Friday, September 26

New Constitution Rally

We had an exciting trip the other day. On Monday morning (22nd), the group all reported to the school, ready to keep digging trenches for the project. Someone mentioned that they had watched the morning news with their family and learned that Rafael Correa, Ecuador´s president, would be speaking that day in Santo Domingo, the nearest city to Bua. His administration has been promoting the new constitution, which is being voted on this Sunday (28th). We jokingly agreed that we should all go to the rally, and Sandy and Robin agreed, so we actually all hopped in the back of a cattle truck and headed for Santo Domingo.

The rally was in a giant open-air pavillion, and since we got there a couple of hours early, we had legit seats within the first fifteen rows or so. Eventually the entire place was completely full, mostly with older interest groups or field trips from local high schools. Some local government officials spoke and awarded micro-financing checks to certain individuals, and then Correa came out. The crowd loved him. He gave a very compelling speech about the unique aspects of the constitution, which, if approved by citizens, would replace the previous one from 1998.

The constitution seems to be pretty liberal -- calling for health care for all, education, allowing abortion, preserving culture, favoring local business rather than foreign investment, protecting oil reserves. I have learned from my host family that it is an obligation for all citizens to vote -- they have to recieve a slip of paper confirming that they voted in order to pay taxes and avoid a fine. In fact, this whole weekend, Friday through Sunday, is a nation-wide dry weekend: alcohol cannot be served so that everyone is in fit shape to vote! It seems that there is a lot of support for the constitution, and my host father predicts that it will pass.

At one point in the middle of his speech, Correa saw the large group of foreigners in the crowd, directed his attention to TBB, and said, in English, welcome, and that now was a time of change and revolution. We had woken up that morning expecting to manhandle piles of dirt, and instead we were quite literally personally addressed by the president of Ecuador... no big deal.

Afterwards, we were approached by many curious people. One of them is a lawyer for the district government here in Santo Domingo, and she was interested in our volunteer work in Bua, so she came out later in the week to see the project -- raising awareness, and perhaps funds, for YanaPuma and for the school.

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