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  • Writer's pictureNaomi Ohman

At Home in Bolívar Province

From the perspective of life in a rural area of Ecuador, moving to the city or to another country can seem highly appealing for economic opportunity. While there are very real issues linked to things like poverty and education, there is much to be learned from the lifestyle and people of Bolívar province. I was a culture intern with El Terreno, and I wanted to counteract the negative narrative promoting disconnection by talking with local people about what they were most proud of, and seeking to unearth the beautiful experiences of what it was like growing up here. The resulting interviews record the unique points of view from people of all different walks of life, who share wisdom applicable to many places beyond Ecuador.

These interviews explore the idea of home – how we become disconnected from home, how we reconnect, and the implications of both disconnection and connection in personal, societal, and environmental contexts. Though many of the answers revealed in these conversations are particular to Bolívar province in Ecuador, they often belie themes and challenges that are shared in many other contexts and places. With a greater understanding of what home means, an appreciation of the places that are home, and how we are connected to both, we can become better stewards.

From these interviews home can be defined as relationship with family, time spent being in and around nature, community and interaction with neighbors – sharing experiences and tangible things, memories, familiarity to physical place and space, sense related memory such as with food, flavor and smells, intergenerational connection, hardship, safety and sense of independence or security, faith, history and associated landmarks, culture and customs, mutual respect, shared human experience on the planet, and occupation.

Interviewees felt or saw disconnection due to, technology, dogmas, colonization and historical trauma, overly materialized culture, destruction of natural places, lack of self-awareness, lack of appreciation for things that exist already or consumerism, media manipulation, living in the city or lack of access to nature, moving to a new place from home or migrating, stress, fear, alcohol, family members leaving, lack of self-esteem or pride in home, barriers such as illiteracy, family trauma such as divorce or abuse, discrimination, disrespect, globalization, and an absence of community.

These disconnections lead to a feelings of emptiness, seeking numbness and further disconnection, lack of stewardship due to a feeling of impermanence, feeling a lack of belonging, sickness and grief.

Participants forged connection to home through, interaction with nature especially restorative agriculture, herbal medicine, and raising animals, a mindset of coexistence with nature, conscious appreciation, relationships with people through learning, teaching, or conversation, having knowledge about a place for example the plants that grow there, stillness and solitude in nature, faith, creating new memories in a place or leaning on old ones, sharing stories and experiences especially intergenerationally, returning to values or traditions instilled or held in youth, collective memory and culture, respect, personal and cultural uniqueness, sharing, learning new things and new perspectives, preserving tradition instead of conforming to trends, and redefining one’s feeling of home.

Each individual had unique responses and perspectives, demonstrating that home is an inter-dimensional idea that affects all areas of life. Answers attested to how an awareness, appreciation, and connection with home could shift mindsets to allow for better stewardship of place and surrounding environment and lead to healthier, happier lives.

Interview 1: Sebastian

Sebastian is a student of the earth. He has studied agriculture far and wide and now dedicates his time to restorative projects. A self-described Pacha-mamero, Sebastian’s compassion for and connection with the earth is inspiring to witness. He shares how he came to know all that he does, what childhood was like for him, the impact disconnection has had on this land, and his hope for restoration.

Interview 2: Gustavo Fierro

Interview 3: Cornelia Kammermann

Interview 4: Maria Ángela Azas Tisalema

Interview 5: Señora Blanca

Interview 6: Señora Rosita

Interview 7: Narsiza Lucituña

Interview 8: Fausto Abel Chimbo Jiménez

Interview 9: Pablo Gonzales

Interview 10: Marta Jimena López Vazconez

Interview 11: Samuel Ramírez

Interview 12: Julio and Senaida

Interview 13: Giovanni

Interview 14: Lida Basantes

Interview 15: Victor

Interview 16: Jorge Basantes

Interview 17: Beatrice

Interview 18: Angel

Interview 19: Hilda Siguencia

Interview 20: Rafael Armijos Ahumala

Interview 21: Laura Beatriz Pilamunja

Interview 22: Lorena

Interview 23: Maria

Interview 24: Vilma

Interview 25: Paulina Garcia

Interview 26: Wayra and Maria

Interview 27: Katherine Alexandra Lopez Arnez


Thank you so much to Kathy for her integral collaboration in building relationships, translating, verifying videos, bouncing ideas and developing questions. Thank you to

Joshua Holmes and El Terreno for the connections and support that made this project possible. And most of all, my deepest gratitude to the people in the community who shared with us their experiences, community, customs, and pride.

- Naomi Ohman

Intern at El Terreno

If you're looking to further your career, visit different cultures and make an impact in the world, consider one of our personalized internships for 2023. You'll receive accommodation, cooked lunches, professional mentoring and an activities budget to achieve your goals.

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