For those of you who haven’t seen it before, above is a photo of yours truly with Diosalinda. She led a terrible life of abuse by family before she was rescued by a home for abandoned seniors in Chordeleg, Ecuador four years ago. If I had funds, I would have adopted her. Such a gentle, loving, sensitive soul for all she endured.
Did you notice the Dios in the name Diosalinda? Dios = God in Spanish. At the end of her life she finally has peace, protection, and safety.
Please find below a link to my article at http://www.CuencaHighLife.com on how impoverished and abandoned elders are rescued in Ecuador. It is far from complete, but it is based on site visits to almost every province in the country.
Here’s how I got to meet Ecuador national treasures Las Tres Marias, The Three Marias, senior singing sisters from Ibarra…
I was at Quito’s new airport waiting for the driver. A car pulls up, a man in a starched white shirt jumps out and with a lot of enthusiasm waves. Lo and behold, it’s Luis, an Afro-Ecuadorian. It’s the first time we have met. He is going to accompany me for a site visit to a luxury senior living home and then to my hostal. On the way to my appointment I ask where he’s from. Ibarra he replies. “Do you happen to know The Three Marias?” I ask. The stars are in alignment, of course he does, and he can make the arrangements and drive me to meet them!
So a few days later, Luis picks me up in the La Floresta area of Quito for what will be a long, yet amusing, day trip.
First stop, the Otavalo market where we will ask and ask for one of the sisters through Luis’ Afro network. The market is huge and extends for several blocks. It takes over 30 minutes to locate Maria Gloria’s place on the sidewalk. All of a sudden (I was beginning to wonder) there she is with a huge grin on her face.
Maria Gloria travels every Friday and Saturday by bus (over an hour, sometimes two) from her home in the Chota Valley to sell produce from her garden, usually plantains, avocados, and guyabitos. I found her to be open-hearted, humble, and gracious. She is also unabashedly honest. “We are products of colonialism. We have always been slaves, first of the Jesuits, and then racism.” How did you learn to sing, I asked? “My parents taught us to sing when we were children, and my father played in a band.”
We say good-bye to Maria Gloria in Otavalo and head for Chalguayacu in the Chota Valley, way past Ibarra. Ibarra is the largest town on the way to the Colombian border. When we arrive in the village (approximately 2000 inhabitants and completely Afro-Ecuadorian), lots of kids rush to surround the car. And there beside the car, on the sidewalk, are Maria Rosa Elena and Maria Magdalena Pavon.
Maria Rosa is 75 (not confirmed) and the oldest. She sells liquor out of her home. Every Saturday morning she takes a bus to purchase the liquor in Ibarra. She doesn’t say more, other than she has a husband.
Maria Magdalena is a curandera (a healing person) and has diabetes. I found her to be a gentle soul. She likes to go to the senior center each weekday to meet up with about 40 others. The senior center is not open on the weekend, otherwise we would have made a point to stop there too.
The sisters have never studied music. Their homes (all on the same street) have no running water and the tile roofs don’t appear to be sturdy. They love to travel and told me they wish to be invited to play in Cuenca. In 2012, Ecuador’s Ministry of Culture bestowed upon them the Bicentennial Medal of Cultural Merit for their unique style of music.
On the way back to Quito, a bonus. Luis brings me to meet his wife Silvia and daughter Alexa who live in a village down the road from Chalguayacu. Luis shares a flat with other family members in Quito during the week. He hopes to move his wife and daughter to Quito soon. As you can feel from the photo, they have sweet energy.
The links below introduce the music and the Chota Valley of The Three Marias…
On June 7, 2015 I had the pleasure of speaking to the Cotacachi Health Chapters group at Gran Hotel Primitivo about End-of-Life Planning for Norte Americanos. (Cotacachi is a charming Andean city 2 1/2 hours from Quito).
My hosts were community organizer Caroline Goering – a true delight – and a team of other amazing, supportive people – Dan and Janda Grove, Mike and Linda Munhall, and Bill and Ann Henry. What to do in case of a health emergency, especially if you don’t speak Spanish, is their focus.
We discussed physicians, who to call and why, transportation, the importance of having end-of-life documents prepared, attorneys and notaries, cremation options, and disposition of remains to North America.
Fortunately, bi-lingual nurse practitioner Mary Grover, a former Peace Corps volunteer, can be of service to the estimated 200 expats in the area. I introduced Mary to those who had not met her.
A special thanks to CHC for the invitation. I was exhausted by the time I arrived, but content to meet a group that understands the importance of planning ahead, just in case, when living abroad.
There was quite a bit of response. Most responders asked for a seminar.
For those of you who missed announcements in Cuenca High Life, Gringo Post, and Gringo Tree the last few days, here below is the information for the event which will focus on three main subjects:
1. Why you need a physician ahead of time
2. Why you need a legal document (an Ecuadorian document if you reside in Ecuador) stating your end-of-life wishes
3. What the process is for cremation and why it is so difficult
Cuenca Chamber of Commerce Sponsors End-of-Life Planning Discussion Wednesday, May 6
Mark your calendars for 11:00 am Wednesday, May 6 for an important discussion on End-of-Life legal matters and cremation/burial options in Cuenca, Ecuador.
Senior care consultant Wendy Jane Carrel will moderate a panel with attorney Grace Velastegui and Camposanto Santa Ana Funeral and Cemetery General Director Simon Toral.
Presentations will be followed by a question and answer session to address your pressing concerns.
May 6, 2015 11:00 a.m.
Cuenca Chamber of Commerce 3rd floor (there is an elevator)
Federico Malo y 12 de Abril facing Parque de la Madre (view map)
☎ 07 284-2772 ext 233 attn: Gabriela Maldonado
Here below is a photo from the May 6 meeting, deemed a success by the Cuenca Chamber of Commerce. Almost 250 persons were in attendance. There are approximately 10,000 North Americans resident in Cuenca , Loja/Vilcabamba, and places in-between.
FASEC (Fundacion al Servicio del Enfermo de Cancer/Foundation Serving Those Ill with Cancer), together with Care Partners International of Washington state, and the University of San Francisco, Quito hosted a palliative care training in Spanish for five days, April 20-24, the first in a series of four trainings for physicians, nurses, psychologists, volunteers, and others. The well-attended event drew healthcare workers from Cuba, Cuenca, Europe, Mexico, and the U.S.
The main speaker was Dr. Susana Lua Nava, a highly regarded Mexican educator and nun who teaches throughout Mexico and at UAG (Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara). She runs a hospice, Juntos Contro El Dolor (United Against Pain), with three nurse nuns and a staff of volunteers. Dr. Lua and her team are dedicated to the alleviation of pain in all – no matter a patient’s background, religious belief, or economic position.
Dr. Lua, author of El Enfermo, Terreno Sagrada/The Ill, Sacred Terrain, offered several slides of her work in Mexico and Spain, gave stunning examples of patient care, and spoke about dying at home or in a hospital (advantages and disadvantages of both), myths and realities on the use of morphine, the art of sharing sad news, and preparing the spirit, among other subjects. The most riveting discussion was on ethical dilemmas, a subject she teaches often – why and who one tells or does not tell of their terminal condition based on socio-economic backgrounds, culture, expectations, and other factors.
The next FASEC trainings are scheduled for the second week of June, the third week of July, and a week in October.
For contact information and more story details please click on the link below.
Mayor Marcelo Cabrera, his wife, city dignitaries, employees, and approximately 150 seniors were present Sunday morning, April 19, as Cabrera proudly inaugurated one of Cuenca’s special projects, the “first free public senior center” also known at El Hogar del Abuelos (Home of the Grandparents). Eight other city senior centers are in the planning stages.