Beginnings

Sitting at an outdoor café in Williamsburg, sipping coffee and enjoying the fading afternoon light, my mind is thousands of miles away. My plane departs for Quito, Ecuador in less than four days, but in my eyes, the adventure begins tonight.

My suitcase remains unpacked, and my paleography assignments are only half-completed. But nevertheless, this sunlit evening marks the official beginning of my Ecuadorian adventure. Why? Because, true to the nature of every seventeenth-century Quitenian notary, tonight I’m establishing my trip’s significance via one important vehicle: writing. 

In colonial Quito (Ecuador’s modern capital, as well as the capital of a Spanish colonial “kingdom”), Spanish bureaucrats hired notaries to record- complying with strict professional formulas -an astonishingly large number of day-to-day transactions. The mentality behind these meticulous recordings- of sales, legal claims, wills, etc. -was one which suggested that, until an arrangement was established upon pen and paper, it was still somehow lacking in validity. That’s why, in order to avoid any sort of hypocrisy as I commence my summer study on these self-same Quitenian notaries, I’m jumping on the bandwagon, too- with this blog!  

To avoid writing TOO much on my first blog, I’ll conclude with a brief overview of my 10-day Quitenian excursion: on Thursday afternoon, Jody and Erin (my fellow undergraduates) will join me on a plane flight to Quito, Ecuador’s mountaintop capital (which sits a striking 9,350 feet above sea level!). We’ll be meeting Susan Webster, a W&M professor who specializes in colonial Latin American art, who’ll be serving both as our guide to colonial Quito and as our mentor as we attempt to tackle individual research projects of our own. After translating a series of art-based notarial contracts, we’ll venture out into the city itself: attempting to track down these self-same pieces and, assuming that we find them, writing our own research studies based on our findings.

My expectations? WIDE OPEN. I have no idea what Quito (or Professor Webster) have in store for us, but I’m vaccinated and ready!

Quito's Colonial Center