Saraguro, a remote, indigenous pueblito in the south of Ecuador, stand steadfast in their belief that they are living life the way it should be lived.
While they would fit nicely into western visuals of poverty, they find richness in the simplicity and would describe themselves as anything but that. Their hard, lined faces seemed to symbolise a life lived with fist-clenching certainty, rather than long, tiring days.
It was refreshing to see the way their beliefs, expressed vocally, continued like an unbroken line into their daily banter and early morning farm work.
Their fiercely respectful relationship with mother nature was rooted in such a linguistic and cultural depth that I admit, despite my greenie beliefs, I’ll never be able to truthfully say, “I completely get it”.
Our guide, José, gave us a genuinely fascinating classroom-like history lesson. Here’s a quick synopsis of a story you’ll love:
Quichwa, the indigenous people and language in Ecuador, was first insulted with the word “primitive” by the Spanish Conquistadores (“Conquerors” would be the not nearly as satisfying translation).
The Spanish claimed that the Quichwa language lacked in vocabulary, especially when compared with Castellaño (traditional Spanish).
The accusation was not a question of word-count but rather, the cultural focus of the Quiwcha people.
“Sure”, says José, “they had words that we didn’t have, words for things that had no worth to us.”
“However, we had words that only ourselves and our ancestors understand. The words of the Spanish are found all around the world.”
From there, José explained the way the two mountains within our sight “played” with each other, and that was how they received their Quiwcha names.
“The relationship between humanity and mother earth is the most important relationship of all.”
In the time that we stayed in Saraguro, I never heard José or anyone else use the word “sustainable”. It was so blatantly nurtured within themselves and the way they lived that it seemed redundant to say it again.
Born and bred in Sydney, I'm proud of my roots yet an addict for being anywhere but home (I'm sorry, mum!). Above all, I'm passionate about spreading my love of sustainable, innovative and entirely unique travel experiences through El Nomad.
Besides fruitlessly crossing countries off my long, long list, I'm a word-lover and photographer. I can't leave home without my camera, even if I "definitely" (you just never know) won't be needing it.
I'm also a hopeless dreamer, I love new projects and connecting with people that inspire me.