Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is located at la mitad del mundo or the middle of the world.
This city of close to two and a half million people has all the characteristics of a major metropolitan area. It also carries all the reminders of the cultural, historical and political forces that have formed today’s Quito.
Graffiti as an urban form of expression seems to be just around every corner. The tone and tenor of these visual messages don’t carry an emphasis on self.
Instead, they are fiercely clear in their concern for the greater, far greater good. Just outside the downtown area of Quito is an entire city block where the walls urge passersby to denounce trafficking in human organs.
The walls and streets surrounding the Universidad Central del Ecuador carry creative missives that take politicians to task about their unfulfilled promises for democracy and peace.
Some simply stated messages call into question the happiness of silence, the unwillingness of some to speak out for reform…
…and other more elaborate messages demand the University expand in ways that serve more people.
Some artists key in on local media, especially newspapers, taking them to task for withholding information and thus compromising the truth.
Politicians seeking to capture the youth vote produce elaborate faux graffiti depicting themselves as trendy subject matter created by non-existent graffiti artists.
This is one of several commissioned murals honoring Eugenio Espejo, recognized as Quito’s first journalist. Espejo, born in 1747, wrote about sanitary conditions (he was a doctor and hygienist). His satirical writings and posters were aimed at provoking authorities into action and inspiring many to work for social change. He also wrote about racial and economic problems. Some note that much of his satirical writings were part of the Age of Enlightenment.
The work of local artisans is a mainstay in the central markets of Ecuador…
…and prominently displayed in Quito’s central square.
Local artisans continue to sell traditional woven goods.
The southern part of Quito is different from the more metropolitan center. Life is tougher here and resources are more scarce. This community center is open all day and for all children. It serves “the children of the street.”
Amazing volunteers teach fundamentals to any and all children who show up at their door. Some children come here after regular school and some come instead of it. For some, it’s the only place they will get a meal for the day. The center serves 60 students and, at best, resources are stretched.
The volunteers insist the emphasis be on the kids and so it is. The students are preparing for New Year’s Eve. Classes are over for the holiday break and students are building displays to celebrate the death of the old year.
Before each display is judged, students dance as part of the end-of-the-year celebration.
Some prefer to watch the celebrations
…while others enjoy participating.
This young girl, dressed in widow’s black, is mourning the death of the old year.
Boys dress as widows as well. Later they go out and stop traffic in order to collect “tolls” as part of the payment for the burial of the old year.
Quito me calienta el corazon — Quito warms my heart.