The focus of today was experiencing various indigenous practices and foods, specifically from the Puhara, which are a independent, indigenous people in the Chimborazo province of Ecuador. We took a bus ride to Pucara Tambo, which is a ceremonial center for the Puhara. At Pucara Tambo we went on a guided tour of the complex, which included a museum, La Plaza Ceremonial (ceremonial plaza), a botanical garden, and structures and animals native and important to the Puhara. The main activity was the Cleansing Ceremony, which was a sacred ceremony performed by the Puhura to rid a person of their bad energy. We got to eat lunch at the center, and we were provided with a wonderful panoramic view of the Riobamba and the surrounding mountains due to our high altitude. For lunch we had the opportunity to try Cuy, which is fried Guinea Pig. It was a new experience for all of us, and it was fun to step out of our comfort zone. Next we went to Nativa, which is a restaurant in Riobamba that serves primarily indigenous food. We were taught how to make empanadas by the owner, and we ate the empanadas we made for dinner, along with a variety of native fruits and dishes from Ecuador.
What stood out to me throughout the day was the pride for indigenous culture. Learning about the history of the Puhara (including the bloody parts) and their subsequent efforts to reclaim their culture, and participating in a sacred, important ceremony, it was evident the pride that the Puhara people feel for their culture, historically and today. We got to experience firsthand the powerful sense of community that runs through the Puhara people, and I am so grateful that the Puhara have opened this complex to share their culture and their lifestyle with others. It was amazing to experience a taste of the Puhara culture, especially after all that they have gone through to protect and reclaim their way of life.
We all learned today how much insight and knowledge can be gained from experiencing different cultures, especially ones that are wildly different from our own. It is important to respect other cultures, and trying to interact and understand other people’s lifestyles is very beneficial. We learned just how empowering a sense of community and pride can be, and I know that I for one will try to bring my experience back with me to the United States. We all got to experience many practices that were new to us, and we approached these opportunities with an open mind and a eager curiosity for knowledge. The importance of acknowledging and respecting indigenous cultures was represented today, and we all came away from those experiences a different person. Being el Lider del Dia (Leader of the day) was exciting, challenging and I am very grateful that I was able to lead on such an important and learning-filled day.
Huk Ratukama (bye in Kichwa),
P.S. Happy Father’s Day!