There are three big topics that come to mind when I think of things that have been a struggle to deal with while here: gossiping, machismo, and alcoholism. This blog is dedicated to the issue of alcoholism.
Before coming to Ecuador, of course I knew about alcoholism and that it was an immense and very serious problem, but it had never ever been a part of my life. That has certainly changed. The abuse of alcohol is so completely visible, it is the root of nearly every other problem that exists, and it’s laughed about, as if it’s a joke.
Pilsener cerveza comes in big brown glass bottles. One of the most normal scenes around here is a group of people, anwhere between two and twenty, sitting on steps or in a circle, passing around a small plastic cup of Pilsener. One person is the pourer, he continues to fill the cup up and offer it to the next person in the circle until the bottle becomes empty, when you simply move on to the next bottle. I really think you can only get away with declining a cup if you’re female and insist at least three times that you don’t want any. This scene is more frequent on weekends, but it’s been known to take place on weekday nights too.
They say Pilsener quenches your thirst and has vitamins. And it may have pro’s, but not once you’ve gone through five crates of it, no matter how many people are sharing, it gets to the point where that is all that the men do is sit in the street drinking. And after a point it begins to take over their lives. It tears apart families, and causes people to do things they would never otherwise do. The violence that is started by people who are drunk is incredible. Incredibly saddening and heartbreaking. Knives are brought out, punches and kicks are thrown, and threats are pushed in one anothers faces. Kids watch these fights unfold from the sidelines with wide-eyes and tears. I can never figure out why these fights really take place, other than too much Pilsener was consumed.
Juan (name changed) is the father of four young children, soon to be five. He is the worst example of a father. All he ever does is drink, every day, all day. His wife is eight months pregnant and is the owner of the store across the street from my house. She has to take care of everything, including the children, while Juan drinks. And still, the kids have to ask permission of their father to do anything, not of their mother who does everything for the family. He arrives late to the house from drinking all day and he can’t even stand up on his own. His children want to talk to him but he doesn’t have the consciousness for that. He goes to bed, where he sleeps with his son of 7 years rather than his pregnant wife, until the morning when he will wake up with a raging headache and drink more Pilsener to try to make it go away.
The alcoholism that I see everyday is truly heartbreaking. It is something that is very messed up about this culture. The hardest part is that it’s in my face, but there’s not much I can do about it. I think that change will only come when the people here realize how wrong it is, and that action needs to be taken. For me, I can certainly say that alcohol won’t be entering my system for a long, long time.