Photo taken by Vincent McBride
The virus has given us all time to reflect about many things, and the time alone has made me think about the role of culture in our lives. I recently visited Ecuador and went to the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno, which occupies a restored historical building that was once a church, and also had once been a prison, I learned afterwards. It’s located in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador. Cuenca was originally a settlement of the Canari people called Guapondeleg built around 500 A.D., which preceded the Inca, and of course was well before the arrival of the Spanish. Guapondeleg translates to “Land as Big as Heaven”. The church that is now the museum was built four hundred years ago on top of some Inca ruins, alongside a river surrounded by the Andes mountains. Inside the building, the museum has two parallel rows of small rooms, one row of rooms, or cells, on each side of a beautiful sculpture garden, with a tall, grand tree and many wild flowers. Each of these small rooms with walls made of thick clay bricks painted white, has an exhibition displaying modern art. After going through the museum, I remember sitting on a wooden bench in the garden, with the rushing sound of the river in the air, slowly thinking and reflecting about my life, when an unexpected wave of pure bliss washed over me, and filled my whole body. I experienced a moment of total peacefulness. I could feel the presence and vibrations of some angel or spirit that had come to visit me. It was weeks later that I learned the church had been a prison, in fact a prison for misbehaving priests of the Catholic Church. The history of the land and that place was intense, and emotional. Something about bringing together the spiritual qualities of faith, atonement, forgiveness, and art all into one stuck with me. It's a comfort to think of it now as we try to get through this challenging time.