Ecuador – Day Eight: San Jose de Lirio and the Purhua Community

We left our luxurious hotel in Riobamba early this morning to spend the day at over 13,000 feet with the Purhua peoples of the San Jose de Lirio community in the Chimborazo Province. It was a cold and rainy 45 degree day, yet this community of 300 with 57 families still carried on with their daily farming activities like it was just any other day.

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They have their own classrooms to teach the children of the community and the students were given the opportunity to teach them a little English. The classroom I was in had the youngest of the children ages 4-6. Look at these two beauties! They quickly stole my heart and if kidnapping wasn’t frowned upon, I may have tried to smuggle them back with me to the US. Once we exhausted our Spanish with this group, one of the students turned on some music from her phone and we danced with them.

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This community farms on 100,000 acres, rain or shine. Farming is their livelihood so taking a day off because of the rain isn’t an option. They asked us to help them with their planting for the day, which was along the side of a mountain and required three people – one to dig the trench, one to drop the seeds, and the third to cover the seeds. The students helped them plant potatoes, fava beans, and wheat the old-fashioned way – with hoes. No fancy equipment, just two hoes and an apron full of seed.

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Once the planting demonstration was over, we moved to our next activity…shearing a sheep. As the granddaughter of a sheep farmer, this was one experience I was going to volunteer for and wasn’t afraid to get my hands dirty. Again, there was no fancy equipment, no electric shears – just a sharp pair of scissors. This sheep was so patient tied up on the ground in the rain, as we all trimmed his wool coat. His lanolin left my hands soft and oily.

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It’s tradition to play a game of soccer with this community and the rain didn’t dampen their competitive spirit; the women even stepped up to play in their skirts. The game ended in a tie and the reward at the end was serving this community lunch; sandwiches and soda.

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They then cooked us a traditional Purhua lunch of corn, fava beans, potatoes, and guinea pig. My lunch was light, no guinea pig for me. Thankfully, I had a power bar in my bag for the bus ride home.

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Earlier in the day, most of the students watched the process of butchering, cleaning, and preparing the guinea pig for roasting. Myself and three students opted out of this demonstration so fortunately, I have no details to share about that. Most who tried the roasted guinea pig said that it tasted gamey like rabbit.

It was a humbling day for me and this community was so kind and generous. They said we lifted their spirits on a gloomy day. Little do they know that they did the same for us.

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