Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dry Law: Census 2010

Ecuador takes its census very seriously. Officially it takes place tomorrow, Sunday November 28th. For the past month Quito has been bombarded with news about it: billboards, posted signs, leaflets on cars, massive mailings, radio and television announcements, etc. It is a big deal. Such a big deal that they have implemented a dry law for this weekend, which other Latin American countries impose during presidential elections. No establishments, from stores, bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and supermarkets are allowed to sell alcohol which basically means that all clubs and bars are closed for the weekend. No one is out and about. Last night when coming home in a taxi from a friend’s house Quito was a ghost town. The law began at 12:00pm on Friday afternoon and lasts until Monday morning. It seems illogical to me because usually when my friends go out on Saturday night and get wasted, they are forced to stay in bed all Sunday to recover. They can’t leave their homes in order to nurse their hangovers. Won’t people be more animated to catch up on errands (not that any stores will be open) or play football if they aren’t hung over? Oh well. I guess the authorities have their logic. But the entire thing seems incredibly draconian—by law I don’t think people are allowed to leave their homes. Most definitely anyone who sells alcohol will be taken to jail and fined. I wonder if that will be the same for those of us who don’t really care about the census and plan to wander the streets tomorrow. In many ways, I feel “immune” to the census since I’m a foreigner—I’m just passing by so why do they need to record my existence in Ecuador? Although, I’ll probably end up staying at home, simply because all my friends are Ecuadorian and they’re truly scared to leave the house tomorrow.

I’m not sure why Ecuador takes its census so seriously. I can’t even remember knowing when the U.S. had its last census. Again, I wonder what they are hoping to record—do they hope to identify different racial groups, which I have already explained in my last post is next to impossible, or do they just want a number count of how much Quito and other cities have grown per population? I wonder how us transients fit into the picture. All I know is that a nun will be passing by my house at some point to tomorrow to ask questions about who I am. I’m curious to know what she’ll ask and how this information will serve the Ecuadorian government. I will be curious to get the results of the census, if it is made public.

I’m still not entirely sure of the logic between the three days of dry law and the census tomorrow, but I guess supposed sobriety leading up to it will ensure that people stay in their homes tomorrow? Or is it some sort of punishment? Obviously house parties are in full effect this weekend—plenty of people have stored up on alcohol for their weekend and many homes will be filled with liquor, music and merry-making. But without a doubt, it is strange to see all Quito’s night life shut down. In my memory at least, the United States has never implemented a dry law for any occasion—to me it seems like a draconian, authoritative decision, bordering on an abuse of civil rights. Although, I believe in Massachusetts one cannot buy alcohol on Sundays. For me, I’m content to spend a weekend at home, catching up on work. But I don’t think the census will prevent me from going down to the Centro tomorrow, I am very curious to see if the women will be working on the streets. Although knowing the police’s relationship with some of the sex workers, they will haul them off to jail for leaving their homes, even if it’s illegal for them to do so. Which is exactly why I want to go and check things out. I can always say I’m just a tourist passing through…

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