First Day of Imbabura Excursion

The welcome lunch provided by San Clemente

The group kicked off our journey to San Clemente Community early Thursday morning. On our way to Ibarra, the city where the indigenous people live next to, we stopped by to overlook Nevado Cayambe, the only volcano in Ecuador that passes through the equator. The group then visited the original Bizcocho shop that promoted this delicious cuisine to the entire country.

The indigenous people living in San Clemente welcomed us with the Pampa Mesa traditional meal. Community members brought their homemade food to share with all of us. Before we ate, the collective group formed into a circle, hand in hand. The cultural tourism leader Manuel then welcomed all of us into this closely connected family. The community members insisted on us getting the food first. The two girls from San Clemente stood next to their mothers and observed how adults served the food to the guests. This behavior corresponds to the Bolin’s Book, “Growing up in a Culture of Respect," and psychologist Rogoff’s article, “Learning by observing and pitching into family and community endeavors.” By working and playing during Fiestas celebrated within the community, youngsters are exposed to new mathematical challenges and understand the value of respect in a deeper level.
Learning from Manuel about the history of Karaky people
fighting for their lands

In the afternoon, the group embarked on a two-hour hike to learn about the history of the Karaky people and the indigenous resistance towards the Hacienda (ranch or plantation) owners and Ecuadorian military in the '80's and '90s. This tour about community territorial order and history was eye opening. Manuel, first introduced us the freedom challenges his father generation faced in front of the dilapidated ranch house. He hoped that the house would be renovated to become a community center to host work celebrations and store books for the children. The group then started hiking uphill to hear the upbeat story of the community building two houses in one night to claim their land ownership. But they never stop fighting for their rights. Nowadays, adults from San Clemente still admonish young adults the importance of solidarity by sharing the betrayal story of how some community members hindered their progress of right claiming for the lands. They also regularly patrol the military fence to ensure that the army does not break the tranquility of the community.
Walking through the Andes, a rainbow overhead,
and a pasture of tall grasses. Irresistibly call you
to run through the grasses!

After the incredible cultural hike, we went back to the San Clemente backyard, where Manuel introduced us with the agricultural calendar. The calendar is in the shape of a circle, which is divided into four equal quarters, each representing three months. The year starts with the Spring Equinox and becomes busier starting from September when most of the plants begin to ripe. From the Winter Solstice to the Spring Equinox, the community takes a break from farming and celebrate their work with different fiestas. The agricultural calendar reminds me of what Chinese farmers refer to for planting and reaping, the 24 solar terms. With the night falling, Manuel shared with us how indicative dreams are for the indigenous people. The emphasis on nights and dreams corresponds to what Bolin said in her book, “The night sky is equally revealing to the Andean people.” (Bolin, 95)

On our way back to host families, we were amazed by how the Quechua hostesses, carrying heavy utensils on their backs, walked safely on the narrow and slippery road at night without flashlights. The long day ended with students helping to prepare dinners with the host families. 

Even though we did not have any cell signal in San Clemente, everyone enjoyed the scenic view, savored the stories behind their respect for nature, and appreciated the community bonding time.

Stay tuned for the Minga project on Friday and Saturday, and many more things that blasted students' minds!


  1. Arriving in San Clemente was a little bit of a shock since I honestly was not expecting it to be so developed! It was so interesting hearing the history of the land there and the struggles of the people who value their traditional culture deeply.

  2. Starting our hike at the Hacienda and geographically moving around San Clemente based on chronological events was definitely eye opening. The fact that we were able to walk around and hear these stories was a definitely a privilege !!


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