May Day in Quito

I woke up early to see the May Day parade. The city had stopped, there was not even buses circulating. I caught a taxi to the old town to wait for the parade. Arriving there I realized that there was police all over the place. All the streets that led to the Plaza Grande (where the Government building is) were closed with barricades of policemen. They did not allow anyone to pass through. It could feel a certain tension in the air.

I went to the parade street. It was very organized. It looked like that all the crowds were there represented: farmers, students, laborers, children, indigenous… It was like a carnival, it passed by groups with flags, uniforms, bands, costumes… The public was squeezed on the sidewalks attending the manifestants to pass. It seemed a party day, everybody was outside. There were ice-cream, sodas, food and flag sellers…

The parade ends up in the Plaza San Domingo, three blocks away of Plaza Grande. There the manifestants had a stage with someone doing a speech and musicians. Suddenly I heard shouts and saw some policemen arriving by motorcycles. Then I head explosion. The stupid policemen had thrown tear gas bombs. People started to run away, I did too. There was panic. My eyes were sore and I felt asphyxia. My eyelids blinded without stopping. It had never felt this before. In the desperation, I decided to breathe by my mouth, something that I should not have done… it was as if something was corroding my throat.

Everyone was crying and running away; men, women and children. Grew in me an enormous hate of the policemen, I even forgot the effect of gas. Maybe I  was influenced by the fact that the night before I had read the “Dias y Noches de Amor y Guerra” by Eduardo Galeano. The book talks about the dictatorships and the lack of freedom of speech in Latin America.

When running I realize that there were two policemen also running by my side, one with mask, the other without. I got really close to them and cried on my bad Spanish: “No entiendo. Porque hacen esto?” He looked at me seriously and preferred not to answer, continued running. The day that seemed to be a party, sunny and happy, suddenly became cloudy and ugly. Everybody had gone… the repression even changed the mood of the climate…

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