Photos by Ivan and Karla
Text by Karla Gachet
The doctor sterilized the tweezers to investigate the wounds of my foot. “Take a deep breath and if you must shout, this is going to hurt.” Ah! The worse part was not the metallic tweezers piercing through the infection of three different holes on my foot. The worse part was the news that came after, “A fly has laid eggs on your foot.” The words “eggs and fly” began to boil in my brain and I wanted to shout, “Doctor, please cut off the foot!”
The egg-laying incident might have taken place in Limones or San Miguel, I’m not sure, it could have been in Borbon. When we began the Esmeraldas journey we went without a specific plan. The idea was to document the province in one week. This project marked the beginning of “From the Equator to the land of Fire” trip. The route for the week was San Lorenzo in canoe to Limones, then south to Borbon, down the Cayapas River to San Miguel to finish in the southern town of Atacames. The recommendations began to pour on us before we left to the coastal town: “Take care of your equipment, Esmeraldas is very dangerous… Do not drive at night… Beware of the colombian guerrilla… Did you read of those tourist who were raped and killed?…”
In the 1500’s, Esmeraldas had the first establishments of African slaves who arrived to Ecuadorian territory. One of the stories is that a full boat of slaves that was headed to Peru, shipwrecked near the Esmeralda’s coast. A group of slaves was sent to find fresh water on the main land and they never returned. If this had happened nowadays people would have said that they did not return because, of course, they got robbed.
Luckily for us, the stereotype of a dangerous and unfriendly province vanished from the first day of our trip. We found in Esmeraldas what you find in any other province of Ecuador: stories, sorrows, Correistas and nonCorreistas, fried chicken, fries with watered down ketchup, posters of the governor of California in some action movie, etc, only that in Emeraldas this all happens under an intense heat. Emeraldas is a mixture of calm, quiet and blue places with others that ignite with lights of colors and where the volume is raised to the max. The majority of people are black, there is a lot of poverty and violence, and yet it has a rich cultural heritage which they proudly try to maintain.
In our trip across the green province we discovered hidden places and met characters who became our friends even though we might never see them again. The fishermen say that everything is a matter of luck, sometimes there is plenty of fish and sometimes nothing catches. Sometimes you are so lucky you run into a pregnant fly who picks you as a surrogate mother.