The Galápagos Way of Life
Life of the locals that seems to be overlooked
As tourists head over to Darwin's Research Center, they pass through a few hotels and families along the side of the street. Bicycles and motorcycles, or "motos" seem to be the most popular form of transportation around Puerto Ayora. Above is a father riding his daughter around in his bicycle. Where were they going? Who knows. Where are their shoes? Unknown of their financial situation, I wonder how they feel when they see tourists with huge backpacks and expensive cameras walk past them every day.
The Galápagos Islands - Untouched beauty or booming industrialization for growing tourism? Throughout my trip, I came across many sites that were under construction. This makes me wonder how the islands will be in the future. Will there be any "untouched beauty" left? What happens when the other islands become filled with people migrating from the mainland? I'm sure the government of the Galápagos and Ecuador would never allow that to happen.
Dogs are among the many invasive species that have taken over the islands. Controlling these species, along with human migration, are the biggest challenges the Galápagos have to face every day. The policeman overlooks the boats from the port to make sure nothing out of the ordinary is occurring.
Here's how an average house in the island of Floreana looks like.
The population of Floreana is rather small with only about 100 people reside on this island. Above, the roof doesn't seem very sturdy and the front porch area seems to serve as an outdoor living room with chairs, shelves, and a hammock. It's very common to have hammocks in front of the house. Many people use it to relax or even people-watch. I'd assume Floreana is a place where a multitude of generations will be raised there and everyone knows everything about each other.
Childhood in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz has its' similarities with being raised in the states. Above, the young girl has on mickey mouse ears. This signifies the strong influence the United States' culture has worldwide. These children seem to be so carefree. The boy seems to be really concentrated on not falling off his tricycle while the girl gladly assists him. Would we ever see a group of young children alone on the streets in the United States? Probably not.
Then again, childhood in the Galápagos is very, very different from the United States and the rest of the world.
Once an untouched set of islands, people from the mainland Ecuador and the rest of South America began to migrate there because they sought opportunity in the tourism business.
What happens when people migrate and settle on the islands? They start a family. Schools and other businesses were built for the convenience of the locals. The Galápagos Islands are still a developing part of the world. Not everything is as commercial or at convenience for people like how it is in the United States.
There aren'y any set playgrounds for the children in Floreana, a less populated island than Santa Cruz. Above they are seen improvising and using material around their front yard to have fun. I remember walking past them and seeing them run around with a smile on their face. They seem to be happy with the little that they have.
Many migrate to the islands in hopes of working and making money off tourism. Everywhere I'd go in Puerto Ayora, I'd see an elderly looking woman along with a few family members (sons, daughters, husbands) running the stands and gift shops. I could imagine if you're not a tour guide, business owner, or working in construction, making a decent living in the Galápagos may be hard.
Meet Jacinto, a local tour guide in the Galápagos. He grew up in Puerto Ayora where he resides with his family. He has been a tour guide for years and was able to provide a ton of insight to the group at Rider, including information about the climate and land iguanas to places to visit that won't have many tourists.
When I asked him what made him become a "guía turística", he responded with although it's mainly to support himself and his family, he couldn't imagine having any other job. He's passionate about these islands and wants to inform as much people as he can about the Galápagos. In his free time, he enjoys surfing and exploring the islands.
The Galápagos is in fact a booming place to work and live for the Ecuadorians in the mainland. Do we continue the economic growth of the islands to accommodate the demand of tourism or put it on hold for the benefit of the nature and wildlife? It's a very difficult decision that Galápagos natives have to face every day.
With locals facing these types of decisions, it's imperative they have a proper government to lead them forward.
This shot was taken in front of our hotel. A peaceful rally was held for the then-upcoming election. This rally was in support of Leopoldo Bucheli Mora, mayoral candidate from the Movement of Provincial Identity (MIP) Party. People were riding in motos, buses, and trucks across town to the MIP headquarters. They were honking their horns while waving flags and donning shirts in support of Bucheli Mora.
On Leopoldo Bucheli Mora's campaign website, it states that if he wins he is willing to improve the following: Environmental, Economic, Social Cultural, Human Settlements, Mobility and connectivity and energy, and political institutions. Bucheli Mora won the election this past February.
"Biodiversidad somos todos" which literally translates to "We are all biodiversity."
I found this while roaming around Floreana. The saying pretty much sums up what the Galápagos is all about. The islands contain species of all kinds and a unique ecosystem. Like the rest of the world, from the locals to the tourists, the people you meet come from all over the world in all shapes, ages, and sizes. Despite the differences, everything and everyone seem to come together.
This is where I found all of the locals at night. This small strip just a few blocks away from the port was a place where people went if they wanted to have a delicious meal for cheap. At night, there was almost no room in the middle of the street because there were many tables out. And almost all of them were always filled.
Music was blasting in the different restaurants, people were laughing and smiling, and simply enjoying themselves here at Charles Binford Ave.
This was a Puerto Ayora favorite. Every night there would be different games being played. On many days, it would be volleyball while other days it would be soccer, basketball, or even skateboarding. An evening outing for the locals would be to come out and watch the games being played with their friends or family.
Meet Señora Norma Jeria Moya. Norma is an extraordinary woman I was able to befriend during my visit to the islands. She owns her own shop, in which she resides upstairs from, that is only open from Thursday to Sunday evenings. When I asked her why she was only open four days a week, she responded with the fact that she has two other jobs. She's a school teacher during the week and works at a marine reserve as well. On top of all those jobs, she still makes it home on time to cook dinner for her family every day.
We shared some great conversations each night about the island life in the Galápagos and what it's like to live in New Jersey and the rest of the United States. It's nice to know that if I ever decide to go to the Galápagos, she has guaranteed me a place to stay.
I'm glad I was able to spend part of my last night with these people. I met one of the guys a few days into the trip and he invited my friends to hang out and jam out to some tunes at the market.
Most of them don't have cell phones and barely use social media. Time or money doesn't worry them. The main thing that matters to them is the company of family and friends. Each night when they're done working at the gift shops, docks, tourist sites, etc., they meet up here with a couple of beers and all of the instruments and begin the singing the night away. The more, the merrier. What was theirs was ours.
The motto of Ecuador is "Ama La Vida" which translates to "Love Life." They're willing to share their native culture and island life with whoever is willing to listen.