First Week in Quito

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I arrived in Quito on Friday June 17th and hit the ground running.  I met with professor Mercedes Prieto from the Gender Studies department of FLACSO university. Professor Mercedes Prieto was incredibly kind and generous to me.  We met for a little under an hour.  She listened carefully to what I had to say and then suggested that there are two themes to my work: women’s organizing, and the relationship between NGO’s and the state.  She then gave me the names of at least 14 people she thinks I could contact, professors, FLACSO students, feminists, and LGBT activists.  Towards the end of our meeting she said that she had been very generous with me, which she was, and that she only wished that professors in the US showed her students equal generosity.  I knew what she meant.  She had never met me before I wrote her a brief email stating my research interests, my stated research interests were very broad, and yet she took the time to really brainstorm with me about who I should contact.  She also suggested several doctoral thesis as reading material during my trip.  After she gave me the lists of names she introduced me to the departmental administrator and asked her to provide me with the contact information for the people on that list.

The following Monday I met with a friend of a friend who informed me about a conference happening in Cuenca starting on June 21st and invited me to join her.  She said that given my interests in women’s organizing the conference would give me an opportunity to meet with indigenous women organizing in defense of their environment and community.  The conference had about 12 different breakout groups and one of them specifically addressed the participation of women in environmental struggles.   I attended the breakout meetings for this group on June 21st and 22nd and found that they had a very clearly articulated position on the direct impact of mining on women in affected communities.  These included, the devaluation of women’s artisanal labor for men capacity to bring in cash from their work in the mines, less access to clean water forces women to travel longer distances to access it, wherever mines set up there is a large increase in alcoholism and brothels, the health impacts on family members and especially children increases women’s caring labor in the home.  They also addressed how women are at the forefront of this struggle because often times men work for the mines and so cannot protest them without getting fired.  Women are involved in the day-to-day organizing against mining companies and for that reason they are often targeted by police and private paramilitary troupes for rape in retaliation for their activism.  The conference was an eye opening experience in seeing the hostility between the environmentalist movement and the administration of President Rafael Correa.  The women presented their finding to the larger conference of about 400 hundred people.  By attending the conference I was able to tap into an activist network of people in Quito that I would find very helpful in the coming weeks.

Posted by Claudia Garriga Lopez — PhD Student in Social and Cultural Analysis at NYU

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