During our time in San Cristobal we had the opportunity to stay with new host families, be present for the Ecuadorian presidential election, and work on another research project.
After spending eight days on the Yate Eden, I was happy to finally spend time on land again. Upon our arrival to San Cristobal, I was greeted by my host mom and host brother. I would later meet my host dad and host sister. Though I appreciated all of my Galapagos family, I especially bonded with my host dad who showed a lot of curiosity about my family’s identify as Mexicanos living in the U.S. He wondered about how the experiences of my family and other people of color had changed since the election of Donald Trump, about the kind of work and opportunities available to immigrants, and listened quietly and understandingly as I shared with him my parent’s immigration story.
Though we only spent two weeks with these families, we all noticed how different the experiences of Galapagueños were from those of our families in Quito. Though it was not a universal view in Galapagos, one difference was the conservationist mentality some Galapagueños had, like my host brother. To him and others, there was a sense of ownership and accountability felt towards the Galapagos and the diverse life they support. The other big difference was political.
My host family in Quito supported neither of the presidential candidates but was intending to vote for the candidate that won the election, Lenin. My host family in Galapagos was in full support of his opponent, Lasso. Many families in Galapagos were devastated when Lasso lost the election, knowing they would have to endure another four years of the same political party in power.
When I wasn’t with my host family, a significant portion of my time was spent working on a research project on Swallow-tailed Gulls. Because the Galapagos Islands are so heavily protected, there are strict regulations on research that can be conducted on the islands. Consequently, our study was observational. Several times we hiked over lava rocks to reach the cliff where these birds nested. Though it was a bit treacherous, on our final hike to collect data, we spent some time sitting on top of the cliff overlooking the ocean and saw a flock of Red-billed Tropicbirds circle us. These were the most beautiful birds I saw at Galapagos and weren’t frequently seen on this island. It was a grounding experience that reminded me to reflect on the experiences I had in this place so far from my native land, a place I had been reading and learning about for years in biology and evolution classes, a place I otherwise would not have thought I’d have the opportunity to visit if not for the Ceiba Tropical Conservation Semester program.
We had a blast seeing Blue-footed Boobies, Sea Turtles, Sea Lions, many, many fishes, rays, and so many other critters, and I feel so fortunate to have had this experience.