Monday, August 10, 2009

The Mound, a flood, and the Levantamiento (not necessarily in that order)

So, I’m realizing to my horror that it’s been nearly a month since I’ve updated the blog. A lot has been happening, not the least of which was Baby Girl baptizing my computer with a cup of tea. Between taking it apart to mop up the tea and let everything dry, and then waiting until I could get to Libertad to buy a new keyboard (the one casualty of the whole affair) I lost nearly two weeks of computer usage. But, we’re up and running again, so all is well in the world.

The community has been embroiled in a fairly interesting and lengthy political demonstration for the last few weeks to assert their control of community lands and access to different resources on community property. This has mainly consisted of blocking the main road going in and out of town, and setting up a 24 hour guard to monitor the traffic going in and out of town. It all started when someone who leases community lands decided that they’d go and fence off the road that the community uses to take tourists to some very pretty cascading pools of water, effectively declaring both that portion of the road and the pools to be private property. These same leasees also waved guns at community members as they went along this road, for trespassing on their “property”. The community set up the blockade to prevent these people from moving freely to and from the land that they are leasing.

As you might imagine, the police and local and provincial governments got involved in this dispute, which still does not have a resolution. The leasees claim that the community is trying to kick them off the land (and there is some claim on their part that they bought this land, though that is impossible because the whole territory belongs to the community), while the community contends that the leasees are trying to develop tourism privately and thus deprive the community of an important source of revenue. You might be able to guess where my sympathies lie. I got invited along by community members on one of the inspections by the provincial government because I could record video with my camera. The rhetoric each side was using was really interesting – “cultural patrimony” versus “my property” – and it was also pretty clear that the Inspector (the third one to check out the situation) was fairly well in the pocket of the leasees. There is certainly a lot at stake in the outcome of this dispute; not only the livelihood of community members but their physical safety as well. In the course of the dispute it was revealed that one of the leasees was released from jail just a few years ago after serving 13 years for robbery and double homicide. And most of the problems started after he arrived on the scene.

Last weekend Steve and I became godparents to a newly married couple in the village. It’s not the same as becoming godparents to an infant – more like a cross between being godparents and the best man/matron of honor – which made it all the odder that we didn’t really know these people that well. It was one of those things, though, where I felt like I couldn’t say no, like the act of asking obligated us. Steve was still sick, so put in a brief appearance with Baby Girl and then took her home to sleep. I on the other hand had to stay and drink until the wee hours of the morning, and even then I chickened out and headed home around 3. I just don’t have the stamina for it like I used to.

On Thursday we closed up excavations at the mound. I was actually quite disappointed in how things turned out. The mound appears to be a natural hill that was modified to have a platform on top. The surface is covered in artifacts, but we found virtually no sub-surface features. I was particularly keen to find a structure on the top of the mound, but alas, no joy. There was also very little evidence for use of the flat space around the mound. We did test pits every 5m to recover evidence of different use areas or house floors, but got very little for our efforts. It’s definitely made me question my interpretation a bit more, but I don’t have any new answers.

I feel like the community might be getting a bit disappointed, because they want me to find things that they can use to start a museum, but so far it’s just been the usual ceramic fragments (though my friend Alex reminded me that the spindle whorls, copper bell, and copper tweezers that we found up at the cistern are pretty good by coastal Ecuador standards). Hopefully they have patience with me, and all of our hard work will turn up something interesting and also let us tell the story of life at Dos Mangas back in the day.

The house situation is still at a standstill. We found another place in the community that is REALLY nice, even by general North American standards (hot water and a bathtub – HEAVEN!) but we just can’t afford what the owner wants for monthly rent (like, twice as much(. Right now it’s a bit of a poker game…do we come up a bit, spending money out of savings, and hope that he realizes that he can either rent to us at a lower price and make some money or have an empty house and make no money. We’ll keep you all up to date as thing progress.

No comments:

Post a Comment