Our guide for a short trip around town would be Maximo my wifes cousin and owner of Hotel Roland where were staying. We took a back road to a incredible vista with a very hot sun and lush green mountain valleys surrounding the hills to the nearby town of Malva.There we visited the oldest church in the region. about 450 years old. It reminded me of a site I had seen regarding converso Jews who escaped the inquisition and would meet supposedly here in zaruma? The little church was less baroque looking than most churches I had seen so far, as a matter of fact it had some beautiful moorish looking tiles and great woodwork over the balustrades shaped like fleur de ly’s. We started back down the road towards
Zaruma and Maximo started to recount the fable of this little town of Malva.It seems that Malva’s residents were a randy lot and liked to dance in naked orgiastic fete’s at night, whatever the case may have been they were relocated by a higher power from there former location above where Zaruma stands and put in there present place? So ever curious I asked about the converso’s that may have been part of the Zaruma community, Maximo said he had heard of it and until recently there was an old hermit that lived a secret life nearby.When this man died they found hidden away in his home some evidence of his roots and that he still was practicing the Jewish faith? He also said that some families had Jewish ties as was the case with my wifes nieces family.
As the road was turning back we suddenly took a right turn down what looked like the mountain into a drive way that lead to a basket ball court and a small fence with a door bell. My brother-inlaw was throwing twigs up at a tree to retrieve a native fruit only found here in Zaruma, poma rosa.When we recounted the story about this fruit my mother also recognized it in her childhood memories in the Var in France where she lived during the second world war. My brother-inlaw determined to harvest some fruit knocked them out of the branches. As we followed down through a gate to our next visit to the micro-empressa of Señor Celso Aguilar,
bocadillo maker. Bocadillo are sugar cane candies that are processed with panela as well as fruit pastes like guayaba or cocoa, coconut and various other tropical fruits. This business was started by his grandmother 40 years ago and her portrait hangs inside his room where he display’s samples. With pride he describes the process of candy making,from the cane juice, roasting peanuts, making cocoa into chocolate,as well as making his famous manjar de coco!We sampled his product, they are rustic confections with raw organic products that aren’t your usual overly sweet candy. They make little biscuit and marmalades from guyaba,pineapple and even an orange liquor he calls orange wine. Without hesitation,he described his business and took us around for a tour of his little finca, along the path were various fruit trees. We were offered small bananas which were the sweetest I have ever tasted, I could imagine how happy he was in this quiet serenity of organic air and land. We said our goodbyes and asked to try his wine on a return visit, (which we did the following day) and I promised to send my wife back in March for a bottle!
Climbing back up the steps laden with sweet candies we sampled the poma rosa and the fruit was reminiscent of waterchesnuts in texture with an aroma of rose petals, what’s in a name?