The is the third entry in my Cuentos de Quito series, a collection of stories from local residents of this awesome city:
I first met Araceli Catalina Beltran Aviles during Orientation of September 2011, when I was a WorldTeach volunteer. During that Orientation I visited her dance studio, Ritmo Tropical, for a salsa lesson – I think the only dance class that I’ve ever taken. She is an amazing woman – energetic, enthusiastic, extremely kind-hearted, with a personality like no other. Back in August I visited her dance studio again, to arrange a group class for the new September 2013 volunteers. During that visit I found out that she is an avid biker and we talked for a while about biking in Quito and Ecaudor. Unfortunately, during that awesome conversation is when my green and black Tacuri bike was stolen, from the entryway to her school where I had stupidly left it unlocked. After that unfortunate incident, Araceli was super supportive and empathetic to what had happened. She has been incredibly friendly in the past two months whenever I see her, whether it’s in her studio or in passing on the street. I love that when I see her or call her, her initial response is always, “Hola mi amor!” She definitely embodies the warmth and welcoming nature that is so often associated with Latin American cultures.
In addition to running her successful dance studio, Araceli spends a lot of time biking. Every time that I see her, she is telling me about another bike trip that she and her friends have taken or are going to take. And now that I’m friends with her on Facebook, it seems that every Monday I see new pictures of her from a bike trip outside of the city that she has taken over the weekend. She is also involved in a very cool project called ClimaCleando, which is a group that is biking all over Ecaudor (more that 3,000 km in total!) to investigate the real-life impacts of climate change. During their rides they visit communities and individuals that are affected by climate change or are combating environmental pollution in some way. During those rides and visits they have conducted many interviews and are in the process of compiling those interviews into a book.
Where are you originally from?
I was born in Quito, but I grew up in Santo Domingo, where I lived until I was 18. After that I moved back to Quito.
How long have you lived in Quito?
In which neighborhood of the city do you live?
Right now I live in the Mariscal (which is where her dance studio is located), but you don’t really see the real, traditional culture of Ecuador here. There are a lot of foreigners and tourists, so it’s not really the authentic Quito experience. When I first moved back to Quito I lived in the San Juan neighborhood, which is closer to the Centro and the Central University. I really liked living there because you can see the diversity of people that live in Quito and see more of the authentic, traditional culture.
What is one thing you love about calling Quito home?
The cultural life of Quito has really captured me. There are always a variety events taking place within theater, arts, music, literature, etc. That world of cultural activity is really strong, even more so that Guayaquil or Cuenca (Ecuador’s two other largest cities). Oh, I also love being surrounded by mountains.
Do you have a favorite place in the city?
When I can I really like to go to the parks on the weekends, including El Ejido and La Carolina among others, to just people watch. In the parks of the city you can see the diversity of Ecuador in one place, because Quito has residents who come from all over the country. You see people with their families, relaxing, playing soccer, eating, etc. I just really like watching people in that way because you can understand the country a little bit more. I also like El Cinto, which is a look-out point that is in the mountains to the west of south Quito.
What type of music do you like to listen to?
I really like independent music and alternative music, not the popular commercial music that you hear on the radio. One artist that I really like is Jorge Drexler. I also like Bomba Estéreo a lot, a group from Colombia, because they mix a variety of musical styles and especially mix traditional and modern styles and sounds.
Describe your ideal day in Quito:
I’d probably go to El Panecillo in the morning. Then in the afternoon I’d see a movie at the Casa de la Cultura. Later in the evening I might see some theater in the Casa de Cultura or Teatro Sucre. Then I’d end the evening in Mayo 68, which is a salsa club that I like.
What is one goal that you have for yourself in the near future?
In the next year I’d like to plan a bike trip through Central America. I would travel through Colombia and Panama, and then through Central America, ending up in Mexico. That would be an epic one-year trip.
Within the next three months, we also hope to finish the book that we are putting together for ClimaCleando. We biked 3,120 km all over Ecaudor collecting stories of how climate change affects people in a real way. We spoke with farmers, fishermen, etc. and had some fascinating conversations. Right now we’re in the process of compiling those interviews into a book, which should be finished in three or four months.
Do you have a favorite soccer team here in Ecaudor? If so, who and why?
I’m not actually much of a soccer fan because I don’t like when fanaticism turns into commercialism, drunkenness, violence, and other excesses – and you lose the magic or essence of the sport. For those negative reasons I don’t really like competitive soccer here too much. However, when it’s just sport and not fanaticism I think that soccer is great because it connects people from all walks of life. The one team here that I appreciate is Aucas, because it doesn’t matter if they are winning or losing, they always have a great fan base.
Where is your favorite place to get lunch?
Well, I’m vegetarian, so one of my favorite places is a vegetarian place call Quinua, which is pretty close to where I work. I like it a lot because the owners, who are from Cuenca or Azogues, I don’t remember which, are really friendly. And they have healthy, clean, traditional food that is made from organic products. As a vegetarian restaurant, they also attract a different type of customer and clientele, which I appreciate.
What is one thing that you’d like to see change in Quito in the near future?
I’d really like to see people give as much respect to cyclists and they give to pedestrians. People driving in cars tend to think that cyclists don’t deserve space on the roads, so that’s one thing that I’d really like to see change. Also, I’d really like to see less pollution in the city because that is something that is so noticeable, especially as a cyclist. You can not only see pollution in the air, but also smell and feel it, so less pollution is definitely something I’d like to see.
But, I actually like Quito the way it is – with both its order and disorder. If the city lost its disorder, was cleaner and more homogenized, then it would lose a lot of its magic and essence.