Buzzing Quito

by Andrew Stein

On our last day in Ecuador, we set out to explore some of Quito.  After making our way over to the historic old city, we are greeted with much unexpected excitement.  First, we encounter a mob scene developing as street vendors and metro police swarm around each other, angry words shared, fists fly, lots of pushing, and for every person involved in the skirmish there are at least 10 more watching.  After chatting with a couple onlookers, we believe the issue is that there are many illegal street vendors who have been selling for years that the police are just now starting to crack down on.  It’s not clear who is in the right here.

To escape the chaos outside, we dip into the nearby La Merced Church, where we’ve stumbled upon a wedding in progress.  There’s singing and chanting, and we try to inconspicuously hide in the wings as the ceremony continues.  We soon venture back out where things seem to have calmed down only a little, we walk around the old cobblestone streets, and when we eventually make our way back to the church, we see the newlywed couple emerging.  While taking a couple pictures from the street, the groom spots us, make our presence known to his new wife, and gives us a thumbs up!

On the high of all that just happened, we continue to explore.  After passing a couple blocks of stores where locals stand in the street trying to sell products like mops, strainers and underwear, we soon get blocked by a protest.  After some investigation, we learn that they’re protesting the human trafficking of 50+ university women who have gone missing in the last year.  One powerful image that will stick with us is the cardboard cutouts of female bodies being carried down the street to represent those who are lost.

In an effort to process some of what just happened, we find a café nearby and recap the highs and lows of the excitement in Quito’s old town.