Carmen Luna, A Modern Day Che Guevara

Carmen Luna, A Modern Day Che Guevara, published by Inverse

The Ecuadorian night was foggy. High in the Andes in the tiny tourist town of Baños, I could hear, and feel the Tungurahua Volcano rumbling underneath our feet. We sipped steaming hot local cinnamon tea when the door opened and out of the fog stepped a person with a commanding presence. Her entrance into the room was reminiscent of a 1940’s film where the heroine appears in a current of white smoke. She swooped into the room wearing an oversized red poncho and a white hat with a red hatband made of local Indian indigenous fabric. She exuded power and strength, her voice was strong and determined. Meet Carmen Luna, the owner of the Luna Runtun Resort. I instinctively knew that she was “somebody”: a powerful woman, a force to be reckoned with, but to what degree I had yet to learn.

Carmen Luna is a modern day Ché Guevara. She, like Ché, is a revolutionary woman fighting, with her own version of guerrilla warfare, for her cause. Her cause was her town and its inhabitants, its tourism industry and her resort. Tonight she was agitated having just spoken with the President of Ecuador. “What an ass,” Carmen said and then began to tell her story.

“There were two situations: one local and one national,” she said. “I don’t know whose worse, the president or the mayor. I think I’m going to run for mayor, I’m tired of these morons.”

The village of Banos is located at the base of the Tungurahua Volcano which had been rumbling for quite some time. But it always rumbled. Scientists were convinced that it was going to erupt. A few months prior, the Ecuadorian government evacuated the town’s inhabitants. All the inhabitants had to board up their houses, bring whatever they could carry with them and leave the rest of their belongings behind.  A month passed then two without an eruption. After this prolonged length of time people started to become agitated at being displaced and wanted to return to their homes and lives. The government absolutely would not allow this. So, the townspeople, led by Carmen, decided to return home whether the government permitted it or not.

There are two ways to enter Baños, across a bridge that spanned a large Amazonian river or over the high mountains. Federal guards were posted at the bridge. The rebellious townspeople tried unsuccessfully to break through the guards. Subsequently, they decided to enter the town through the mountains. Climbing over the high mountains and down into town they successfully overcame two of the guards and took them hostage.  Carmen then called the President and demanded that the city be reopened and that the townspeople be allowed to return to their homes.


When President Fabian Alarcon refused to acquiesce, Carmen played her trump card. She told him that they had two guards being held hostage in the town jail. The only way they would be released was on the condition that the government would allow the Baños residents to return to their homes. The President reluctantly consented to these conditions.

The volcano never erupted.

Locally there was another fiasco happening.

Baños (Spanish for bath) was blessed with naturally heated spas from the volcano. In the center of town was a public bathhouse. The income earned from this venture belonged to the city. The citizens discovered that the mayor of Baños was embezzling these public funds.


Upon learning of this theft, the citizens demanded his resignation. The defrocked and humiliated man was forced to leave the town – walking across the bridge! The local townspeople forced him to relinquish his shoes and walk out of town in his bare feet.

In Ecuador, many grandmas sat outside of their houses, knitted, gossiped and watched the world go by. One lady, Carmen told us, talked with the other grandmas, showing an Andes grown hot chile, she said “If he tries to return, I’m going to stick this chile up his ass!”

The rumor circulating was that he was going to sneak back into town to get “his” Jeep, which actually belonged to the city. The townspeople of Baños had stored the vehicle at Carmen’s Luna Runtun Resort. It was parked in a place of honor, in front of the circular driveway leading to the resort, for all to see. The tires were flattened so as not to tempt someone to steal it. Carmen then dared the mayor to come back to town and get “his” auto.

From Carmen’s living room aerie, halfway up the volcano she could look through her binoculars over the city down below, she would periodically survey the city and the bridge making sure that the mayor was nowhere to be found.

The mayor was never going to be allowed to return to Baños. She would see to that.

Our meeting cut short when one of the two cell phones on her belt rang.  “Excuse me. I have to take this, it’s the President.” Carmen said. And she disappeared into the night.  We disappeared back into our spiced tea.

Cinnamon Spiced Tea

Yield: 4 Servings Preparation Time:

8 Chinese-Style Red (Or Black) 4 Cups Water, Boiling
-Tea Bags Or: Cinnamon, Ground
1/4 Cup Regular Black Tea 1/2 Cup Sweetened Condensed Milk

Place tea in a teapot; pour water over tea. Let steep for 5 minutes. Pour into 4 cups. To each serving, add a dash of ground cinnamon and about 2 tablespoons of condensed milk; stir to blend.   

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