Boarders – Ecuador 2009
I spent around 7 months in Latin America in my early twenties. Teaching English, learning Spanish, exploring, partying and taking photos. I say taking, as it that point in my life it was pretty much just that. I would wake up, leave wherever I had been sleeping with the intention of shooting, exploring and making sense of my surroundings. It was definitely a street style approach, I didn’t necessarily interact a whole lot with anyone or the scenes I was capturing. I tried to keep to myself and show as honestly as I could my world as I perceived it.
This photo is from my second trip to Ecuador at the border with Peru. Unlike other border crossings on that trip, I’d crossed legally, had my passport stamped etc. thinking by doing things ‘right’ my life would be a bit easier.
A few miles short of the border I was woken by a fairly innocuous man who pushed me forward, whispered something aggressively in my ear and stuffed a translucent bag of pills down the back of my seat. I went to pull them out and he fiercely grabbed the top of my arm, stopping me. He moved on down the bus calmly distributing his goods down the backs of various other passenger’s seats.
Paralized by the situation I considered my options; get rid now and face this man’s wrath, or go along with it and pray the customs guards don’t search the bus. I knew I should have just gone the scenic route and trekked through the mountains. Bollocks.
Why is no one else reacting? What are these pills anyway? Why would he stick them down our seats, so random. And why spread them out?? Surely if they did get found by customs it would be so evident that it wasn’t a coincidence that ten percent of the passengers on the bus decided to get into petty smuggling, of all the same goods, all in the same brazen fashion.
With the final consideration in mind I decided to leave it and try and calm myself down as the lights went on and we all got off to go across the border on foot.
The image I share with you is of one of the first things I saw as I descended the stairs of the bus.
Palms sweaty, queue, custom forms, passport, disinterested border guard, deep breaths, back on the bus, seat check…gone