Sunday 14 September 2014

El Mitad del Mundo: the Centre of the World

Thursday afternoon: a visit to the Centre of the World, somewhat outside Quito. A largish park (‘ciudad’) has been set up, with a line indicating the equator – even though it is quietly admitted that this line is somewhat off the mark. Probably one of the most visited tourist spots in Ecuador, which of course derives its name from the fact that it is situated on the equator.

While the Amerindians probably had no idea of the equator, they did have a very sharp awareness of the relationship between the movement of the sun and the four seasons, as evidenced in an interesting seasonal calendar sundial type of contraption reproduced in the Centre.

What I did not know is that French scientists and others had carried out extensive investigations precisely in Ecuador, in order to establish the equatorial line, the geodesic curvature, etc. I believe it is their work that eventually gave the name to the country. Of course, in the time of the Spanish colonies, Ecuador was just one province among others. It became independent after a revolution and a war of independence – led by Simon Bolivar?

Also interesting is the ethnological museum in the memorial tower, showcasing the four regions of Ecuador: the Galapagos islands, the coastal area, the Andean Sierra, and the Amazon region. I had no idea the Galapagos islands were part of Ecuador, but they are. They are inhabited today, but every single person there is an immigrant: originally the islands had no human inhabitants. The coastal area is host to several peoples, among them at least two groups of African-Americans, one of them being mixed with several local peoples. The Andean highlands play host to a variety of the better known Ecuadorian native peoples with their hats and colourful habits. The Amazon region is hot, wet and green, with people to match.

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