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September 5, 2010

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Man who loves orchids and Ecuador

ADVENTURER, botanist and archeologist (to name a few) Alexander Hirtz is passionate about orchids and just about everything else under the Ecuadoran sun.

Hirtz is also an explorer, discoverer, anthropologist, photographer, geologist, author, lecturer, entrepreneur and, of course, a philosophy.

He was in Shanghai last month to host conferences on orchids and Ecuador's Valdivia culture (3,500-1,500 BC), one of the oldest settled cultures recorded in the Americas.

Influenced by his adventurer father and his botanist and zoologist grandmother, Hirtz started exploring nature at an early age in Quito, the capital.

He has co-discovered and photographed hundreds of orchids, bromeliads, and gesneriads.

His other passions are archeology and anthropology.

He calls Valdivia South America's mother culture and is writing a book decoding its symbols.Q; Why discuss orchids and the Valdivia culture at the World Expo?

A: I designed the Ecuador Pavilion for the Hanover Expo in 2000. The government knows me well from the orchid society and asked me to give a lecture on orchids because I give orchid lectures everywhere in the world. I said I could also give a lecture on Valdivia, my other specialty.

Q: Were you involved in the Ecuador Pavilion this time?

A: I helped select the design. At Hanover, my main idea was to let people see, eat and touch the pavilion to get acquainted with the country. This time you can feel and hear the music of the Ecuador Indians. Expo is not for commercials, it is for families to learn about countries.

Q: What's special about Ecuador?

A: It's the smallest but the most densely populated country in South America. We have no seasons, but we have the highest diversity in nature, like birds and plants. If you are interested in nature, come to Ecuador. You can spend time on the ocean and in the Amazon basin and see every type of climate in one day. We have wonderful colonial art and Indian art.

Q: How did Valdivia culture influence others?

A: They influenced everyone. They are like missionaries. They taught Mexicans ceramics, agriculture and astronomy. And they went to Peru and other places in South America. They all have same religion in South America, but Valdivia is the root of all the cultures.

Q: We see similarities between Valdivian and Chinese culture. Why?

A: We are one. Every life being belongs to one collective conscious. If you test the DNA of everyone on earth now, it comes down to one common mother 80,000 years ago from Somalia.

Her children migrated to Europe. You see people in Romania, Hungary all have same concepts as in Valdivia culture. Then they moved to Siberia, China and India.

We are much more similar than you think. The skin colors of a group of descendents from King David are completely black now.

Humans adapt to the environment very fast. Every single one of us is closely related. The relation between Asia and South America is even closer. China and Ecuador had commercial ties long before the Spanish came. For example, some food we eat in Ecuador now was in Asia before it was introduced into South America. And we both love dragons. Mutual influence goes a long way back.

Q: Which area defines you best?

A: I know a little about everything. I do different things and it changes all the time. I live today, tomorrow doesn't exist. Right now I am planning to build a temple of symbols for all Americans to learn their roots. People who only focus on one field won't see the whole picture. Every aspect of our world is connected.


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