Manta, Ecuador

Sunday, October 08, 2017
Manta, Manabí Province, Ecuador
Sun, Oct 8 – Manta, Ecuador - is a mid-sized city in the Manabí Pralong province of Ecuador. It is the second most populous city in the province, the fifth most populous in the country, with a population around 192,000.  Its main economic activity is tuna fishing (they keep all the good fish for themselves - you won't see an Ecuadoran eating tuna - they look at it as garbage fish).  Other economic activities include tourism and a chemical industry with products from cleaning supplies to oils and margarine.  Manta possesses the largest seaport in Ecuador and also has an international airport, and an important military base (known as Manta Air); between 1999-2009 Manta Air Base was used by U.S. air forces to support anti-narcotics military operations and surveillance flights against Colombian drug trafficking cartels.  For whatever reason the contract was not renewed.  Hmm!
During Ecuador’s Pre-Colombian history, Manta was home to at least seven different civilizations. According to some records, the Maya reached Manta around 500 A.D., but found it already inhabited by other groups, so they left.  Little is known about the people who lived there between the Maya’s arrival  and the Inca Conquest, but it is believed that the modern city of Manta – then known as Jocay – was used by the Inca and Manta indigenous groups as a trading center.  In the 1500s the spanish invaded, robbed the indigenous people of their gold, silver and other precious metals and basically turned them into slaves to extract this valuable products from the mines.    Over the years Ecuador has flown many flags, and today they are their own country, but they use our currency.  Their currency failed in 2000 due to high inflation and their president switched them over to the American dollar which they have used ever since.  This was definitely nice for shopping.
The main industry of Manta is the production of the Panama Hats.  We were told that this is where the hats are made, but the reason they got the name "Panama" hats was that the President of Panama was given a hat and liked it so much, he declared it a "Panama" hat.   However, the truth of the matter is that the hats were made in Ecuador and were shipped to the Isthmus of Panama, and then from their to the rest of the world.  Since the hats were originally shipped "from Panama" they became known as Panama hats; however, let it be known they are definitely made in Ecuador.
Today's excursion took us to a coffee plantation about an hour outside (have no idea what direction we were going-or where we ended up).  Like Mexico, Ecuador also has the rule that if your home is not finished you don't pay any taxes on it.  It is interesting to see how the poverty of the country sits right up next to the high rises; I think this is the most surprising thing that we have seen.
As we drove along the ocean, through busy and quaint little towns, and then up into the mountains the scenery was quite luscious.  The scenery is full of beautiful flowers and lush ripe fruit of all kinds.  Yummy.  It is spring time here and everything reflects that.  Nice! 
 The coffee plantation we went to was very nice.  We were told to just go ahead and wander through the coffee bean bushes and we did, being careful of all the roots running around.  Our guide brought over the owner who told us about his coffee plantation (again, we are talking a few acres)  The coffee is planted and it takes five years before the plant will start producing, and then it will produce for another 15 years.
   The bushes are protected by banana trees growing tall over top.  This is so that the coffee beans don't get burnt - remember, we are at the Equator. Once harvested, the beans are laid on a table to dry and a plastic roof is placed over them until they are dried. then the shell is removed (they used to do this by hand using what reminded of an old wooden butter churn)  
The beans are then roasted, ground and packed.  He said it now goes a lot faster than years gone by since they have a new roaster and a new shell remover.  We were then offered some coffee, which was delicious.  The coffee brand is Cafe Vasar, and we did bring home a package.
As in Mexico, the locals grow their own fruits and vegetables.  They had a beautiful garden, tons of bananas, mangoes and other fruits.  Their home was beautiful - they had a patio where we all sat after the demonstration and then above that is two more levels.  We were allowed to use their bathroom and the house was airy, open and gorgeous.
We then returned to the ship and then walkedt back into town, along the beach and around the vendor shops and then it was getting time to be back on board so we headed back.  We never did make it into downtown Manta - oh well.  
On to the next Port.
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