Riobamba, Ecuador Photoessay – Gabriela Rivera ’20

Over Spring break I traveled to Ecuador with my Spanish class and members of a medical team from Pennsylvania. We worked for four days in clinics to provide vision screenings at schools for children in communities outside the city of Riobamba. Along the way I greatly appreciated the beautiful landscape of rural Ecuador as well as the overlap between indigenous and Spanish colonial cultures, most evident in the architecture, art, and customs that I observed.

One day after visiting a school, we stopped at the first Catholic Church in Ecuador, La Iglesia de Balbanera. It was surprising how far this church was from Quito (the capital city) or even Riobamba. The Church was founded by the Spanish conquistadors in 1534, and it has a museum and a cemetery on either side.


The next day we were at a school during the Spring Equinox! This is the day that the sun is closest to the earth in Ecuador, and the day is split equally between twelve hours of sunlight and twelve hours of darkness. This ceremony is a Quechua celebration and consisted of fruit and flowers laid out in the pattern of an indigenous cross. The prayers and rituals have been passed down through the indigenous community that has lived in this Andean region for many centuries.


On our second to last day in Ecuador we traveled to San Pedro de Alausi to see the city and take a famous train ride through the mountains. The city features colonial architecture and there is an enormous mosaic statue of Saint Peter upon a hill located in the city.


The train then took us to the bottom of a valley where we were greeted with a recreated example of what an indigenous community in this valley would have looked like before Spanish influence. This photo is of the men and women who showed us a traditional dance. It was an interesting contrast to the current city of Alausia which is culturally indigenous, but has been heavily influenced by Spanish colonialism.