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In Quechua, a minga means a contract between individuals during a meeting. In Ecuador, friends and community commonly get together and have one. Today, we had a minga. A minga is different than a party or going out to a meal—it shouldn’t cost anything for the members who attend. Knowing this, mingas typically take form through community work.

Luchadores del Norte sits in front a park with pay structures and a few basketball courts. It’s a central feature of the neighborhood, with adults attending fitness classes in the morning and students playing after school. That being said, before the minga the park was overrun with trash and weeds. Since there were so few patients this morning, almost all the LDN staff went outside and donned gloves to help clean up the park. An hour or so later we cleaned up the whole park.

While I enjoyed helping clean and changing the pace, looking at all the trash reminded me of the issues the LDN community faces: pollution from cars, feces from the many stray dogs in the neighborhood, and jury-rigged pipes from drug addicts. It also provides a sharp contrast to the neighborhood in which we live. While waiting for the bus back, we talked a to a mom we met in the clinic. When we told her we were living in Samborondón, a city next to Guayaquil accessible by crossing the Duale River, she gave us this impressed look that, while kind, highlighted the socioeconomic disparity between the LDN community and those living on the other side of the river.

Later that day, we learned that the wealthy people living in Samborondón are jokingly called Pelucones, derived from the word pelucón, meaning wig (aka big wigs). Thus Samborondón is Peluconlandía, comprising much of the wealth of the area.

The minga today allowed the community, doctors, nurses, and a gringo like me to work together. Together, all of us made short order of making the park a better place. The minga showed me what life is like in the poorer areas of Guayaquil, outside of the bubble of Peluconlandía, and how the community reacts to these issues.