Where the Sun Casts no Shadow

MAIO ALVEAR
0.002222 S 78.455833 W

 

In 1736 the “French Geodesic Mission” was launched to measure and define the exact position of the Equatorial line. While this specific study would later determine the exact measurement and shape of the world, astronomers involved missed the possibility of encountering the reminiscence of highly sophisticated geographical achievements made on “Equatorial” territory for hundreds of years before their arrival. Throughout the time the astronomers attempted to measure a length of a degree of latitude on that area of the planet, a group of different sorts of ruins were found near the territory where they thought the Equatorial line passed through. Years later, it was brought to light that the “Geodesic Mission” had been wrong about the exact coordinates where the line passed through—the measurements had indeed proved the world was spherical and not elongated (egg-shaped) at the poles, but their studies to define the placement of the equator were incorrect by almost 300 meters. The ruins found throughout the expedition between 1735–1745 were actually situated at latitude 0, or the exact position where the Equatorial line crosses. In 1935, the Ecuadorean Government built a ten meter tall monument to honor the French expedition under the guidance of a local geographer. In 1972, this monument was replaced by a thirty meter tall monument titled “Ciudad Mitad del Mundo” (Middle of the World City), regardless of the inexact coordinates, which by then could be measured through GPS. “Ciudad Mitad del Mundo” today collects one of the highest touristic revenue in the country, serving hundreds of people with the misconception that they are standing on the exact spot where the Equator crosses.

 

Kitu-Caras named this equatorial place as the city of the straight sun, or in the other words, “where the sun casts no shadow” at the equinoxes, honoring the astronomical arrangement that placed the sun perpendicularly above the equator, and made shadows vanish temporarily. Descendants of the Kitu-Cara today continue to celebrate the no-shadow day every 21st of June, after the first agricultural cycle in a year culminates.


MAIO ALVEAR (b. San Francisco, 1993) is an interdisciplinary artist living in Quito, Ecuador. His installation-sculptures focus on topics such as archaeology, history, and geopolitics. Alvear has had group and solo exhibitions in Ecuador, Mexico, the US, and France.