S2 #6.2: A Divided Country

Ecuador put a lot into perspective in the pandemic era. The country is like a sovereign government; those with higher power and authority will prosper and outlive this dreadful period. In contrast, the other classes are left with the scraps and must fend for themselves. It's not an easy life in the South American Country. When I arrived there, a lot has not been the same. The plague of death has covered every corner of the three-continental region. Let me take you in, as I witnessed the drastic change this beautiful nation has endured and how I tried to unite it during the Covid-19 pandemic.

For those that may not know, Ecuador is split into three continental regions; the Costa (coast), Sierra (mountains), and Oriente (east), which is the pure jungle. There's also the insular region, The Galapagos Islands, but we will focus on the mainland for this post. These three central regions all have slight cultural differences within themselves. It's easy to catch with your eyes and ears. The food they cook, the way they dress, and the accent they speak! Thus, making this South American a distinct nation. One can see all of this diversity amassed in one place. You must believe the people in this land must rejoice together, right? Well, I hate to burst your bubble.

It's safe to say that every country of the world faces its kind of discrimination concerns. Here in Ecuador is no different. Many indigenous people in the land have been oppressed badly with political policies in the last few years. But it doesn't stop there. The only reason most of you know about this is that social media started exposing these severities. I'm talking about decades of oppression. Many of them have been put down the poverty line due to outraged political decisions. Remember Ecuador's old currency, 'sucre'? The men in black suits and ties back in 2000 were desperate to save the country from inflation. They adapted the US Dollar currency to protect themselves. It took about four years to see the inflation rate drop down to below 5 percent. The benefits were there, such as decreasing international trading costs and increasing long-term investments and trade. Unfortunately, it did not outweigh the bad, where it put many Ecuadorians in suffering wreckage.

From a business perspective, the disadvantages discouraged export from having competition in the international market, and it took away the central banks' privilege to have its monetary policy. But I think we ought to look where it counts, the people's lives that it has impacted. Those that had life savings in banks when it collapsed lost every cent. And even worse, their sucre got converted into dollars without warning, raising a great concern for thousands of families. Those from the mountains especially! Indigenous families are often looked at as minorities that "lack the education," and it shows by the act from the government. Imagine losing your family's inheritance because of your government's lack of comprehension of their economic state and having a single-minded growth strategy at the cost of adopting sustainable economic policies for 500 years! And that's just the past. Today with the pandemic, it's much worse.

As I entered this new world, It was indeed on fire. Just in my family's town, I saw many people fearful for their lives, showing desperation in their eyes on what the future holds. About fifteen of my aunt's neighbors have passed due to COVID. There were more abandoned homes than people on the streets. And those that were outside always had their masks on. Kids remained home and continued schooling via remote learning. You must comprehend a country like Ecuador; not every family household has the luxury of owning a computer or laptop. The WIFI is the worst part of it as it tends to be very slow. I've got to give the people living here credit because they sure can endure it. I know most kids in America wouldn't last a second with a dawdled internet router.

As I stayed longer here, I discerned other solicitudes. There's money segregate line between cities and farmlands. In the city, the market is costly and lavish. Life in the farms and developing towns are cheap and economical. A twenty-dollar bill here will have you set for an evening night. It may sound convenient for us travelers, but we have to think about the natives that live there all year long. Jobs are limited. And those who can obtain a job only get paid monthly, an average estimate of $300. That's not to say only a handful of jobs pay that much. Yet, the people prosper in any way they can. They remain content and carry on. There's no debate over who has the best clothing brand or best fit in a place like Ecuador. Or who has the best house or biggest pool. Many humble people reside here because they know how it feels to have nothing. So they appreciate all that they have and only afford it, which is key to living a happy life. You get what you can over here. Or work hard enough to appraise yourself to living a better life.

My family in Ecuador from my biological father's side are one most humble, care-giving human beings I've ever known in my life. But I see where I differ from them. I come from two worlds where one side lectures me to give out all the love I have in me. And the other one, where you have to be tough as in "Ponte las pilas!" That's just one difference between my two families.

Meanwhile, the pandemic was occurring, Ecuador was diving into a new election, the presidential race. There were many runners. But it came down to the last top two, Guillermo Lasso and Rafael Corea's Ally, Andres Arauz. A divider came in between my two worlds. Each family group of mine chose their side in this election. They vouched for their candidate in the hopes of discouraging others from committing the mistake of voting against their chosen one. Both parties expressed to me their reason to support their choice. And sure, while both deliver well-made points, there's one element that I don't have that both family trees have. And that's experience.

I can't possibly counter anyone's choice of voting because I never encountered an actual daily life here in Ecuador. I didn't go thru what my family struggled with here. I never suffered or experienced long, cold, exhausting nights because of empty glass windows, where roosters crow every early morning—or worry if food rations would go low next week. I never had that trouble during my upbringing. So it doesn't seem right to me to justify either political party. My opinion wouldn't matter. I'm just a kid from an urban city in the United States. Whole other world over here.

The gossip in this presidential race has gotten way out of proportion. The amount of crap I hear from both parties trying to dehumanize one another. I find it very entertaining, but in fact, it's pretty scary. Scary because imagine living in a nation where we can't look up to our commander in chief because they lack integrity. Interestingly enough, when both political leaders and their followers bark at each other, one term is constantly thrown around. I think it's the key to this whole disunion between communities and the one thing that I need to destroy to consolidate the communities of Ecuador. Let me use capitalization to tell you what it is. CORRUPTION.

This single word can be a noun, verb, and adjective at once. It comes from the noun form of corrupt, which can be used as a verb meaning to destroy the integrity of someone or an adjective to describe someone who acts in this way. That word is prevalent in Ecuadorian politics. Everyone from the media to high profile politicians use it to discredit their rivals. And the insane thing is that it works! One false rumor comes out of the mouth of a news anchorman, and it dictates the screams of everyone watching. Riots arise, regional neighbors clash with each other; A united nation is no more. It's every man/woman for themselves. See what I just did there. I just lied about people clashing and starting political riots for the 2021 presidential race. I bet you believed me there for a second. Don't worry. I won't do it again; I just wanted to make a point.

The funny thing about corruption, it's everywhere. But it won't be recognized by the public until someone with a higher voice speaks up about it. Many skeptics are always running around yapping about the current politician in the office. They see a politician make one little mishap and call it corruption. For those that have a small audience, the government won't even bother to take action. It's a whole other story when you do have a significant amount of followers. Efraín Ruales, an Ecuadorian Journalist, was assassinated on a Wednesday morning in January while leaving the gym. He received four gunshot wounds while conducting his vehicle. Why did this happen? Ruales was receiving threats concerning his denunciation of alleged corruption. That's right. This journalist was sticking his nose in a place where the government didn't want the general public to know. A man with many social media fans will surely get a good amount of them convinced. So the government determined it necessary to do something about it. But heck, just by pulling the stunt of killing him has me and probably numerous people worldwide convinced that corruption is alive and in control of the Ecuadorian administration. This misfortune not only ended the life of a good man, but it set a massive warning to others who dare continue Ruales work. In the end, sadly, justice doesn't rise while the rich and powerful step on its ashes, walking freely on this Earth.

It's horrifying to confront corruption. I wish I could do something about it, but I'm only a one-man army, and I lack the resources. Then there's that ideal saying: you remove one enemy, and they find someone worse to replace them. And it's true. It's a never-ending cycle. So then, this concept got me thinking. What if it's just our perspective that lacks the entire understanding of corruption.

Think about it. Whatever we see a behavior without the context of it, we automatically consider it corruption. The President goes on an expensive vacation after getting approved for a funding bill he introduced to congress. Everyone conspires the money used for the trip came from this bill. They now call the President corrupted. The truth is we don't know where that money came from but only make assumptions it came from the obvious, which is okay to believe. You are entitled to your opinion. But that would also mean to call everything else corrupted. We, as humans, take advantage of certain situations for our benefit. For instance, you find a 100 dollar bill on the floor in a room with two other individuals. Your ethical side suggests announcing the currency to return it to its proper owner. Then again, you tell yourself been working hard and could use this 100 dollar bill to console yourself. And who knows in your eyes, it's fair given that you struck upon it because you have been breaking a lot of sweat. There's no winning this at all. Corruption is everywhere. Little or big the circumstance, if it doesn't favor the bigger crowd. It is automatically unethical. Perhaps corruption is part of human nature, and we take what we can whenever we want.

It's pretty much clear my time in Ecuador wasn't as widely impactful as I hoped. I didn't destroy corruption to unite people back together. So I took another approach. I found another way to connect the community or at least equalize relief for most families that lack the money and resources.

Written By: George M.

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