There are so many people just wandering the streets in Ecuador. I’ve always had this desire to ask each person I look in the eyes while walking these sidewalks to work or to eat, “Where are you going? Why? Why now? How did you get here?” They are all so similar in attributions: dark hair, dark skin and dark eyes.
In the United States we seem to place all Latin Americans into one category. Yet, they are all so different. Ecuadorians look like Ecuadorians and I just don’t know how to explain it. Mexicans are Mexicans. Argentineans behave like Argentineans.
There is a girl I work with who is half-Argentinean and I think I have begun to annoy her with how many times I tell her that she reminds me of my friend who was born in Argentina. How she cuts her food and the way she holds the utensils. Not to mention their appearances as well: the light shade of brown hair. The long fingers with the curves at the middle and end. The facial structure.
It amazes me how people from each country have the same characteristics with their appearances. What is supposed to make us unique? Maybe that is where language comes in or dress styles or traditions. How are we supposed to stand out from each other?
Tonight, my friend and I went to a jazz festival and met another friend I had made from the blogger world (her blog is Afoot and Light-Hearted). We spoke about how “gringa” we looked in the crowd of people. I remember her saying, “I can spend two years here and people would still think it was my first day here [in Quito].” We couldn’t help but laugh and agree. This world continues to judge people based on their appearance. A fellow traveler approached us at the festival, I don’t know whether it was because we were speaking English or was based on our appearance. However, the common element was that he felt safe and secure enough to come over and talk to us because we were from the same country.
Sure, it’s nice to meet people with whom you have stuff in common with, such as language and appearances, but isn’t travel supposed to push you? Make you learn a whole different culture? What better way to do that than to meet the people who are living the culture every day of their lives? It’s like we place this barrier that prevents us from reaching out to these people. Makes you feel like you’re intruding in their lives but this is not the case.
As the traveler, it is your responsibility to make the effort to appreciate the place you are visiting and to get to know its people. Dark hair, light hair, dark skin, light skin, Spanish or English, we are all humans and we can all connect with each other. Breaking down the barriers helps bring about cultural understanding and in doing so, breaks down stereotypes and builds a better world.
Next time you get the chance to meet someone new don’t be afraid to kiss the person’s cheek and say, “Hola, como estas?”