An Angel

by Linnea Otto

“Here is your food, my queen.” Doña Violet beamed to a child who stood barely taller than her knees. Her voice held such a tone of reverence that it seemed she was truly speaking to royalty. The child responded with a goofy smile, showing the gaps in their mouth that outnumbered the teeth.
This woman, Doña Violet, is an angel. She works nine hours everyday making food from scratch for over seventy children at the youth center where I work. Despite this, every morning when I enter the kitchen, she drops whatever pot she’s stirring or pan she’s scrubbing and spins around to greet me. If I forget my water bottle in the refrigerator over the weekend, she freshens it with new water before I get to work on Monday. When she cooks something that has meat in it, she makes me a vegetarian portion. When I don’t wear my glasses, she notices and asks me where they are. In an environment swarming with people, she not only makes me feel like a valued individual, but manages to devout attention to each and every child. When the food is hot, she will sit for an hour at the preschool table, reminding each kid to blow every single spoonful so that they don’t burn their tongues. When kids are running late for lunch, she will stand in the kitchen as she eats, waiting to serve the remaining children. On the day of the third and fourth grader’s play last semester, she made a special lunch of fried shrimp to celebrate. 
However, despite her shining smile, her eyes are tired. She has been working at the youth center for over a decade. The heavy lifting, working on her feet all day, and the daily temperature above 100℉ in the kitchen are taking a toll on her physical health. When I offer to help her with simple tasks such as cutting vegetables or lifting a heavy crate, her face warms and softens as if I had just volunteered to carry her several miles. Only once or twice has she admitted to me that her arthritis has been bothering her. “I’m doing well today…but my wrists hurt,” she’ll say. And with that, she’ll brush off her apron and begin serving the seventy plates of food to her awaiting kings and queens.

Mundo Sin Barreras

by Chastidy Vasconez

Last week I tagged along with my friend to her placement at Fundacion Mundo Sin Barreras—a disabilities house that supports people of ranging conditions, providing them with computer, art, and music classes, along with occupational therapy. I had the opportunity to sit in on a music class and watch the student band play. Shaking a tambourine to their beat, I was thoroughly impressed by their performance. They wrote their own songs. They sang and played their own instruments with incredible energy. I was happy to see such a warm, safe, and all-inclusive space for people with disabilities to express themselves creatively. 

Individuals with disabilities are often unable to thrive because of the absence of opportunities made available for them. Growing up in Ecuador, my father struggled to access the same resources that other people took for granted because of his hearing condition. Consequently, he fell behind in his classes, was frequently teased, and regularly got into fights with other students. Upon immigrating to the United States in his early 20s, he was finally able to find programs and communities that supported him through his challenges. 

Since Vice President Lenín Moreno’s election in 2007, Ecuador has made steps to better support people with disabilities. Moreno, a big disabilities advocate, launched social service initiatives in order to target the institutionalized discrimination and social isolation this marginalized community faces. Over the last decade, he has implemented policies to better aid those with disabilities, and increased the government budget allocated from $900,000 a year to roughly $200 million a year. There has also been an increase in public accommodations for individuals with disabilities including state and local support services, employment opportunities, and better transportation. Moreno became a prominent figure and role model for those with disabilities, and his presence as Vice President led to his victory in the presidential election back in 2017. He is currently the world’s only elected head of state with paraplegia. 

Moreno’s progressive policies have brought greater inclusion in the governing system and society in Ecuador, but this nation along with many other nations, still have a long way to go to create a world that is easier to navigate for those with disabilities. It is important to continue providing equitable opportunities and resources, such as Mundo Sin Barreras, that allow individuals to reach their full potential. An environment bred to give way for the success of those most vulnerable in our communities will be essential to creating a nation that is all-inclusive.
 

Indio-Maiz

by John Lazur

The Indio-Maiz Biological Reserve (IMBR) is what some people call “The Lung of Central America.” For good reason too: the reserve covers some 110 million acres (only slightly smaller than the state of Delaware.) Indio-Maiz has also been heralded as “the gem of Central American nature reserves” by biologists at UCLA. It was once seen as an “untouchable” reserve, protected by the national government with military stations all around the border registering all visitors, examining what fishermen catch in the river, and restricting access to the vast majority of the reserve. Even with all of this apparent protection, according to the Central America University the region has shrunk at a rate of 350,000 acres per year due to deforestation. What is happening here?

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Mercado

by Elizabeth Kenneally

When my parents came to visit me during la Semana Santa, one of the only plans I made beforehand was to take them to a market. Markets in Cuenca aren’t just places to see pretty arrays of fruit and buy 5 avocados for a dollar; they are perhaps some of the best equalizers in the city. I see all types of people on buses, but those with more money don’t take them and prefer to drive. There are lots of different people at the mall, but those with less money don’t shop there. But everyone needs fruit, vegetables, and meat. You can see men in suits waiting with small, stooped ethnic Cuencan women alongside young children going shopping for their families. It’s the best place to go to really get a flavor for the culture and see people going about their daily lives. 

Ranging from a few stalls to what seems like the size of my hometown, markets in Cuenca are scattered across the city. Some, like the Mercado 10 de Agosto and the Mercado 3 de Noviembre are open every day, always bustling with excited vendors and hurried shoppers. These markets have multiple stories: one is filled with different cuts of meat and entire animals, one with every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable as well as a section with plants and herbs, one that sells food ready to eat, and often a section for clothing. Most markets also have “la limpia,” a ceremony involving patting you down with plants and rubbing you with an egg that is meant to cleanse you of bad energies. It’s a very popular tradition and is captured in this video.

The culture in Cuenca is very friendly and familiar, where people call each other veci (neighbor), mi corazón (my heart) and mijo / mija (my son / daughter). That’s probably why my host family and I continue to buy fruit from the same little old lady each week even though better prices for the same food are potentially available two feet to the left. Because of this, the only person who agreed to let me film her was the lady making hornado (a typical Ecuadorian dish with mote (hominy), roast pig, cascarita (crispy pig skin), potatoes, and salad) because she already knew me. Así es. 

Soccernomics in Brazil: How Socioeconomic Status Impacts The Beautiful Game

by Jonas Gerken

 I decided to go to Brazil for one main motivation: football. Real football. Soccer. The country is ripe with football culture. Jerseys are sold in every shop; games are on televisions in every eating establishment; pitches exist in almost every neighborhood. Brazilian fans have been known to go to extremes for their national team, including jumping off of buildings, both in defeat and victory. In Brazil, torceda (supporting a team) really is coração (heart).
   In Brazil I played for a team called Orlando City, an academy or development team created and sponsored by the Orlando City soccer team based out of the United States. It was a fun team to play on, and I got to play with my host brother which helped strengthen our relationship. The Brazilians that I played with were very talented, some of the best on the island of Florianopolis, but paled in comparison to kids from around the country. When we played in the Copa Floripa, the largest tournament on the island and in Santa Catarina, we scored just two goals and lost every game by a dividend greater than three. But the kids I played with in Brazil did something that kids in the US soccer system stop doing after they are about fourteen: they play for fun.

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