Today is census day in Ecuador. At 7:00am, we looked out the window at a seemingly deserted city of a half-million people. It was apparent that the lock-down was total.
Not a car, person, or bus was in view. The streets were deserted. A few birds flew by the window that were not paying attention to the curfew. They were all that moved.
Minutes later, six policemen in dress uniform walked abreast down the center of our street. A half hour later a man and young boy, both carrying backpacks, meandered down the street, the first of many census takers that we would see on the street. In the previous weeks, High school students had been trained how to take the census and were today often seen in the company of their teachers as they made their way from house to house. It seemed strange to look out of our windows at the thousands of homes and apartments with the knowledge that, in every one, there were families waiting for the doorbell to ring. No one was at work. There were no church services this Sunday census day. No markets or restaurants were open. Everything was closed for the day. And, strangely, there were no fireworks to wake us in the morning. The entire population of Ecuador was at home waiting for the door bell to ring.
Our day wore on, ten, twelve, two o’clock and the world outside remained as still and unchanged as a photograph. A fast and furious rain squall at two o’clock must have drenched many of the census takers. At three, two young men from our nearby high school arrived to fill out our forms. Seventy-four questions and a half hour later, they put away the forms and went on to the next of 15 households they would visit. After a polite goodbye, they dragged their tired bodies up to then next floor to do it all over again with our neighbors. All the rumors and apprehension we had anticipated were over. It was simple, direct and involved no questions about wealth or money, required no signatures or identification, and seemed mostly concerned about the quality of everyone’s living conditions. At five, the city came alive again, as if time had been asleep.