The following was published in 2008 by Linda McFarlin at: http://www.pro-ecuador.com/living-in-ecuador-morales.html

The story is in three parts.  Here we meet Cesar Alvear Morales and then part one and two deals directly with the notion of ‘participatory democracy’ that is taking place in Cotacachi, Ecuador.  Not only is another world possible, another world is already being developed all over the world.

You can see more on YouTube regarding participatory democracy in Cotacachi at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gc6K51sqNW0&feature=related

Here the mayor of the town explains the concept to ex-patriots now living in the city.

But first:

Living in Ecuador: Cesar Alvear Morales’ Story

By Linda McFarlin
A woman living in Ecuador is not often deferred to in public. For instance,   unless she is very old, pregnant or carrying a young child men rarely give up   their seats to women on buses.Lugging 3 bags of groceries and a new clock for the kitchen onto a bus from   Ibarra to Cotacachi, I was pleasantly surprised when a young man helped me   juggle my way into a seat next to him. Then he returned to the book he   was reading. Even without knowing much Spanish, I figured out that he was   reading John Gray’s, “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.”

We talked all the way to Cotacachi. I invited him to come to our apartment to   meet Gary (and to help me carry my packages up our four flights of stairs!)   He shared with us how Gray’s book had altered his views about women and the   ways men perceive them.

As you will see when you read his story, Cesar has a passion for Ecuador.   That passion sparkles in his eyes as he talks. Like so many young people   we have met in Ecuador, Cesar has a special quality. One cannot help but be   inspired by his enthusiasm and unique insight as he speaks of Ecuador   culture, politics and changes he would like to see. The passion of the young   is one of the exciting things about living in Ecuador.

Living in Ecuador: Cesar’s Story—Part I

 

People Can Do Great Things
I’m 29, single and living with my parents in our family home in Cotacachi. My   bloodline is mestizo, which is part Spanish and part indigenous.

Right now I teach high school math and am also finishing my last semester in   college in business administration. My goal used to be strictly business and   making money. But I have learned about much more-economics, psychology,   Ecuador politics, organizations and finance.

All of this has helped me to see that people can do great things. What is now   much more interesting to me is helping my community, much more important than   making money.

I Fell in Love with Human Beings
I fell in love with human beings and they are really great. “Riches   is not about money. Riches is about people.”

Ecuador is a third-world country. The rest of the world calls us poor. Many   of us have very little money, but we are very rich in other ways. Because the   people here are now seeing how really rich they are, seeing their own true   value, I am able to see many opportunities for the people, for my country.   Living in Ecuador is a good thing.

For example: the indigenous don’t really need much money. They have their   land and the food they grow on the land. When they need something extra, they   can sell some of their crops or sell a cow. They are happy living in Ecuador   like this.

 

Getting Things is Not the Center of the Universe
The West tries to get us to buy more things—more expensive things, better   things, bigger things. I thought about that and I don’t agree. Getting   things isn’t the center of life. To be the best person you can be is much   better than being the richest you can be. We get information at college but not a real education. Ecuadorians become   workers or live life in a selfish way. They don’t learn about the important   things. My father is amazing. He taught me so much. He does things for people   only to see them have a better life.

 

The Best Reward
The best reward is not money. It’s to help people be better than they were   before you met them.My father does that. He wants to do that through the Assemblea.  First he had to learn how Ecuador politics   works and now as the president of the Assemblea Cantonal, to do good things   for the people. He teaches the participatory democracy action groups how to create what they want. When   they started, they didn’t know how. With my father’s help, they have learned   how to be effective.

Cesar’s Views about Women
God made women to love. It’s amazing to find people in this time and age that   are all about love. I have had many conversations with women. Men are often   selfish, competitive, trying to get the most out of life. I find that many   women are loving and happy. I never knew that something like that could exist   in the universe.

This new insight has helped me with my brothers. This is a very machisimo   society. Men here have some wrong ideas about women. This is sad. They judge   a situation only as a man and don’t see it from a woman’s perspective.

I tell my male students, “Shut up, don’t talk to her like that!”   when they say inappropriate things to females. “Let her be a woman and   let her like what she likes. While you are in my class, you will respect the   differences between you and women.”

We can’t punish women for being different. They like sweet things, pretty   things.

The power is with the men right now. If they don’t change, nothing will change.   Living in Ecuador will be better for all of us if we respect each other’s   differences.

Here is part one of an interview Linda did with Leonardo Alvear   on the Ecuadoran notion of Participatory Democracy (http://www.pro-ecuador.com/participatory-democracy.html)   and you can read it below.

Interview with Leonardo Alvear:

Participatory Democracy Part I

Cotacachi’s Participatory Democracy Revitalizes
Politics in Ecuador

By Linda McFarlin in 2007Participatory democracy in Ecuador began in Cotacachi during     the mid 1990’s. It is changing the face of Ecuador politics. In     recent newsletters we presented     the political views of a young man named Cesar Alvear.

Cesar stopped by our house to share some news last week. He has been chosen     to participate in a one-month exchange program in the United States     beginning at the end of March, 2008. His trip will be divided between     Spokane, Washington, with visits to Native American tribes and Washington,     D.C.

Through North American friends, he had heard about St. Patrick’s Day and he     grilled us on its meaning. He listened to our explanations of green beer,     derby hats, leprechauns and shamrocks and then invited us to his family home in Cotacachi to meet his parents and to interview his father, who has     been president of the local assembly for the last 3 years.

Gary and I talked with Leonardo Alvear, Cesar’s father, for over 3 hours  about his experiences in local politics and the process of participatory democracy in Cotacachi. Cesar translated.

Leonardo has been president of the Cotacachi assembly for 3 years and     active in local politics for 12 years. Like Cesar, his love for     community service is apparent in the enthusiasm with which he describes his     years of service.

What we discovered was very eye-opening and cleared up misconceptions we had around the meaning of socialism and the mayor’s relationship with Fidel Castro.

Finding the Answers for This Age

By Leonardo Alvear as told to Linda McFarlin and Gary Phillips
Translation by Cesar Alvear

Passion for the Process

I am always happy to talk about my passion, which is passion     for the process of participatory democracy that we have in Cotacachi. It is     something new, not perfect, but it gives us the opportunity to improve it     and at the same time the people learn to empower themselves.

We have the opportunity to find the answers for this age, this people and this society. This process began because the government didn’t do     its job for us. So the people organized and created their own solutions.

This is a solution for us because in the past, government has often brought     poverty. We have a very rich country. We’ve made this process work without     big projects like governments or NGOs make, but just with people. The     real riches are not in things but in people.

Linda – Tell us more about your passion.

Leonardo – It is to participate actively with the people, who are     the force, the social movement. I want to help make a better place     for everyone to live.

Cotacachi is the largest canton in the province. It covers three distinct     zones. One zone is made up of 43 communities of campesinos and indigenous     in the mountainous areas. The second zone is the neighborhood federation,     or the urban neighborhood (zona urbana). Third is the Intag, the     subtropical part of Cotacachi.
The News is Spreading World-wide

Other cantons and other countries come to Cotacachi to learn     of our participatory democracy process. They can copy our health, education,     tourism, women’s and production programs. Of the 215 cantons in Ecuador,     130 of them are beginning to use our process.

Linda – How did this process begin?

Leonardo - Before 1996 there were 2 experiments with this     process—one in the jungle and one in the south in Chimborazo. When a     municipality tries to control the process, it doesn’t work. The     municipality in Cotacachi was very interested in starting the process with     Auki Tituana, the mayor of Cotacachi. Auki was able to see why the process     had not worked successfully and he decided to do it differently.

Instead of the municipality handling the assembly, which is represented by     24 organizations, with laws and rules, such as many organizations have, it     is the other way around. The municipality belongs to the assembly, not     the assembly to the municipality. This is the key to Cotacachi     particapatory democracy. There is no formal law associated with the     assembly, although it is a formal organization recognized by the citizens     and the municipality. The government does not officially recognize it.

Linda – When did the assembly begin in Cotacachi?

Leonardo - The first participatory democracy assembly in Cotacachi     met 12 years ago, in 1996.

The Assembly Process

Linda – How does the assembly work?

Leonardo – Every year there is a big meeting in Cotacachi of all the     24 organizations. Together we decide what to do for the coming year-how we     will work with the municipality.

Before the big meeting, each organization has its own meetings to develop     ideas. Once a decision is made, all the organizations within the assembly     work to fulfill the chosen goal. This action is key to the success of     participatory democracy.

Successful Projects in Cotacachi

Linda – Would you describe some of the projects that the     assembly has proposed for the municipality to fulfill?

Leonardo – In the 5th assembly, 2000, it was decided that education was the     most important thing. A literacy program was set up to teach the people     the alphabet and how to read and write.

Then in 2002 health care became the most important issue to address. Local     health care doesn’t belong to overall Ecuador health care because the     country’s program can’t give a solution to everybody. The locals wanted     their own Ecuador health care programs.

Health care in Cotacachi is now much better. Before, the people were very     angry about the lack of good medical treatment.

Linda - How successful was the participatory democracy assembly in     accomplishing these projects and how long did it take?

Leonardo – The literacy program took two years to reach our goal. At     first, only 23% of the people of the canton could read and write. Now     only 3.7% cannot read and write. We adapted UNESCOs proposed figure of     4% as a standard for us. If the illiteracy rate is less than 4%, a canton     is declared literate.

The trainers come from within each community and classes are taught in     Quechua or in Spanish, depending upon the language spoken in the area.

 

Now the second part is underway, which is for all adults to     finish primary school, or the first 6 years of schooling. People go to     school in the afternoons and at night.The cost of the entire program is a one-time $5 entrance fee plus about $7     for books, which each person has to buy. That’s all. There are no     administration fees.

The students decide for themselves how long they will take to complete     their schooling. It may take 3 years or as long as 20 years.

 

The Education Program is Revolutionary for EcuadorIt is a program of self-schooling so the students study at     home. There is no need for a professor. A student can call upon a teacher     for help and receive tutoring if needed. This is only for those who live in     rural areas with no school.

Eventually, a student can earn a bachelor’s degree and receive a     certificate in one of seven different areas, such as: cattle-raising, small     animal husbandry, community administration, financing and economic     management for family and community.

We believe this is a very successful program. It solves the problems of     immigration of our youth to big cities. It keeps them working in their own     communities.

This program allows the individual to remain autonomous, not dependent upon     a university or college. The student develops an individual program of     study in his or her own community. After completing this program, the     student can obtain a university degree.

The participatory democracy assembly has 5 councils. They are health care,     education, production, tourism and environment. Each council evaluates the     student’s program and gives approval.

When a student is ready, he calls the institution or college and says, “I     am ready to be tested.” The assembly can also call the students twice a     year and give them training in social participation. This is participatory     democracy in action.

Watch for Part II which will follow next and readers can read about Leonardo’s talk about the fight for Ecuadoran lives against mining in Intag, and     explains the meaning of Socialism in Ecuador.