Victor Hugo Vaca passed away at about 5:00 a.m. the morning of February 18, 2013. He will be greatly missed in the future, as he is now. Victor was preceded in death by Violet Growth Vaca, his wife of many, many years.
Together Victor and Violet both served as missionaries (among other pursuits), first to Paraguay and then to Victor's native country of Ecuador. Their work was concentrated on social justice and involved organizing persons in communities (especially indigenous peoples who were without a political voice) so they could have better living conditions and, eventually, higher standards of living.
When they were in Paraguay, the then rightist dictatorial regime viewed this work as communistic and took measures to stamp it out. The government eventually arrested Victor and held him as a political prisoner. Because she was a U.S. citizen, Violet was able to secure his release through the U.S. Embassy. However, a condition of release was that he and Violet leave the country within a week and never return. Thus, they left everything they had behind. Victor said that, as he walked out of the prison, he fully expected to be shot in the back so the government could claim that he had tried to escape. When he reached a park a few blocks away he sat down and wept, both for joy and as a way to relieve the tension. But the experience didn't alter his or Violet's commitment to fight for social justice.
After Paraguay, Victor and Violet worked in Geneva, Switzerland for about ten years. Violet worked at the world headquarters of the Young Womens Christian Association. Victor took a position with the World Council of Churches. When the opportunity to return to Ecuador came along, both were ready.
In Ecuador, Victor and Violet continued their lifelong passion - working with indigenous peoples who had no political voice to bring about social justice. They soon established an organization called Pastoral Rural Ecuatoriana, which provided small loans to indigenous peoples. However, they found that funds were not being used properly by the people being served and dismantled the organization.
Victor Dancing With Marilyn
Eventually, with the help of like-minded people, they founded FEDICE, an organization that could expand and carry on their work. FEDICE is the Spanish acronym for Fundación Ecuménica Para El Dessarollo Integral Capacitatión - Educación (Ecumenical Foundation for Development, Integration, Training, and Education). FEDICE is also a play on Spanish words that represents the organization's guiding principle. "Fe" is the Spanish noun for "Faith". "DICE" is the Spanish verb for "Says". It's meaning is that "Faith says we should care for our fellow human beings."
Victor Planning At Cachimuel
Victor Speaking At Church Service
Through the leadership of Victor and Violet, FEDICE has been able to establish programs to organize communities, teach better techniques for animal husbandry, teach better techniques for agriculture, provide what would now be called micro loans for animal husbandry and agricultural projects, work with abused women, work with the disabled, help construct buildings (especially child development centers providing safe environments for children while their parents worked), provide teachers for Christian Education and English, provide meaningful experiences for international mission groups. The list is long indeed.
All of these programs required two basic elements - the cooperation and help of the communities they served. Victor and Violet decided before the organization was formed that FEDICE would not simply dole out money. It would organize and train communities to make the best use of funds received. Further, FEDICE would not assume it could decide the needs of a community in a patriarchal manner. Each community was required to come to FEDICE with an identified need. This way, it was designed as a partnership preserving the dignity of the communities involved. "Minga" is a Queechua word. It means working together for the common good. Minga is what FEDICE has always stressed.
The staff and volunteers (of whom Marilyn and I are a part) are committed to continuing and growing the wonderful legacies of Victor and Violet through our contributions to FEDICE. I'm certain we'll succeed with the help of the wonderful people who read this blog, as well as Global Ministries and others, be they individuals or organizations.
It was a great honor and ever so humbling to work beside this kind, dedicated, intelligent man. What a life well-lived!
I know you, Marilyn, Blanca and all those that worked closely with him will miss his warm presence. I will never forget him.
From: --Hilda Dawson
Thank you for these beautiful words about our beautiful Victor, whom we miss so much. So nice to know he's dancing with his Violet now! Blessings, Carol
From: --Carol Cure
Yes, I only knew Victor for the last 6 or 7 months of his life, but his impact on me was to make a complete commitment to his goals in FEDICE. The world can be a better place.
We're leaving our driveway at 8:30 a.m. for Quito to finish the process of getting our cedulas (national ID cards). Our appointment with Gabriela Espinosa, our lawyer, is at 11:00 a.m. The morning is beautiful, clear and bright, with lots of blue sky and visible volcanoes. Along our way, we're treated to wonderful views of Fuya Fuya, Imbabura, Cotacachi, Cayambe, Las Puntas, even Cotopaxi and Antisana. Days like this remind us of the wonderful opportunity we've been given of living in the Andes of Ecuador for a time. How long that time will be, we cannot say. We've made some minimum commitments, but the story of us living here is still unfolding. In fact, today represents another chapter in that story.
As she did last week, Isabel has come with us to help Marilyn get me into Billy Bob, our 12 passenger van. However, after Victoria didn't do very well last week, we left her in the care of Cesar and Luz for the day. Victoria either can't (which we believe) or won't eat very much. Thus, she's become weaker and weaker and doesn't have much stamina. Marilyn had talked to Blanca, who had agreed to help get me into the car, so Isabel really didn't have to come. But she wanted to come anyhow. No doubt she's happy to have the occasional day when she doesn't have to care for Victoria and Brayan. Respites are good. Of course, she has to help me into Billy Bob at least a couple of times today, but that is a little different, at least.
We arrive at the parking lot one block from Gabriela's office at 10:52 a.m. Not bad for estimating the time it would take to get here. In the office, there's a couple seated in the lobby waiting to complete some business they apparently began before we arrived. They have a dog that reminds me of Spud of Budweiser commercial fame. Of course, that's a surefire icebreaker, as Marilyn goes over and pets Lucky. Emboldened, Lucky comes over to check me out, gently. Isabel comments that Lucky is muy educada (very well-behaved), implying that Canela, our dog, is not muy educada. She's partially correct, but still elicits loyal denials from both Marilyn and myself. The woman tells us that they are the lucky ones, for having Lucky. The man had come previously and found a place to live in Cotacachi, not far from Otavalo. Yesterday's flight marked the first time the woman and Lucky had come to Ecuador. To me, that seems to be a lot of faith and trust to place in one's husband.
The couple has left to do whatever they have to do next and Gabriela is ready to work with us. The first thing we have to do is get our documents and translations notarized. We learned that notaries have more power than lawyers in Ecuador. Nothing gets done without them. On our way to a private elevator that goes to the basement parking garage where Gabriela parks, we notice Lucky in a room with his leash hooked to a chair. He's standing there patiently. I could swear the couple had taken him with them. He really is well-behaved.
As we're driving to the notary's in Gabriela's car, her phone rings, which is not unusual for her phone. She listens for a while and a smile starts to spread across her pretty face. Then she bursts out laughing. When she hangs up, we learn that it was her assistant calling from the office. Seems that Lucky got anxious when just about everyone left the office. He broke free and ran all around the office. We don't ask if he did any damage. We're too busy laughing. But we are sure to point out to Isabel that Lucky is not as educada as she thought.
At the notary, Gabriela lets us out and goes in search of a parking spot. We're supposed to go in to a certain "pre-notary". These "pre-notaries" type up the documents for the notary to notarize. We get to the head of the line and he says we need two non-family witnesses who can swear that what I say is true because I can't sign my name. Isabel didn't bring her cedula, so she can't act as a witness. Where is Gabriela? Instead of going back to the end of the line, which is now short, we stay where we are and let others go around us. Come on, Gabriela!
Gabriela shows up and the problem is explained to her. She calls her office and asks some staff come over to sign as witnesses. Fortunately, Gabriela's office is not too far away. Problem solved.
The next problem? It's almost lunch time and the witnesses haven't shown yet. The notary always takes time for lunch. He needs the break, actually, because he notarizes documents almost non-stop when he's in the office. He probably gets terrible writer's cramp. Isabel, Marilyn, and I go to the waiting area, resigned to the idea that we won't see the notary until after lunch. The doors are closed so as not to let other "petitioners" in during the break. There's Belén, one of Gabriela's assistants, at the door. Gabriela talks to somebody and they let in Belén. They don't seem to need Marilyn or I present except to put our thumbprints on the documents before they get to the notary because, suddenly, they're notarized! I have no idea who the second witness is, but, we're outta here!
We go to Registro Cívil, where they'll take our documents for the cedulas. Gabriela lets us out at the building and places us into the hands of another of her assistants, Karen. Karen takes us to where we need to go while Gabriela parks the car again. The first thing we need to do is have someone verify that what's on the documents in our hot little hands matches what was entered in the system from the documents we provided last week.
The next problem is... our data hasn't been entered into the system yet! Gabriela is here now. She makes some calls and tells us that it will be at least an hour before our data is entered into the system. It's already 1:40 p.m., so we go across the street to have lunch at an Italian chain restaurant. The cost is $3.99/person for a lunch consisting of an appetizer or salad, entreé, drink, and dessert. Sounds good, so we order. I'm looking around while we're waiting for our food and notice that posted prices for the various items we ordered don't add up to less than or equal to $3.99. I figure that the lunch special really is special, or we'll have a much higher bill than we anticipate. With the exception of the meat lasagna (strange), which Marilyn and I both eat like the ravenous people we are at this point, the meal is pretty good. When the bill arrives, I breathe a sigh of relief. The lunch special really is special.
We recross Rio Amazonas (the street in Quito, not the river) and go back to the place where we left Gabriela and Karen. Neither are there, despite the fact that we're late returning. Marilyn asks if she should call Gabriela's cell phone. Isabel says to wait. I say yes. Marilyn gives the phone to Isabel to call in case Gabriela wants to speak in Spanish for some reason. Gabriela's phone is turned off. So, we wait.
We don't wait too long, because Karen returns soon. Apparently, Gabriela thinks it will be smooth sailing from here and is doing other lawyerly stuff. Karen assures us that Gabriela will come back to give us a ride to Billy Bob.
Our number is called shortly after Karen arrives and we're relieved, almost giddy, to get moving again. We all go to a cubicle and Marilyn starts chatting with the young man checking our paperwork. He's very friendly and, pretty soon, he begins speaking in English. Marilyn's inquisitive nature unearths these facts: he's 24 (and good looking), he lived near Otavalo until he was eight, he lived in New York City for 9 years and attended high school as well as college there, and he's worked at the Registro Cívil for the past six months. We think about Maria Augusta, but we're not ready to try to marry off a 12-year-old, despite having found what may be the perfect catch. Marilyn and I both compliment him on his efficiency, receive our papers back, pay the bank $5.00 each, and head to the final stop in what has officially become a long day.
At the final stop, they check our information once again, take our fingerprints, and take our pictures. When a cubicle is available, Marilyn and I both go to it. "No, no, no!" the woman tells us. "Only one at a time." Okay. Isabel takes me back to the waiting area. The cubicle next to Marilyn opens up and I'm beckoned forward. Isabel pushes me to the cubicle and sits down beside me. I'm surprised that she isn't told to leave.
With Isabel helping the man understand me, I verify my information again. Having to verify my information so many times makes me think of cop shows when the witnesses or suspects say, "But I've already answered these questions five times!" "Sorry, Madam/Sir, you'll have to answer a sixth time." I don't want to get belligerent, though. I want my cedula! So I answer the questions with a smile. Marilyn is going through the same process in the next cubicle, only she's a little ahead of me.
I have my picture taken with no problem. Now it's time to take my fingerprints digitally. I have to put the four fingers of my right hand on the machine, followed by the four fingers of my left hand, followed by both thumbs. Fortunately, there's no time limit. My right hand is in a fist. "Espera (wait)," I say, because I know I can uncurl my fingers given a little time. There. They're uncurled. Well, as uncurled as I can get them by myself. Since my laminectomies (neck surgeries), I can no longer straighten my fingers fully.
The man and Isabel place my fingers on the machine. They both have to try to hold the individual fingers down straight to get a good image. The machine goes beep... beep, beep. That beep, beep means the machine is not satisfied with the image it captures. The three of us try again. Beep... beep, beep. We try again. Beep... beep, beep. Once more. Beep... beep, beep. I think the machine is getting confused because it's seeing parts of Isabel's and the man's hands as well as my fingers. So I ask them to cover my hand with paper. After all, that's what they did on the instructional video we watched while we were waiting. Beep... beep, beep. Well, that's not it. The man goes to the back and requests the help of another man, presumably one who's more familiar with the machine. With all four of us working (plus Marilyn, who's at a lull in her interview and can't resist coming to help), the machine goes beep... What? No beep, beep? Success. The left hand is not as hard as the right. I'm told I now have to put both thumbs on machine. "This will be fun," I think. "My arms don't stay together in front of me very well unless I jam them between my legs - not an option here." However, with two people helping (it's back down to Isabel and the man now), it's not as hard as I had anticipated. What's next?
What's next is that Marilyn comes over and tells me that the woman helping her discovered a problem with our marriage certificate. My third name, William, which I never use because a priest gave it to me without my mother's consent when it was expected that I'd die at birth, is spelled WILLAIM. Actually, Marilyn had pointed it out to me while we were waiting and we hoped it wouldn't be a problem. It is a problem.
The upshot is that, with WILLAIM on the marriage certificate and WILLIAM on my birth certificate, they can't be sure that Marilyn hasn't been sleeping with a different man (me) for 28 years instead of the man she married (me also, I think). Both the man helping me and the woman helping Marilyn go to the back to talk to a supervisor. The door opens signaling they've returned, and neither are looking encouraging. We're told they can't finish processing our applications until we get the marriage license fixed. That likely means going back to Houston, swearing out an affidavit that my name is WILLIAM instead of WILLAIM, getting it apostilled, bringing it back here, and starting over again. We'd also have to get our birth certificates apostilled again because, in order to get cedulas, the apostilles can be no more than six months old. We're deflated, and exhausted. One lousy typo, 28 years ago! I think that thought over and over. The man hits a key on his computer keyboard and, ZAP!, my application is gone.
We go back to the waiting area to wait for Gabriela, who at this point is only our ride. We have no hope that she can get around this problem because the Ecuadorian government is a stickler for details in documents. Houses are built with flaws. Roads are built with flaws. The government has its flaws. But it appears documents need to be perfecto. Marilyn is looking at the marriage license and notices that my name is spelled correctly on the back - twice. I ask if the woman had noticed that and Marilyn says yes. The little glimmer of hope that had started to rise in me dies. But she goes back to point it out again anyhow. Having nothing else to do, Isabel, Karen, and I follow.
It's almost quitting time, so no is waiting at the woman's cubicle and we march right up to her. Karen points out the correct spellings on the back of the marriage certificate. The woman takes it to her supervisor again. The man who had been helping me is no longer in his cubicle. When the woman comes back, she's smiling a little and the man enters his cubicle. We can proceed! We have to go through the application again, including the dreaded (for me) fingerprinting process, but it's much faster because the only thing lacking the first time was that one lousy typo, 28 years ago.
It's 5:30 p.m. when Gabriela gets us back to our car. We left her office about 11:30 a.m. to complete something Gabriela said would take an hour. Part of the reason it takes so long to get anything done with the government is that I can't sign my name. We're at least an hour into the bowels of Quito and it will take about an hour and a half to travel the highway from the outskirts of Quito to Otavalo. We're not looking forward to the long drive but, hey, we're happy. We persevered.
Marilyn tells me that when we got the marriage certificate she pointed out the mistake. I don't remember that, but it doesn't matter what she or I remember. We need to get the mistake rectified. The next time it's likely to cause problems is when one of us dies.
It's 8:00 p.m. and dark when we pull up to Cesar and Luz's house to collect Brayan and Victoria. It takes Victoria a while to get down the stairs from their 3rd story apartment. When Victoria opens the car door and gets in, she's smiling and gives us a hearty greeting. That's a relief. We were half-expecting that she'd be mad because Isabel went to Quito with us and left Victoria to stay with relatives who weren't Isabel, though they care for her just as much. Some things do go well.
So glad you got your cedulas.....yeah, I will be doing all that pretty soon....I will have to get my birth certificate Apostilled again....it's about 6 years old. O the joys of living in a third-world country....
From: --Lisa Renz
So what exactly is your status now? Are you legal? For how long?
Yes, we're legal now!!! We can come and go as we please. Well, almost. During the first two years, we can't be out of Ecuador, more than 90 days each year. After that, we can't be gone for more than 180 days in a row. (I read somewhere that it was 18 months in a row, but I'm sticking with the shorter period to be on the safe side. The last thing we need is to go through this grueling process again.)
Plus, next year (when we're 65) we get all of the tercera edad (senior) discounts, including rebates on sales taxes paid for non-food items. Isn't tercera edad much more polite than senior?