There may be moments where it’s up to you to offer a counterpoint to crass generalizations and cultural falsehoods. That obnoxious Uncle in the MAGA hat who keeps suggesting Latin American countries are dangerous (whilst never having traveled beyond the tri-state area) is wrong. You’re well within your rights to let him know how wrong he is. Diminishing an entire group of people based on cultural differences is, to put it lightly, fucking bullshit. But do it gently and respectfully. Remember that we’re all human beings working towards similar goals. Far from being polar opposites, most of us are reasonable people, occupying some spot in the middle ground of the human experience.
A few rectangular Formica tables leading up to a small display case, manilla walls bare but for a slice-shaped clock which declared it to be “pizza time.” A group of twenty-somethings were seated at a table, focused on a television hanging above. A music video was playing, featuring a blond Hispanic child rapping about sunshine. It was absurdly optimistic and the twenty-somethings were engrossed in the trainwreck. Stupid is funny in any language.
Before being an #influencer or Youtube channel host became a viable career option, people had a general preconception that writers led somewhat glamourous lives. Or at least, I did. Blame it on an overconsumption of Hemingway and Bukowski, but I thought writing was basically a talent for observing the absurd diffused through a gratuitous amount of alcohol. It allowed for a measure of importance to be placed on one’s ideas while preserving enough anonymity to not hinder the indulgence of socially frowned upon behavior. It was the perfect creative pursuit.
As you near the western outskirts of Cuenca, the failing and occasionally absent sidewalks reaffirm the notion that this is indeed a city, but it’s decidedly different than anything back home. A quarter-mile from the mid-level apartment buildings of our block, the mountains suddenly loom larger and the dense houses give way to larger haciendas with massive gardens. Livestock lounges in the shade, woodsmoke permeates the air, and the proud crow of roosters echoes in the alleys. The sidewalks eventually disappear completely, and grass grows wild and thick in the mountain breeze.
Though it’s relatively small, there’s a wealth of information there. There’s plenty of trail for a leisurely stroll, and a range of history spanning a variety topics and timelines. Paired with gorgeous views of the bay, ocean, and city below, it’s a true urban oasis. We had the good fortune to hang out briefly with a ranger while she was showing a small group a snake, and there was no shortage of things to do and explore. We came away with a lot of new information.
We doubled back to experience the museum from its entrance. A throne was exhibited near the doorway, the crest of its backrest punctuated by miniature skulls. A doll of a baby lay beneath a grate in a coffin-shaped opening in the floor. There was a guillotine, two bone chandeliers, a number of statues contorted with pained expressions. It was like if the witch who tried to eat Hansel and Gretel made folk art.
The Fremont people originally populated the region as early as 1000, but in the 13th century, likely due to sustained drought, they left the area. Paiutes would eventually move into the area long after. In 1872, John Wesley Powell’s team of explorers would survey the area, just as Mormon settlers moved into the area, some settling into what would become Fruita.
We stopped off at the bodega for beers, which resulted in the minus part of the transactions for the day, but we were nonetheless successful in our mission of acquiring alcohol. The shop owner’s patience for our linguistic fumbling isn’t an issue, but her line of questioning tends to throw us for a loop. As I’ve been learning Spanish, I’ve built scenarios in my head as mental exercises. I can understand extensive directions to the bathroom, how to find the police, what day a restaurant opens, where the parrot’s pants are located, and any number of things that almost never take place in daily life. It’s the regional turns on common phrases that throw us completely. Sometimes deciphering how much change we need to harvest for our purchases is avoided by handing over a fiver and crossing our fingers. Just like anywhere else, convenience stores are breezy affairs, and $2.75 in clipped English in a 7-11 translates in an Ecuadorian bodega to “what the hell did she just say oh god I’m so nervous I don’t want to fuck this up oh shit her eyes are boring a hole into my skull and waiting for an answer fuck fuckity fuck fuck” and so on.