Indigenous Calendar June, 2010: A Quichua Philosopher in the Andes Mountains

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Any opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the policies of The Peoples of the World Foundation. Unless otherwise noted, the author and photographer is Dr. Ray Waddington.

I'd always imagined that seeing the Andes Mountains for the first time would be the kind of experience that nobody ever forgets. For me it was. But my first sight of those mountains was not the only unforgettable memory of my time in Ecuador.

I had planned to visit many remote, indigenous, Andean communities. Such communities are quite isolated at very high elevations and can be difficult to reach. Once reached, the facilities are basic since outside visitors are not so common. This isolation has meant that inter-marriage with Spanish colonists has been practiced less in these areas and so the population consists of more "pure-blood" indigenous people than Mestizos.

Wandering around one such community I noticed this young girl. She was alone, sitting on a wall, and appeared to be simply passing time. She was perhaps forty meters away from me. Looking through a long telephoto lens I observed her long, thick, slightly curly, flowing black hair. She was "pure-blood" Quichua. I studied her through my lens for a while. Although I was in a village of mainly "pure-blood" Quichua, there was something about this girl's mannerisms that made her appear to be a philosopher of remote, Andean life!

Eventually I approached her to ask permission to take photos. Because of her young age I'd expected a negative response but she was very willing and immediately started posing for me like a professional child model. That was not the kind of photo I wanted so I thanked her and walked away. She remained there and continued her philosophizing. When I was once again about forty meters away from her I swapped back to the long telephoto and turned around. I now realized that she had been observing me the whole time. I lifted my camera and, perhaps intentionally, she stared right into it to produce this photo.

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