On Wednesday I had a tour of the Presidential Museum in the Palacio Carondelet. To go on this tour you need to schedule a day in advance, providing your name and passport number over phone or email. Not difficult, but you can’t just drop in to take the tour. It’s well worth it – the museum was great, especially if you like old religious paintings.
When I got to the entrance where my 9:30am group was gathering, the tour guide and the guard stationed at the entrance had to call someone to find the key to a lift that went up a long flight of stairs to the front porch of the Palacio. After they got the key and figured out how to turn on the lift, they spent some time figuring out how to make it work. They finally got the lift to come almost all the way down to where I was, but then the last stage of making a small lip of the platform extend about 6 inches down proved to be impossible. So, for maybe 15 or 20 minutes we all watched the flustered guide and the man with the key to the lift push the same few buttons over and over, in vain. Finally I asked where the President enters the building and asked if they could take me there. The guard took me to the other side of the porch where — amazing— there was a long, smooth, perfect, gently sloping stone ramp. Why they have the lift in the first place, I don’t know! It’s a little silly! The ramp is much better.
Once we were inside everything went smoothly – the first part of the museum has some information about the history of Quito alongside gifts from heads of state to the Presidents of Ecuador. Things like a gold clock that shows the time in every other OPEC(OPEP) nation. The rest of the exhibits were religious paintings with particular focus on various incarnations of the Virgin Mary. Virgen de las Flores, del Terremoto, del Volcán, and especially del Apocalípsis, which seems to be Quito’s favorite — the Virgin floating or stepping on the dragon of the Apocalypse along with a lot of other fascinating symbolism in each painting. I took so many pictures!
While we were on the tour we could hear drums, chants, and someone speaking through a megaphone from the plaza. It was amazing how well the sound carried all through the Palace. ON the way out, I listened and watched for a while. The protestors’ hashtag was #VaPorTiTrabajadorPetrolero. It’s always good to see protests happening and then look up what their issues are later!
I was reminded of a story I was told about some protestors in the same Plaza, before my trip, by my friend Kevin,
Re: President in Bathrobe. This was about 2002?
Beck and I were in Equador and we were staying for a few days in a monastery that had been converted to a hotel. It was around the corner from the presidential palace.
Beck and I were coming home late one night and were walking through the courtyard in front of the palace. There were three old guys with a bullhorn yelling something over and over again. The lights turn on at the front of the palace and the president and two guards come walking over to the guys with the bullhorn. We also walk over because interesting.
Someone else who walked over spoke english and gave us the rundown of the conversation:
the protestors were retired military and were annoyed they hadn’t gotten a benefit they were supposed to get. The president explained, okay we can work on this but it is 2am and I need to sleep. Here’s my card, call this number tomorrow and someone will book time on my schedule so we can talk during the daytime. The three old guys thought this was reasonable. Everyone shook hands and the president said to Beck and I “I hope you like Equador”.
Then he turned around, the guards followed him into his building and the lights turned off.
After that I wandered towards the Museo de la Ciudad. This was very accessible, with a somewhat steep but not impossible ramp to a separate entrance next to the main entrance just beyond the Arco de la Reina. A big yellow arch, you can’t miss it if you’re heading down Venezuela towards the hill with the huge statue. The museum is free if you’re disabled.
This museum is just great! Its exhibits lead you through the history of Quito over time. It’s also super accessible with an elevator to the 2nd floor exhibits and then another small (unlocked, working) lift to a second wing of the museum. There were especially great dioramas including one of a battle between the Spanish and the indigenous people with little figurines of conquistadores making shocked faces as they are speared through the heart. It doesn’t get much better than this.
The wall of beautiful dolls all dressed in different traditional costume was incredible with information I couldn’t find on the internet anywhere and this was followed up by dolls for hippies, skaters, and punks to represent new cultures from city life of the 20th century.
Here’s my favorite painting from the Presidential Museum, called Triunfo del Rosario en el Mundo, by Manuel de Samaniego y Jaramillo. I’ll just link to my Flickr photo of it so you can zoom in and follow along. I first had a good look at the guy holding the planet on his back surrounded by a dragon who I guess is like the devil or the serpent of the apocalypse or something. Laser beams are shooting into the serpent’s head and into the earth. Following them upwards…. the laser beams are actually the blood of Jesus which he is actively squirting out of his side through a rosary and a crown. Wow! Wild! There are also representatives of various peoples of the world looking prayerful and a nun with the most smug facial expression ever, as if she was thinking “You were gonna leave me out but NO… here I am! Holding a bloody, glowing heart!” There is also a healthy smattering of floating heads. There is a LOT going on in this painting!
When it sounds super casual that I’m getting around town, please keep in mind that the pavement is cobblestones or bricks, curb cuts are either non existent or tenuous and may lead directly into traffic coming in the wrong direction (You have to just hand signal and make an unspoken agreement with the drivers!) You might go down a sidewalk only to have to turn around and go back another way because light posts are blocking your way, and there are also hills. So, if you are a fellow wheelchair user, either be a great athlete and very robust, or a very intrepid powerchair user with as narrow of a chair as possible.
I had a rest in the afternoon to prepare for Friday’s adventure — horseback riding on a volcano.