A Soaring Film on Mt. Chimborazo's Ice Merchants

The Last Ice Merchant

Videos By Photo by Sandy Patch

We are in no rush to slow the pace of progress; after all, we stake our livelihoods on the new, the fashionable and the high-tech. Still, there remains a soft spot in our web-hardened, computerized hearts for the simple dignity of a life in nature. That soft spot melts to mush (get it?) before stories like that of Baltazar Ushca, the last remaining ice merchant on Ecuador’s Mt. Chimborazo. For reasons the film leaves decidedly obscure, sixty-seven-year-old Ushca stubbornly continues to brave the mountain’s hazardous heights to collect his product, despite the fact that freezer technology has diminished all but its novelty value. Next to his brothers, who have both given up the family trade for more economically viable vocations, Baltazar appears bullheaded or even stupid.

And yet, hearing him espouse natural ice for its “sweetness” and “nutrients for your bones”, we are reminded that work like his connects one to the world (despite or perhaps because of its naiveté) in a way that no amount of technology ever will. Don’t go tossing your gadgets out the window quite yet, though: the lifeblood of the film is its breathtaking DSLR photography. Paired with deft editing and an elegant score, the gorgeous Ecuadorian landscapes are enough to make us put away our iPhones… for a minute.