Papa Imbabura

Our next stop as we explored northern Ecuador was Mira Largo in the Imbabura province.  We hiked around the San Pablo lake, a volcanic caldera of the Imbabura stratovolcano.

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Imbabura is 4,609-meter-high mountain located in the southern ring of fire, in northern Ecuador.  Although it has not erupted for at least 14,000 years, it is not thought to be entirely extinct.  As the dominant geographic feature of the area, Imbabura is of significant importance to the local culture, which involves a spiritual relationship with the land. The mountain is sometimes personified locally as Taita Imbabura, or “Papa” Imbabura. In fact, Imbabura is considered the sacred protector of the region.

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We explored the cultural displays as we hiked around the lake.  Each display had different areas with indigenous stones used for a variety of ritual purposes in prehistory.

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The area is also the habitat of the speckled bear.  The speckled bear eats the spiking looking achupalla plant.

As we were leaving Mira Lago to head to Otovalo, we met two indigenous Otovalean women.  Our fearless leader Diego offered them a ride on our bus and in exchange they sang a traditional song for us.

The song, in Quechua, spoke of Otovaleans traveling around the world selling their goods.  Then of course, they showed us their wares….

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Hacienda de Compañia de Jesus

After our tour of the rose plantation we visited the Hacienda de Compañia de Jesus, which is on the plantation property. As we arrived to the house grounds we were greeted by some lovely young women in traditional dress who offered us the famous bizcocho and some jugo de mora (blackberry juice).

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The area is famous for bizcocho and tasty cookie served with some fresh cheese.

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The hacienda is the family home of the Rosadex owners who open the 1st floor of the historic property to visitors, as well as the Jesuit Chapel.  The hacienda was owned 300 years ago owned by Jesuit monks.  When King Charles expelled the Jesuits from Spain and its colonies the property property became a dairy and grain farm.  The grain storehouse is now used to store roses instead.

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We toured the interior of the 1st floor of the hacienda.  It was beautiful.

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The chapel was very interesting.  When used for services, wealthy people sat in the front, closer to god than the commoners.

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It is uphill to the alter, representing that fact that people had to work harder to reach god.

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One of the most interesting features in the chapel was the statue of the Jesus de Esperanza (good hope).  Visitors make offerings to the statue.  If there is a drought, the local community will ask permission to take the statue out for a processional in an effort to alleviate the drought.

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Here are some pretty photos of the store room, now full of roses 🙂

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Ancient Irish Fort Damaged by “Thugs”

Ancient Irish Fort Damaged by “Thugs”.

The Flower Trail

The next city we visited on our tour of northern Ecuador was CayambeCayambe is 1 hour north of Quito, located in the Imbabura Provence of Ecuador.  While there we toured the Rosadex rose plantation.

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Ecuadorian rose plantations grow 400 different varieties in Ecuador, Rosadex concentrates on seven varieties.  Rosadex plantation has 120 km of green houses, where they grow a variety of roses.  The company sell roses in the American, Russian, & European markets.  Rosadex has 270 workers, 70% of them are female.  The company has a clinic and nursery on the plantation grounds to support their primarily female workforce.

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While visiting the plantation I learned a great deal about growing roses and their importance in the Ecuadorian economy.  I was surprised to learn that roses are a main source of the Ecuadorian economy.  Ecuador’s climate is good for growing roses because there is 12 hours of sunlight year round, humidity levels are conducive for growing roses, and the highland region has extremely fertile soil.  To grow 1 hectare of roses is a $300 thousand dollar investment.  It is so costly because the process is labor intensive, all of it done by hand.

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I also learned a great deal about the global rose market in general.  European consumers like small buds and long stems on their roses.  In contrast, US consumers like large buds and shorter stems.  Russian consumers like both.  Rosadex can ship roses within 15 days to the Russian market and between 24-48 hours to the US market.  This means that they can cut when the buds are more open for the US market than those shipped to the Russian market.

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Growing roses requires attention to detail on many different levels.  Different varieties of roses cannot be grown in the same green house because temperature and UV filters are different for each variety.  Rosadex uses a drip irrigation system with drip pipes along the beds.  They fertilize the roses through these too.  The main fertilizers used in growing their roses are calcium and magnesium.

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After our tour of the greenhouses we visited the sorting room.  Roses are cut straight across the stem to stop the blooming process.  When a florist gets them (or customer) they should be cut on a diagonal to restart the blooming process.  Roses should then re-cut on an opposite diagonal every 2 days to maximize the life of the rose.  Roses need to be kept cold or it will restart the blooming process.

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After a rose is cut, it must sit in tanks with special nutrients in them for at least 4 hours.  This allows the rose to last 15 days, if this step is skipped, the rose would only last 2 days.  Once the roses have soaked, they are then classified by stem length and bud size.

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The roses can then be bundled into bunches of 25.  Yes, that’s right 25, not 12.  These bundles are sold to wholesalers and florists who then separate them into smaller units.  Smaller, ready to sell bunches are bundled and sent to supermarkets as well.

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Each bundle is bar coded – it contains all the information on those roses – who cut it, size of the rose, variety, where they are going.  Once a rose is cut it can only stay at the plantation for up to 3 days, if it remains in the facility longer it cannot be exported and will be taken to the local market instead.  In Europe 1 rose costs 3-6 Euros, in the local market you can by 2 dozen for between 1-3 dollars.

Study Abroad Ecuador Highlights

A Dying Art…

Calderón was the first local town we visited on our weekend excursion north of Quito .  Calderón is approximately 20 miles north of Quito in the Pichincha Provence.  We started our weekend tour of the artisanal handicrafts here.

The town is famous for making bread dough ornaments called masapan.  The art of masapan started in local bakeries during the 1970s & 1980s.  As the ornaments  became more popular with tourists, bakers started adding colorings to the dough.

Masapan requires a good deal of manual labor, as they are handmade.  It is becoming a dying art.  Young people no longer want to learn the art of making masapan because they are so time consuming to construct.  They also do not command an high price, making it unattractive to spend so much time hand making them.

While in Calderón, we visited the shop of Señora Blankita.  She gave us a demonstration, making several small ornaments while we watched.  The students also had the opportunity to try their hand and making a masapan figure as well.

Cuenca man & woman

I couldn’t help but purchase a couple for myself.  I came home with a set of figurines.  A man and a woman, dressed in the tradtional attire of the city of Cuenca.  They now live in my office with the monkey flute I found in Nazca, Peru last year.

Chair of Social Science, Humanities,
& Foreign Languages

Liberal Arts & University Transfer
Craven Community College

800 College Court
New Bern, NC 28562
Email: bellaceroc@cravencc.edu
Phone: 252.638.7328
Fax: 252.638.3231

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