NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel

It is time for our bimonthly roundup of my poetry and travel writing which continue to appear in journals and on websites around the world. Today, we travel to various corners of Latin America, including Mexico, Chile and Ecuador’s enchanting Galápagos Islands.

Spend the afternoon browsing through the list (with links) below …. and stay tuned for more poetic and narrative journeys coming up later this month!

Until we next meet …..

Safe Journeys!


The Daphnes and other Galapagos Islands from on high. Capture the magic of flying from the Andes to coast, to the Enchanted Isles with my poem “Journey of Changes.” photo © Lorraine Caputo



“Isla Negra” in Blue Fifth Review (Spring Quarterly, June 2017)

“Trickster Songs” and “Canyon Winds” in Mojave River Review (May 2017)

“Journey of Changes” in Topology Magazine (May 2017), theme: Borders & Boundaries


Sunflower seastar (Pycnopodia) in a tidal pool. Playa Orgánica, Isla Isabela, Galápagos. photo © Lorraine Caputo



            Insider’s Galapagos / Galapagos Travel Planner

Galapagos Islands’ Best Snorkeling Sites – No Cruise Required

Galapagos Islands’ Best Snorkeling Sites – Western Islands

New Galapagos  Entry Requirements

Galapagos Islands’ Best Snorkeling Sites – Eastern and Central Islands

Snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands

9 Galapagos Islands Day Cruises



NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel

NEW PUBLICATIONS : Poetic and Travel

It’s time for the bimonthly round-up of recent publications of my poetry and travel writing, which are continuing to appear regularly in journals and on websites around the world.

And I have (finally) hit the Big Leagues in the literary world! Check out my story that appeared in Prairie Schooner – as well as travel advice for exclusively for women (though you men might pick up a few useful tips, too!) and a review by a travelling family I met.

Safe Journeys!

Ever ready to give a poetry reading: My “traveling poetry” books with over 25 years of works, in English and in Spanish. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Ever ready to give a poetry reading: My “traveling poetry” books with over 25 years of works, in English and in Spanish. photo © Lorraine Caputo



“We Ain’t Supposed to Play,” in 3:33 Sports Short, Prairie Schooner (22 September 2016)

Playing ball in the streets of Cartagena. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Playing ball in the streets of Cartagena. photo © Lorraine Caputo



10 Things to Know When Traveling Sola

Insider’s Galapagos / Galapagos Travel Planner (including ghostwritten articles)

Galapagos Islands: what happens in September

Floreana Island: Off the Beaten Galapagos Track

Santiago Island: A Hidden History of Colonization in the Galapagos Islands



Jessica and Will homeschool their two pre-teen children – with an international twist. Each  year, they choose a different country in which to live, so that Avalon and Largo also learn other cultures and languages, They have lived in Costa Rica, Ecuador – and have just begun their latest adventure in the south of France.

Follow them at Goodie Goodie Gumdrop. They are truly inspiring!

History In Quito + Weekly Round Up

Dealin’ Them in Quito : CUARENTA

Dealing out the cards. photo courtesy of El Cachita #2.

Dealing out the cards. photo courtesy of El Cachita #2.


Don Marco shuffles the cards and then lays them in front of the player to his left to cut. Then, beginning with the player to his right, he deals five cards to each of the four of us sitting around the table. Our eyes study what has been dealt to us. From the other side of the table, don Marco’s partner, Bolívar, looks up from his hand. I look at Alan, my partner.

Ronda,” I quietly say. A bottle cap – a tanto or two-pint marker – is placed next to me. My declaration means I have a three of a kind in my hand.

It’s my turn again. There are a jack and four on the table. I opt to lay a lower card, in the hopes of adding cards together. The more cards, the better the chance to gain more points at the end of the round.

Bolívar takes my card. “Caída,” he says, and places another bottle cap with his team’s points. Dang.

Don Marcos lays a card face down in front of him. His thin index finger lightly touches it. When his turn comes, he confidently turns it upright and sweeps the table clean of the 5-6-7 and Jack. “Limpia.” Another bottle cap is added to his team’s mound. Now there are five caps. “Perro.” They are replaced by a card.

The last play of this hand. Don Marcos looks at me. “I know you have this. Take it.” This bantering is part of the game. I shake my head. “Nope. Sorry,” and I lay my seven down. He leans back in his chair, slapping his thigh. “Dang, you also hang on to a seven to the last, Guarandeña!”

The round ends. We count the cards each team has taken. We only have 17. Don Marcos’ teammate continues to count. “Nineteen,” then begins a separate pile, “Six, seven, eight, nine. Perro.” Ten more points.

We are now down, our four points to their twenty. But the game isn’t over yet. It won’t be until one team reaches forty points.


We are gathered one cool evening in El Cachito #2, a traditional café in the colonial heart of Quito. Every Wednesday evening, people gather here to play games – chess (ajedrez), checkers (damas), Rummikub … and that quintessential Quiteño game, cuarenta.

Cuarenta is a game born of Quito’s inner city barrios (neighborhoods). When and how it emerged is lost in the mists that swirl through this Andean valley. And although it is the emblematic game of Ecuador’s capital, it is played throughout the country, with regional differences in the rules and dichos (sayings).

Quito, however, remains the ruling seat of this card game. Throughout the year, in small cafés like El Cachito, neighbors get together to play this iconic game. And every year, during the city’s birthday celebrations the beginning of December, it hosts an international Cuarenta tournament.

A regular deck of cards are divided. Those on the left are the ones that are played with. The 8s, 9s and 10s (on the right) are the perros, or 10-point markers. photo © Lorraine Caputo

A regular deck of cards are divided. Those on the left are the ones that are played with. The 8s, 9s and 10s (on the right) are the perros, or 10-point markers. photo © Lorraine Caputo

It’s my turn to deal the cards. I shuffle them, and pass them to don Marco to cut. I look at Alan as I deal out the next round and give him a thumb up. We won’t go zapatero. At least I hope not.

This round goes quickly. It seems every card our opponents lay down, either Alan or I take. The word caída cascades from our lips. The bottle caps heap, and change to perros.

When the second hand of this round is dealt, I silently jump when I see that 3 in my hand. I hope … and yes, there Don Marco lays a Q. I have a clean sweep. In one fell swoop, I clear the table of the 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – J – Q. I thank don Marco for making it even sweeter. Another bottle cap goes into our growing mound of points.

The end of this round. Don Marco shakes his head at their thin cartón. Alan counts ours off: 19 … six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven. Twelve points: Another perro and tanto. In this hand we are up to 34 points to their 24.


Cuarenta has its name for two reasons: 40 cards are used in the playing deck, and the goal is to reach 40 points.

This game is for two players or for four (who play in two teams). A standard, English-style deck of playing cards is used. The 8s, 9s and 10s are removed; these are used as 10-point markers. What remain are the Ace (valued at one) through 7, and J, Q, K.

During the course of the game, a player picks up a card of the same face value, or adds up cards to equal the card he or she has in hand. For example: An Ace and a 6 are on the table; the player takes them with a 7. (In some places, it is allowed to take up to three cards that way, e.g.: Ace, 2 and 3 are taken with a 6.) Only the numerical cards (Ace through 7) can be added up. The face cards (J, Q, K) do not have point values. No importance is placed on suits.

Another way to capture as many cards as possible is by remembering to pick up all cards in sequence. On the table are:

5     6     7     J     K

I capture the 5, and also take 6, 7 and J. (Because K does not sequentially follow Q, I cannot take it.)

One goal is to have has many cards as possible at the end of a round. Each player (with two players) or team (with four players) counts up their captured cards. Upon reaching a count of 19, then the point count begins with six. If an odd number is counted off, then it is rounded up to the next even number.

Points are also accumulated during the course of play. In the traditional Quiteño way of play, everything has a value of two points:

ronda (round) – being a dealt a three of kind

caída (fall) – capturing the card the player before you laid down

limpia (clean) – when all cards are swept from the table

When a player or team reaches 38 points, the rule is “38 que no juega” (38 doesn’t play). This means that in order to reach 40 points during the course of the game, a caída must occur; the extra two points cannot be made with a ronda or a limpia.

Another aspect of Cuarenta is that every player is a raconteur. Many standard sayings are used during the course of the game – primarily to throw opponents off, and to make them lose count of cards that have already been played. If one is certain the next player doesn’t have an Ace, you’d say As que no caerás (Ace, you will not fall). Upon laying down a Jack, you might say Joto, or something more elaborate like José me llamo (José is my name). If a very talkative player’s card captures a card, another might say, Dale al lorito (Give it to the parrot).

A ronda, or three of a kind. photo © Lorraine Caputo

A ronda, or three of a kind. photo © Lorraine Caputo

Le toca a Bolívar to deal.

Don Marcos has a ronda. Two points for them.

I study my cards. Where do I begin? I opt to open with a face card.

And in rapid succession, cards fall, the table is cleaned. The bottle caps are changed to perros. It is now 32 for don Marco and Bolívar, to Alan’s and my 38. The next hand of this round is being dealt.

38 que no juega,” says Bolívar. We are two points from winning. But we must take a caída. Anything else – a ronda or a limpia – will not count. I look over at Alan. He winces. He has a ronda – but it does us no good.

The play resumes. My card falls to Bolívar, Alan’s falls to don Marco. Our opponent’s points are mounting. I look nervously to Alan.

Bolívar turns his card over. “As que no caerás,” he says confidently.

Alan’s smile brightens his face and he slaps his Ace atop Bolívar’s. ¡Caída!

We’ve reached 40 points. ¡Cuarenta! We Win!

photo courtesy of El Cachita #2.

photo courtesy of El Cachita #2.


To sum up, this is all you need to know to play Cuarenta.

When you’re in Quito (or elsewhere in Ecuador), ask your new friends to let you join in on a game.

If you have any questions (or tips!), reply in the comments below.

And may the best win!



  • 1 regular deck of playing cards, with the 8s, 9s and 10s removed.
  • 8 bottle caps or matchsticks, for maintaining score. Each counts as twopoints.
  • the perros – that is, the removed 8s, 9s and 10s, which mark 10 points earned.
  • 2 or 4 players



  • Cutting the deck is to the left (clockwise).
  • Dealing of the cards is to the right (counter-clockwise).
  • Play is to the right (counter-clockwise).



  • Only the numbered cards (Ace through 7) are added together
  • A player may take all cards in a sequence that is on the table. For example: The 5, 6, 7, Jack and Queen are on the table. The player plays a 5, and takes the entire sweep of 6-7-Jack-Queen.
    • If the player forgets to take the sequential cards, the opponent(s) take them.
  • At the end of the game, the cards taken are counted. After counting off 19, then the point-count begins at six (i.e., card 20 is worth six points). The resultant point count is rounded up, and the points added to the tantos and perros.
  • The game ends when a player or team reaches 40 points. The last two-point play must be a caída.



Cartas, naipes, barajas – Playing cards.

Palos – Suits.

  • Corazón or rojos – Hearts.
  • Trébol – Clubs.
  • Diamante – Diamonds.
  • Pica or Corazón negro – Spades.

Jota – Jack.

Ku or Reina – Queen.

Ka or Rey – King.

As – Ace

Barajar – To shuffle the deck of cards.

Repartir – To deal out the cards.

Cortar – To cut the cards.

Te toca / Me toca – It’s your turn / It’s my turn.

Ronda – Having a three-of-a-kind dealt to you. Point value = 2.

Caída – When you take the card of the player before you. Point value = 2.

Limpia – When you clear the table of all cards. Point value = 2.

Caída y limpia – In some versions, 4 points is given for this; others, only 2 points.

Cartón – The cards taken from each play. These are counted at the end of the game. For 19 cards or less, no points are given. With the 20th card, the count begins at six.

Perro – A 10-point marker, usually represented by one of the removed cards (i.e. 8, 9 or 10)

Tanto – A 2-point marker.

Zapatero – When a player or team has fewer than 10 points at the end of the game.

Dichos – Typical sayings used during the course of play.

Every Wednesday evening, locals and foreigners get together at El Cachito, a traditional trastienda (behind-the-shop) café in the Centro Histórico of Quito. Here they play cuarenta and other games, like chess, (ajedrez), checkers (damas) and Rummikub. photos courtesy of El Cachita #2.

Every Wednesday evening, locals and foreigners get together at El Cachito, a traditional trastienda (behind-the-shop) café in the Centro Histórico of Quito. Here they play cuarenta and other games, like chess, (ajedrez), checkers (damas) and Rummikub. photos courtesy of El Cachita #2.


Lucha libre action in the ring. Photo © Lorraine Caputo

Lucha libre action in the ring. Photo © Lorraine Caputo

While waiting for tonight’s event to begin, people line up at the small stand to buy sodas and the ubiquitous Ecuadorian snack of salchipapas (hot dogs and French fries) to share amongst the entire family. The stands around two sides of the small arena fill. The spectators watch films of past matches on the big screen TVs. In the middle is the ring where tonight’s action will take place. Spotlights already bathe it. Large posters of the star wrestlers – Big Venom, Minister, Dr. Pesadilla, Ricky Glamour, Maxxx Viper – decorate the walls.

As the time nears for the event, hands slightly part the red curtain at the far end of the room. The spectators begin to clap, to stomp, to whistle. But it is only a tease. Soon enough, though, the two announcers take their seats at the table to the right of that slit in the red curtains. The referee climbs into the ring. And the action begins.

El Gladiador makes his entrance. Photo ©Lorraine Caputo

El Gladiador makes his entrance. Photo ©Lorraine Caputo

In the first half, El Gladiador is abandoned by his evil teammates. He swears he will turn to the Light. This raises a round of cheer from his multitudes of fans. The first match of the second half features Ricky Glamour, one of the most popular wrestlers of Ecuador’s lucha libre. The night ends with a free-for-all, break-loose match between many of the fighters. It spills out of the ring, one large hulk chasing another and another round the arena, into the stands.

The night is over. Families depart into the cool mountain evening. Plastic cups and bowls with caking ketchup and mayonnaise skitter across the emptying parking lot.

The night ends with mayhem spilling out of the ring, right at our feet. Photo © Lorraine Caputo

The night ends with mayhem spilling out of the ring, right at our feet. Photo © Lorraine Caputo

History of Professional Wrestling in Ecuador

In Latin America, professional wrestling is called lucha libre. Mexico is renowned for its long history of this sport. Its most famous stars came to Ecuador. The saint of all kids like El Gladiador was El Santo. Some thirty years ago, Argentina also made the scene with stars like Martín Karadagián and La Momia. Influenced by these two countries, professional wrestling arrived in Ecuador in the 1970s.

Today, four wrestling federations operate in Ecuador, based in Quito and Guayaquil. In the capital, the season is year round. In the coastal metropolis of Guayaquil, there are no matches during the first four months of the year, due to the rainy season.

One of the major federations is WAR (Wrestling Alliance Revolution). Its shows feature the lucha entre los Buenos y los Malos – the struggle between Good and Evil. Its stable of fighters travel to other cities and small villages to do events.

In real life, these fighters, who range in age from 16 to 40, are hostel managers, English teachers, journalists, dog breeders and gym owners. Most are fathers. But this sport isn’t just limited to males. Women are also professional wrestlers, and mixed matches are held the same night as the main events.

WAR’s live events may be caught at the arena at Río Vuano y Av. de La Prensa in north Quito (Metrobus stop La Florida). Tickets ($5) go on sale at 5 p.m. the day of events. Fights begin at 6 p.m. If you can’t make it to the matches, you can watch them on WAR’s you tube channel.

El Gladiador at rest, thinking of future conquests. Photo © Lorraine Caputo

El Gladiador at rest, thinking of future conquests. Photo © Lorraine Caputo

One early summer day in Quito, I sat down with one of the stars of WAR, El Gladiador. Weighing in at 215 pounds, this 37-year-old fighter is one of the most popular of WAR’s fighters, especially among children who consider him a hero. El Gladiador even has his own channel on you tube. He started his career as a Malo, but now he has joined the ranks of the Buenos.

Before becoming a professional wrestler five years ago, El Gladiador was a successful bodybuilder in the 80 kilogram (190 pound) class. He was Mr. Pinchincha in 2002, and placed third in Mr. Quito 2002. He also practices muay tai, jujitsu, mixed martial arts. As a wrestler, he was the Champion in Parejas (Tag Team) a few year years back.


Why did you decide to become a wrestler?

I have liked lucha libre since I was a child. I watched it on TV and the WWF. I would stop whatever I was doing to watch lucha libre. Also I liked Arnold Schwartzenegger’s movies and Hercules.


Who were your inspirations, your favorite fighters?

The Argentinians, the Titanes en el Ring. Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior – both of the US – were also huge, strong. Of today’s fighters: the Rock and Kane. Especially the Rock.


I have seen photos of you as a bodybuilder. You looked much leaner, much more sinewy than as a wrestler.

In bodybuilding, you work for less body fat and water – to give muscles more definition. In wrestling, these are necessary in order to protect yourself from the blows and falls.


I always thought of professional wrestling as a show, as theater – all fake. But when I went to the matches to see you fight, I came to realize that it takes a lot of training to learn how to fall correctly, and to throw punches that won’t injure your opponent. What is training like?

Wrestling is a high-risk sport. Injuries can easily end a career or lead to death. Unlike the U.S., we don’t have to report our hands as deadly weapons.

Not all is drama in lucha libre. Many come to the sport, but leave after the first training session.

We have to learn techniques to fall, to receive blows. The chest and back have to be able to resist more. Also to hit without causing injury. I work out two to three times per week, two to three hours each time. It includes weightlifting, jogging and cardio-vascular exercises.

Before entering the ring, a fighter trains for eight months to a year. In a new fighter’s first time in the ring, the older wrestlers gives the newcomer a ceremony, a baptism of blows and machetazos (chops): five blows to the upper chest.


And what type of diet and lifestyle do you have to follow?

No smoking, no drinking, no drugs. We eat a lot of animal protein.


And any restrictions about sex coming up to a fight? My father was a professional boxer, and he often mentioned that.

El Gladiador laughs. No, no restrictions on sex, he responds.


Of the Buenos and the Malos, it surprised me that one of the most popular fighters is Ricky Glamour, whose personage is a stereotypical gay and a good guy. How can you explain this in a country where homosexuality is looked down upon?

He’s an “exotic fighter.” In Ecuador, homosexual jokes are popular between men. It’s the sal quiteña: we are jokers, happy.

Ricky Glamour makes his grand entrance with much glamp and golden glitter. Photo © Lorraine Caputo

Ricky Glamour makes his grand entrance with much glamp and golden glitter. Photo © Lorraine Caputo

El Gladiador had a relative who was a professional wrestler about 40 years ago. In that age, they went to the small towns and fought in rustic rings that were made of oil barrels with a board atop, covered only with a rug. It was really high risk.

A friend of El Gladiador – who only wishes to be identified as “El Negro” – joins our conversation. El Negro is of Chillo-Jijón and Amaguaña indigenous descent. His long straight hair is tied back in a ponytail and his chin capped with a salt-and-pepper goatee. With his stocky build, he looks like he could be a professional wrestler as well.

El Negro grew up in Chimbacalle, one of the poor neighborhoods on the south side of the capital. He has been an aficionado of professional wrestling since he was a kid. I ask him whether he ever wanted to be a professional wrestler like his friend, El Gladiador.

“When I was a guambra (kid), I loved wrestling. But you know how parents are: How are you going to earn a living? Lucha libre was considered ridiculous. I was a student of sports, and later was a soccer and basketball trainer.” He is now, by trade, a jewelry maker

“Some 35 years ago, the basketball courts at Chimbacalle was where the matches took place. It was open-air, a boxing ring. The big wrestlers at that time were Monje Loco and Fortunato y Hermoso. Tickets were only three sucres. Kids would save their money for school snacks to go. And before, the matches were only during vacations. Now they’re all year round.”

“Before Chimbacalle, according to my father, the fights took place at Plaza Arenas.”

There’s a mercado called Plaza Arenas tucked between La Guaragua (Calle Galápagos) and Calle Venezuela, near the Básilica in Quito’s Centro Histórico. I interject, “In the market there?”

“No. Before it was the market we know today, it was a Plaza de Toros (bullfighting ring). After Chimbacalle, fights took place at the Coliseo Julio César Hidalgo in La Marín.”

The empty ring awaits it fighters. ¡Lucha libre! Photo © Lorraine Caputo

The empty ring awaits it fighters. ¡Lucha libre! Photo © Lorraine Caputo

Ecuador’s Lucha Libre in Film

Just a few weeks ago, a new film featuring El Gladiador and other Ecuadorian wrestlers hit the silver screens in Quito. It’s called La Rompecuellos. But this isn’t the first film about professional wrestling in Ecuador.

Santo y Evaristo contra los Secuestradores (Federico Curiel, 1972) was a Mexican-Ecuadorian production starring Mexican legends El Santo and Ernesto Albán “Evaristo.” In this production, Interpol’s Special Investigations unit sends Santo to Ecuador to investigate a kidnapping and counterfeiters.

Three decades later, Ecuadorian director and writer Vivian Codero presented Un Titán en el Ring (2002). In this story, a new priest arrives to a small village deep in the Andes mountains where wrestling matches are the main entertainment for the children and town folk. When a corrupt promoter comes to town, the villagers rise up.

In the same year, Lucha libre – Historia del luchador la Sombra de Ecuador (2002) was released. This mini-documentary recounts the career of La Sombra, an Ecuadorian wrestler who gained international fame.

Lucha Libre in Latin America

Where else in Latin America can you catch the action of professional wrestling?

The country with the longest history, most influence and strongest contemporary following is Mexico. The heroes are often found in real life outside the ring, fighting the ills of modern Mexican society and corruption. Matches are held in Mexico City, Puebla, Guadalajara and other major cities. Mexico has been the example for lucha libre for much of the rest of Latin America.

Argentina also has had a vibrant lucha libre scene. El Gladiador cites la Momia and the Titanes en el Ring as some of his childhood favorites. He and El Negro reminisced of the classic Titanes fight, of la Momia versus Martín Karadagián.

Bolivia has a strong women’s league of this sport, dominated by the Fighting Cholitas – indigenous women dressed in their traditional garb of multi-layered polleras (skirts) and petticoats. You may catch their matches in El Alto, city perched on the altiplano above La Paz. A 2006 documentary, The Fighting Cholitas, won an honorable mention in the Short Filmmaking category at the Sundance Film Festival.