We took Rio Tomembamba as far west as Cuenca would allow. The final bridge cut sharply South, while the course of the river meandered into the forest and towards its headwaters upstream. We were well away from the city center, out among errant chickens and lazy cats, all roaming in the tall grass, watched over by scrappy canine defenders.
The sprawling South Rim campus is a prime example of industrial tourism, as this side of the Grand Canyon shoulders the brunt of 6 million visitors a year. The facilities put great emphasis on accessibility and family-oriented educational programming. Multiple museums and exhibits detail the geologic and historical background of the park. It is also the starting point for hikes going down into the canyon itself.
This was one of the more serene and contemplative sites we had on the trip, due in part to it being the off-season. The Vermillion Cliffs are spectacular, and there are a number of impressive geologic formations right along the entrance road. Dipping our toes into the Colorado was icing on the cake.
The kitchen is a no-fly zone, where space to craft a punch or charcuterie spread has to be carefully usurped at the margins of the vast empire. The best time to sneak in is when my father is updating his tabulation of butter used thus far. A true student of the tradition of Julia Child, he delights in giving us a painfully honest breakdown of precisely how the sausage was made, as waistlines strain against belts. The only time I had ever missed my family’s Thanksgiving before was to share a Turducken with a friend who was stranded and alone under house arrest. Now, thousands of miles from Cleveland in Ecuador, the reality of the glamorous traveler’s life came with a complimentary jar of maraschino cherries.
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.