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Rosa Elena — Ecuador

Rosa Elena -- Ecuador

We’ve just returned from visits to Ecuador and Peru where we had the pleasure of interviewing three different women with three very different lives. I’ll be posting excerpts from each pending chapter.

First up is Rosa Elena, whose life is so in contrast with my own I don’t know where to begin.  Her entire world is smaller than the distance I drove last evening to see my sister and nieces.

Married at age 15 and now mother to seven and grandmother to one, Rosa Elena lives in a small community of 2,500 people outside the market town of Otavalo in Ecuador’s highlands. Rolling green hills are punctuated with clusters of brick and cement homes and fields of corn. This area is home to many of Ecuador’s native Kichwa (Indian) tribe, who first inhabited this area more than 2,000 years ago.

Our interview was conducted in Kichwa thanks to community leader Margot, who is fluent in English, Spanish and Kichwa. We met with Rosa Elena at her home with six of her children, her grandchild and sister-in-law who lives just next door.

Her entire universe is only about 100 square miles. She has never been beyond the village of Otavalo – “I travel there once a week on Wednesdays to visit the market.” She works making handcrafted beaded bracelets that she sells to market vendors for resale; her profit is $1 for each six bracelets made, a standard workday output for her.

Comment from me:  ”$1 for an entire day’s work?  I just spent $4 on an iced tea and small snack at Starbucks.  Could I imagine having to work for four solid days for a simple splurge?”