On Saturday I did something a little different than usual- I went to Church. Well actually, I went to many Churches. But the most interesting and perhaps the most ironic part of the experience was that none of us (my host mother, my host sister and me) believe in the Catholic Doctrine—but I will get to that in a bit.
On one of the first days in Ecuador, all the Fellows visited the Center Square of the city. One of the sides of the square is the Presidential Palace (then surrounded by Ecuadorian soldiers), another side of the square is a Church, on the third side of the square is a hotel/restaurant and on the fourth is the City Government. These objects represent the corner stones of Ecuadorian society: government, religion and commerce. In fact, this past week we discussed in class the relationship between Church and State in Ecuador and how much influence the Catholic Church has on laws in Ecuador.
On Saturday I visited the Center Square again, probably visiting five Churches in a two block radius around the Center. The Churches looked remarkably similar: walls lined with gold, pictures and statues of different saints and patrons embedded in the gold. What surprised me most was how many people were praying in the different churches- apparently both Saturday and Sunday are important days in Catholicism.
But the best part was the discussion afterwards with my host family about what they believed. My host mother is Muslim. She does not pray five times a day, but she does celebrate Ramadan and covers herself the rare times that she attends a Mosque. She explained to me that she studied many religions and takes aspects of each religion that she likes and incorporates it into her own belief. My host sister, on the other hand, grew up Catholic, but now rejects it. Instead, she believes in nature: the sun, the moon. She believes in the Indigenous People’s concept of Panchamama or Mother Earth. Sufficed to say, I am very excited to be living in a household that goes against the norm of this society.