Monday, September 11, 2017

Cumorah: The Ecuadorian Mount Imbabura – Part II

Continuing from the previous post regarding the location of the hill Cumorah being located in northern Ecuador, and completing the travels of Omer and his family that left Moron and traveled northward and then eastward to the seashore (Ether 9:3). 
   Moving northward past Mount Chimborazo to the West, on the central plains or main valley of the Central Cordillera—the highest of the Andean mountain ranges—toward Ambato, and the Ambato River, which has cut a deep basin into the land, an oceanic climate area north of Riobamba, the latter the likely location of the Jaredite kingdom seat of Moron, Omer and his family and household would have been  heading northward toward Latacunga. Today, these plains are famous for the Guaytambo, a native green-skinned peach grown in the temperate dry valley that tastes more like a hard nectarine. 
The hill of Shim, 15,000-foot Mount Hermoso in Ecuador 

As Moroni wrote of Omer, he “traveled many days, and came over into the land of Antum (Mormon 1:3) and passed by the hill of Shim” (Ether 9:3). This area was likely Cerro Hermoso, a high non-volcanic hill, known as one of the most beautiful mountains in Ecuador, just north of Ambato and where the prophet Ammaron deposited the sacred records (Mormon 1:3) that Mormon later obtained (Mormon 4:23).
    It might be of note that this 15,190-foot mountain is considered both a magical place and the location of where much gold from the Inca Atahualpas treasure has been buried, perhaps among the many caves located along the lower part and base of the mount. The Cerro Hermoso is the central mountain of the Llanganati mountain range, which is not exactly a mountain range but a rare system of three clustered mountain ranges, embedded in a part of the inter-Andean valley and emerging as branches of the Third Cordillera of the Ecuadorian Andes, and an unsafe area to climb around because of its mysterious vegetation. Here the mosses grow so great that they sink into and cover large crevices and abysses, where unsuspecting people can fall into without notice, which has led to numerous legends and myths about the hill, making it a perfect place for Ammaron to hide the records that would not have been bothered at the time.
    When Omer passed through the Quito Valley, often called the Quito Bowl or Quito Basin—and likely the location of the Valley of Gilgal, where Coriantumr and Shared fought their battles that ended in the latter’s death—there would have been several paths he could have taken. Of these several passes that move out of the basin include the route he took from the south to reach this valley, that passed by the hill of Shim (Ether 9:3), which would likely have been the hill Cerro Hermoso (hill beautiful), through the Plains of Agosh along the Latacunga plateau, where today is located the city of Latacunga near the confluence of the Alaquez and Cutuchi rivers near the headwaters of the Pastaza river.
Headwaters of the Pastaza River just south of modern-day Quito in the Valley Basin
Another pass out of the Basin heads to the west into the tropical rainforest along the western slopes of the Cordillera Occidental, which would have also been a vast wilderness and not an appealing direction for Omer. In the opposite direction is a pass today to the east into the Amazon; however, in the days of Omer that would have been the Sea East. Another is to the north toward the Añaquito Plains where, during Colonial times, Gonzalo Pizarro fought and killed the usurper Spanish knight Blasco Nuñez Vela in 1546.
The Calderón plains situated to the northeast of Quito and today considered a suburb area 

Beyond Añaquito Omer would have encountered the dry Calderón plains, or Central Plains, to the northeast of Quito, where today the famous Calderón masapán, little dough figurines, are sold for Día de los Difuntos, to place on graves during the Day of the Dead of All Souls’ Day tradition. This overall area is identified by the Jaredites as the plains of Heshlon (Ether 13:28), and beyond was the descent into the great gorge of Guaillabamba.
    As Omer and his family and household passed through the extreme southern end of the Ibarra mountain-park, they were exposed to a view of an almost countless number of small fields extending well up the sides of the mountain (today these are all cultivated by the Indians of the high mountain slopes). The paramo or high mountain plateau over which they traveled would have been suitable for later grazing of their herds, a fact of which they no doubt took notice when passing.
Imbabura is actually a series of complex cinder cones of varying heights, the two major ones are (left) the west, Azaya cone, and the other (right), the north, or Artezón cone, and is without question the dominant geographic feature of the area, and of significant importance to the local culture, which involves a spiritual relationship with the land. The mountain is sometimes personified locally as Taita Imbabura, or "Papa" Imbabura, and is considered the sacred protector of the region

Few adjacent mountain peaks were visible to these travelers, but they would have had a glimpse of the old volcano of Imbabura (about 8 miles to the north and on the same ridge as the Cerro Cusin, that would have been covered with snow late into the year). Today a lake (lago San Pablo) is to the east, dominated on its far side by the rugged rocky slopes of Cerro Cuvilche (12,730 feet), Cerro Cochaloma (11,450 feet) and Cerro Cunru (10,950 feet), with other old minor volcanic peaks, lying just north of Cerro Cusin, the location today of a restored 17th century Andean property located high in the Ecuadorian Andes at the foot of the Cotacachi volcano about 50 miles north of Quito.
Hacienda Cusin

Less than 10 miles from one of the most popular Indian markets, Otavalo, and about 45 minutes from the Equatorial Line, this hacienda Cusin, a 43-room monastery is today a hotel with terracotta-tiled roof and winding cobblestone pathways near the foot of 15,190-foot Imbabura mountain and Cotacachi volcano.
    On the western side the area through which Omer passed fell away in a gently sloping spur of the cross-range, beyond which to the northwest, and quite out of sight in an adjoining valley, is the current town of Otavalo.
    However, in Omer’s time, to the east would have been the East Sea, beyond an area they called Ablom, which evidently was their destination, either by site, or by inspiration or vision.
From most places on Imbabura, men could have looked down at the death and destruction that Mormon describes (Mormon 6:11)

As Mormon wrote of this area: “And it came to pass that we did march forth to the land of Cumorah, and we did pitch our tents around about the hill Cumorah; and it was in a land of many waters, rivers, and fountains; and here we had hope to gain advantage over the Lamanites” (Mormon 6:4). Now for the advantage Mormon thought the Nephites might have in fighting here, two distinct probabilities are quite evident. First, the mountain is large enough that groups could have hidden to regroup, or fought from some terrain structural features, limiting their vulnerability, and second, the slope is gradual enough that the Nephites could have retreated up the hill as the battle continued, yet steep enough to provide them with a height advantage for such missiles as arrows, spears, and slings.
    As for the “Land of many waters, rivers and fountains,” Imbabura is Ecuador’s lake country and popularly known as the Province of Lakes because it holds more water reserves than any other provence in a country that has the most abundant resources of water anywhere. In fact, Imbabura is full of lagoons and lakes, rivers and streams, and numerous water complexes. And since Lago San Pablo, at the foot of Mount Imbabura is a deep, clear crater lake, it is filled with fountains from the aquifer, as are many of the streams and mountain lakes around Imbabura—an area many claim rivals the famed lake country of Scotland (Edgar Hewett, Ancient Andean Life, Bobbs-Merrill Company, New York, 1939/1968, p84).
    As Hewett added, “There is no group of mountains in this part of the cordillera comparable to the Ecuadorian, no group of lakes to be compared with those of the Imbabura valley” (p88), and the jade-hued, crystal clear rivers abound. According to Edgar Hewett, this area today and for the past few centuries has been considered “a beautiful, picturesque, genial Ecuadorian wonderland of mountains, peaks, lakes, crystal-clear rivers, streams and skies such as nature has not duplicated, and rarely approached in appealing loveliness.” It can be no wonder, then, that Mormon, who had seen almost all of the terrain and geography of the Land of Promise from the Narrow Strip of Wilderness in the south to the Land Northward, called this area “The land of many waters, rivers and fountains.”
Satellite image of Cerro Imbabura, Otavalo, Cayambe and surrounding area with Quito in the far bottom left

It is interesting that after Omer reached Ablom area, some years later “a small number of men fled out of the land of Moron and came over and dwelt with Omer (Ether 9:9)—suggesting that not only did these men know where Omer was located, but how to get there, again suggesting the area was well enough known to allow for such an occurrence. It does suggest that this area, particularly the area of Cumorah, would have been so easily identified and gives credence to the fact that when Mormon wrote to the Lamanite king to do battle there, the king, not having been in the area before, had no problem locating the mountain and arriving there with his overwhelming force.

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