Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Día de Independencia

Happy Independence Day, Ecuador! 201 years ago, folks in Quito began fighting to gain their independence. August 10th is often referred to as "the first cry of battle," since it was a prolonged and bloody process of small battles, like ocean waves across this coastal nation, that swept it clean of faraway kings in funny hats.

Spain had governed Ecuador, as well as many other surrounding South American countries and provinces, for many years. But in 1808 France got the best of Spain, thereby collecting the "loot" of these said nations and the people living within them. Like a watch won in a poker match, Ecuador was now owned by France, under Napoleon's sword. And funny hat.

The people of Ecuador started their own government, which seemed to suit them just fine, thereby choosing to politely ignore this small detail, but a different guy with a funny hat from the Royalist Army of Lima, Peru (friends of ol' Napoleon) came to change their minds. And he had friends who had rifles and swords and such. So the self-elected and self-governing idea didn't exactly pan out.

But then, about 100 citizens refused to accept this other takeover quietly. Well, ol' Napoleon didn't like that much, so he had the folks tossed in the dungeon. About a year later, on August 10th, 1899 there was an old fashioned (or maybe just fashioned, this was 200 years ago) midnight jailbreak. This was the first domino to drop. Across the nation, battles erupted like the volcanoes that dot the landscape and everyday citizens took to the streets to stop the marching boots coming into town. And funny hats, they'd had quite enough of all those funny hats, too.

Although Guayaquil, Otavalo, and other provinces have their own days of independence, August 10th is the date remembered across the nation as the day that started this ripple effect of freedom, of fighting for it, anyway.

Today I woke up to the sound of flags flapping in the wind. Like laundry violently shaking water from it's fibers, the banners of yellow, blue and red are hung on every house and store, smaller flags can be seen in every window. The school marching bands that have been readying themselves for this day for months now, formed a procession through the Malecon, uniforms of black, white and gold, horns polished and pom-poms unwrapped from their plastic covers. Along the street lamps, hung Morose Code flags from the Navy. Other flags hung right next to the Ecuadorian banner are either flags for San Cristóbal (yellow, blue, and green) or all of the islands of Galapágos (blue and green).