Posted by: Merrilee | March 11, 2013

Honoring Chavez in Quito’s Plaza Grande

Honoring Chavez in Quito’s Plaza Grande

IMG_3095As I passed through Quito’s Plaza Grande the other day, a ceremony was taking place on the steps of the Metropolitan Cathedral in honor of Hugo Chavez, the controversial leader of Venezuela who had just died.

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The lovely Plaza Grande (also known as the Plaza de la Independencia)  is the central square in the Old Town and one of the symbols of executive power of the Nation.  The National flag was at half mast on top of the Presidential Palace.  People in the crowd were waiving the Ecuadorian flag, the Communist Party of Ecuador flag, and the green flag of the PAIS Alliance, a democratic political socialist movement in Ecuador lead by the incumbent president Rafael Correa.

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A guitar player was singing with large posters of Chavez hanging over the stage beneath him.  The crowd that filled the square was as diverse as Ecuador’s population.  Many in the crowd were indigenous people showing support.  Bands played between speeches. Four people in Venezuela military dress were standing in solemn attention among the onlookers.

IMG_3036Several camera crews were in action.  A strong police presence prevailed. 

A video of the political life of Chavez was being played on a huge screen in front of the cathedral façade.  IMG_3009

Park benches were occupied by people taking in the prevailing atmosphere, with some participating in occasional political chanting.  VIP’s were seated in rows of chairs at the foot of the cathedral steps where the ceremony was taking place.  Steady streams of people were signing books of condolences at tables nearby.

IMG_3048I noticed a group of Chavez supporters who were wearing red t-shirts and holding photos of him  One man in the group who was watching me take photos of him and his comrades raised his fist in apparent defiance.  Even though I understood a clenched fist thrust in the air was a dominant image of the political movement that President Chavez left behind, I felt his fist was directed specifically at me as a foreigner.  Despite this, I continued taking pictures of his group.  Only when I turned away did he lower his fist.  It was the first time during my current travels in Ecuador that I felt any hostility directed towards me.
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