After more than a week of restrictive movement due to the protests, my family and I decided to venture just a little outside our square mile bubble that included a few local stores and friend’s houses.
We had a short list. Run over to Nate’s uncle’s house in Tumbaco about fifteen minutes away for a quick errand. Take the car in to get the brakes cleaned. Lunch. Pickup car. And head back home. The whole trip was only expected to take a couple hours and we felt okay. The protests had simmered down the previous weekend and remained centralized in Quito.
As we turned onto the main road, I looked to the left.
Huge plumes of smoke rose from the streets not too far away. And I could already see large crowds starting to flood the streets. Curious bystanders or otherwise. It was time to go. My heart racing, we started the trek home. One that just a few minutes before had been slightly congested was now halted to almost a standstill in some places, as everyone on the road began making the same unexpected ride back to their homes.
We made it to our house with what felt like minutes to spare. My WhatsApp chats blowing up with road closures, business closures and stories of people being trapped. Accounts of violence and looting going on right outside our doorstep. An hour or so later, the government issued a curfew which began at 3 pm giving people barely a moments notice to vacate the streets.
The rest of the day passed in a nervous blur. My biggest concern being that I would go into labor. It would be just my luck. Our neighbors assembled in the park to discuss mobilization. With the curfew in effect, the guards were unable to come or go leaving them tired and in need of a break. We would help staff the front with more people throughout the night. If our homes were threatened, the plan was to storm the gates to prevent them from getting in. Sound house alarms to warn the rest. My husband attended a practice drill at 8 pm and said hundreds of residents had shown up in solidarity.
As I’ve said before, as a foreigner it is so hard to understand and disseminate information in a situation like this when you lack the full spectrum of the political, social and cultural history of a country. Especially when public support and the media is so skewed. Biases and of course, the ever popular fake news obfuscating truth. If there even is really one truth.
So when hysteria hit Cumbaya.
I wasn’t really sure what to make of it.
My gut told me to remain calm. Not only did we live in one of the most secure compounds with three armed guards at the entrance. Our house is surrounded by fifteen foot walls and protected by two dogs weighing over 80 lbs. But when my husband signed up for a night shift to man the front, I’ll admit, I was a little uneasy. He took off with a metal broom handle around 10 pm as I fell into a restless sleep. A month away from my delivery date, in the rare event that I would need to defend myself. Something everyone around me was preparing to do. It wouldn’t be easy.
But we made it through without incident.
And in the bright light of morning with some sleep under my belt, I feel better today. With the curfew extended until 3 pm and President Moreno scheduled to talk with the indigenous people at the same time, I can only hope that they reach some kind of compromise. From what I’ve seen the destruction to the city has been immense at the hands of the more aggressive protesters that are rumored to be everyone from Venezuelan gang members to former President Correa’s personal mafia out to cause trouble and destroy evidence in the ongoing investigation into his administration.
With pots and pans banging through the night. Arguments online breaking out as to what it really means and who the noise is truly supporting. I saw one person remark that everyone thinks their neighbor is on their same side, when they’re probably not. It was presented negatively. But I thought about how beautiful the moment really was. A time when people could feel united, even if they really weren’t. At a very basic level, everyone hoping for peace regardless of which side they stand by.