LATIN AMERICA

Social Politics in Ecuador

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Before the rest of the Shoulder to Shoulder Brigade members arrived in Ecuador, Vanessa and I we were able to spend a little bit of time with our hostel keepers. They were so nice to us and did everything that they could to make us feel comfortable. One worker even volunteered her time to show us around the downtown area. She drew our attention to historic buildings, nice places to eat out at, stores, and other small attractions in the community.

Before the rest of the Shoulder to Shoulder Brigade members arrived in Ecuador, Vanessa and I we were able to spend a little bit of time with our hostel keepers. They were so nice to us and did everything that they could to make us feel comfortable. One worker even volunteered her time to show us around the downtown area. She drew our attention to historic buildings, nice places to eat out at, stores, and other small attractions in the community.

The conversation was sparked after I noticed some looks that we received along the way. I figured that the stares and glances were due to our American – or at least foreign – appearance, but she explained that she generally gets certain looks and comments even when she is by herself. She went on to explain that she experienced this because of her indigenous dress. But perhaps, that day, the stares could have been accounted to the combination of an indigenous person and that indigenous person walking around with foreigners. The looks were more curious than anything else, however (and no one threatened our safety), so we did not take offense.

What bothered me is that she made a personal decision to uphold her indigenous heritage, and now has to deal with societal rejection as a result. She is discriminated against in an area where she should, and rightfully so, feel safest and most comfortable. Although this woman did not describe any truly malicious displays of discrimination towards her, I don’t think that anyone should ever have to deal with any amount of discrimination, no matter how minute.

The exposure I had was a great reminder that, although we have made leaps and bounds in the direction of equality and tolerance, there is still much more that needs to be done. As an aspiring doctor, I believe that this lesson will be advantageous for me to keep in mind when I start working. For so long I have lived in a bubble, free from rude comments and from the reality that people who hate others, without knowing anything save external characteristics, do indeed exist. My time in Ecuador was filled with memorable situations and adventures that have truly broadened my eyes and have helped me to learn more about myself, others, and how I may be perceived by others. I will surely value my experience as I continue to interact with people whose background, outlooks, and beliefs differ from mine.

Hillary is an Education Abroad Peer Ambassador. She participated in a Service Abroad program with Shoulder to Shoulder Global. She is studying Dietetics, and she is pre-med.