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Returning To Calderon and Figuras De Masa Pan!


Wednesday Day 13

Today is Calderon, home of the world renown figuras de masa pan. At 9:30 my guide, Patty, arrived and we were off. I was excited as I had not been to Calderon since 2006, and the city had sprawled out like so much crab grass! It’s funny how things change after nearly 30 years! More importantly the trip in 2006 was quick, and I hardly took in what was really changing at that time.

We arrived to the city during some sort of a revision or review of credentials for vehicles. Car and trucks of all shapes and sizes were lined up for as far as the eye could see, and even where they couldn’t.

It didn’t seem to have any impact on us, and after about a 10 minute search of the streets, we found a location we were looking for.

My hopes were to find the original families that I had worked with in 1972, who were among the pioneers of this handicraft art. So with great anticipation we entered the humble shop of Cecilia Trujillo.

Bread Dough or Figuras de Masa Pan in Calderon, Ecuador.

After introductions we began to examine the current offerings. I knew changes had been made to the dough for the classic and original figures, and the improvements were obvious. The surprise came when we were shown a new process using cornstarch.

A typical depiction of a rural bus in Ecuador, displaying the quality of more than 40 years ago for these figures made from bread dough.
here's one of the more current examples clearly displaying a major improvement in quality.

This example above is roughly 40 years old. Compare the quality to the bus below for obvious differences.

The quality was very different, and had an immediate appeal. The figures were not painted with a varnish as the originals were, so the finish was opaque, and the colors were more pastel and soft in their hues. I also noticed that the facial figures and details were far different. 

Musical clowns made from a dough of flour and cornstarch. Exclusive from Calderon, Ecuador.

The classic figures made from bread dough had rather primitive and crude facial features and details for hands and clothing. The work to make the classic figures was tedious, as so many pieces were smaller than a kernel of wheat, and manipulated with a toothpick. The classic figures were bright and gaudy, and still well made.

It wouldn't be complete without the Christmas tree ornaments.

However, to compare the new designs to the classic would be unfair. The facial features and expressions are something that could be compared to that of cartoon characters, making them much more appealing and warm. Larger in size, yet seemingly very durable, a whole new line of figures is now available.

I think she likes it!

What a great smile! I think she likes it.

I was anxious to find out about the families I knew from decades past. The news that the entire family had given up the business within the past year, and that our host was one of the few remaining of this historical art form in Ecuador, left me saddened to the core.

There's no

How could you not love that face?

The passion was still flowing with Cecilia Trujillo, to do what she could to keep this art form from dying out. A kindred spirit emerged and ideas were exchanged on how best to expose and promote this decades old art form. 

A commitment was made to come out during working hours when I could get videos and photos of just how these figures are made, and at the same time collect more about the history of how it all started.

This is Cecilia Trujillo at her shop where these figures are made in Calderon, Ecuador.

Things change, as it is never ending. There are those that out of negligence have become extinct, coupled with apathy and hopelessness. The figures made from bread dough have not died out. The internet may well be the resource that helps avoid such an end.

Photos and videos, as good as they are, still don’t equal the scene through your own eyes. Words can paint a picture up to a certain point. Seeing the Hummingbirds within three feet of your nose, how they flit through the air, the variance in size mixed with their petty little fights as they zip from one spot to another.

These little critters are notorious for their aggressiveness and territorial domain. Even among themselves you can see the face-offs. How unusual then when a small Wren flew up to the feeder with no challenge. Hardly bigger than the Hummers it was none the less a “bird of a different feather!”

Looking down at the river many things come into view. In this case it was what appeared to be Hawks, until realization kicked in that they do not fly in flocks! So it was just a bunch of Buzzards. That sort of brought things back into focus.

Still, returning after 8 years, the scene continues to capture all my senses. There were other noticeable changes with the Mirador itself, as guest rooms have been added and the parking lot is smaller as a result.

Patricio Espinel Will Greet You In English Or Spanish At El Mirador Del Rio Blanco!

A few minor changes near the entrance, yet welcoming as ever. Inside boasted a balcony which had been a window on the second level. Everything else was pretty much as my memory recalled. That changed as soon as I walked out the back door to the patio.

What had been a wooden or bamboo structure was now one of concrete. If possible the view was even grander as it seems obstructions have been removed. What is more likely is the patio is larger and extended further out, providing a regal exposure as far as the eye can see.

If you can witness this without taking in a deep breath, and muttering a grateful “wow,” then pinch yourself. You may have left this planet. For those still here this is one you don’t want to miss.

Patricio Espinel will greet you in English or Spanish as he is fluent in both, having spent is educational years in the U.S. He is an excellent host, and the food offered in the restaurant is both traditional and tropical. Having selections for vegetarians is especially thoughtful. Add the platform for the bird watchers and a window looking out into some foliage where the feathered patrons like to gather, and you may be treated as we were to the presence of Toucans.

It is not the jungle where these avians normally prefer as a habitat, but here they were and had just shown up a few minutes after our arrival. Almost as if to say, “see what a special treat we are for your viewing pleasure?”

El Mirador del Rio Blanco in Los Bancos, Ecuador. Put that one on your “bucket list!”

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