Mi Cuajara: Stories and Poems of a Girl Born in the Valley of the Rio Mira

The 1960s don’t seem that long ago to many of us. Given how crowded and closely connected the world of the present is, it’s hard to imagine there were places then that had been settled and cultivated for four hundred years but, as recently as the 1980’s, had no electricity, no plumbing, and very little traffic except for horses, donkeys, and (mostly bare) feet. The valley of the Rio Mira in Ecuador was such a place. Jesuit priests brought slaves - including Lola Laben’s ancestors - to farm sugarcane almost four hundred years ago. Slavery was abolished, but the work continued. Agrarian reform came, Lola’s parents became land owners, and the work continued. Lola was born in a mud house identical to the ones her slave ancestors had been born in for generations. She helped her parents farm a little farther downriver in the same manner that her ancestors had farmed. She explored her tropical paradise and wondered about faraway places and listened to the news of the outside world: the world beyond her valley and the city where the train came to and from three times a week.Fate determined that the outside world would find her, and she now resides in the most thoroughly modern and up-to-date nation on the planet. Guess what? Her childhood was full of wonder, beauty, adventure, and freedom even though survival was less certain. This book recounts the world that Lola was born into and how her heritage prepared her to meet the challenges of her future.

--Lola M. Laben

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