I have been reading Tom Miller’s The Panama Hat Trail, about the author’s search for where Panama hats are made. (Hint: It’s not Panama.)
In the first chapter, he quotes the residents of Quito, Ecuador, as saying that their city is un hueco en el cielo, an opening into heaven:
“What does un hueco en el cielo mean to you?” an Indian from Ambato asked me. Well, I replied, that here you are so close to God, physically and spiritually, you can virtually peak into heaven. She smiled. “That’s what most North Americans and Europeans say. To the Indians it means that God could look down upon us.”
That is an interesting point of view in this most Catholic of countries. It enables God to look down and see His creation more clearly.
At ninety-three hundred feet, Quito’s air is so rarefied that the sun’s rays beat down with deceptive strength. A brisk midday walk in the equatorial Andes leaves you sweating profusely. Near dusk, garúa—intesne fog—rolls through the city, limiting vision to an arm’s length. “The man who doesn’t like clouds has no business coming to Ecuador,” wrote the Belgian Henri Michaux in 1928. “They’re the faithful dogs of the mountains.” Clouds go through gymnastics at this altitude, first low hugging the ground, then high embracing Mount Cayambe or Pichincha, then settling briefly in the Chillos or Tumbaco valleys before finally returning again to ground level.
Compared to Argentina, Chile, or Peru relatively little has been written about Ecuador. Between now and our departure date this fall, I plan to read everything I can find. Since tax season is over, I’ll have no trouble finding the time.