Cuenca, Ecuador. Cuenca is about a 10 to 12 hour bus ride south of Quito and is a really beautiful city. Everyone I knew who had been to Ecuador before recommended it, and I am glad that we had the chance to go.
[The railway] brought workers from the English colonies in the Caribbean, believed to be resistant to tropical climate and diseases. There were 4,000 Jamaicans, 240 Puerto Ricans, and 204 from Barbados. In addition, there were 500 prisoners from these colonies who were promised freedom if they survived the construction. Indigenous people were also used, but the desertion rate was high, during the planting and harvesting seasons, and the precarious working conditions, which included the use of explosives, didn't help. In addition, the hacienda owners did not allow them to work on the railway, so forced recruitment was used.
In the Andes, the Oroya in Peru used the switchback before it was used on the Devil's Nose. John Hammon [American] chose this method n Ecuador to create three levels. "The railroad will rise with a grade of 3.5% along a narrow cornice cut by blasting the wall of the perpendicular rock of the Nose and will extend beyond the bifrucation of the railway. When the train goes beyond the bifrucation, a switchman will jump from the locomotive and raise the lever to change the track; then , the train will continue on its way up to the next narrow cornice, in reverse, until the next switchback. Then, the switchman will change the tracks again, and the train will continue on its way through the cornice, until crossing the Devil's Nose."
According to the men who worked on the train, the Devil's Nose was damned by Satan because he didn't want a railway to be built there. Acts that go against the Devil's wishes are paid for in human lives: first, there was the massive death toll among Jamaican workers and later several railway employees died.
The hats start out coming from the boiled leaves and fibers of a particular plant grown in the Costa region of Ecuador. Then, these fibers are separated and shipped to Cuenca (and surrounding villages) where indigenous women select the bushels that they want. They then begin weaving the hats, starting from the center on the crown and weaving by hand outward. The finer the fibers, the higher quality the hat and the longer it takes to weave it. There are still no machines that can match the quality of weaving by hand or copy the designs.
|Unfinished super-fino hat. Starting price of $850.|