates from the 17th century and has volcanic stone walls that are two meters thick with elegantly furnished rooms.  The owing family has had notable Ecuadorian patriots, and the hacienda has had many notable guests including past presidents of Ecuador. Other well known guests were Charles Marie de la Condamine (French geographer and metric advocate) and Alexander von Humboldt (German naturalist who studied Cotopaxi and for whom the Humboldt current is named). The first Eucalyptus trees introduced into Ecuador were grown on this hacienda.  Visitors cannot help feeling awe at the many-splendid rooms and the grounds surrounding the hacienda.

By contrast, the indigenous home we visited has a straw roof and is basically one room with a dirt floor.  The family consisted of the parents and six children, and all slept together in the corner on straw. The other corner housed guinea pigs used for “cuy,” an Ecuadorian meal delicacy.  There is no electricity in the house, and no windows with the light coming from the large front opening and one candle.  Cooking is done with the aid of a two-burner propane stove.  A field of onions is outside the house and there were free ranging chickens, cats and dog.  Visitors cannot help feeling awe at the one room home. 

Our guide was very careful in cautioning us not to feel sorry or judgmental about the indigenous family as he pointed out that they appear to be very happy.   So we don’t take any lessons away from our visits to the two homes – but we do note the contrast.

Since this blog posting is public it may be appropriate to mention that we paid the indigenous family to take photographs and that not all the homes of those local people are of that nature.
View of the lane from the front entrance to the hacienda that is lined with giant Eucalyptus trees.

Front entrance to Hacienda La Cienega.

Area that was used for lunches

One table in the area used for the evening meals.

Very comfortable passageway.

Another view of the elegant furnishings.

Interior garden inside the quadrangle building.
Exquisitely carved doors lead into the hacienda chapel.

Distant view of indigenous home.  We did not realize this was a house.

Two sons of the home and the entrance to the house.

The matriarch of the home and her son. Her husband was not home when we visited.
View of the cooking area which had an appetizing odor.

Andean potatoes along with a stew.

A hearty pepper sauce.

A "quail like" bird in the cage with sleeping mats against the wall.
Of course, cuy (guinea pigs) were being raised in the home.

Far corner in the house that would have been used for sleeping.

Two more children of the house.

The field of onions next to the house.


  1. Looks like the Andean family eats better than many families in the US!

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