Solidarity and Chaos As Ecuadoreans Support Earthquake Victims

Maria Luisa Jácome speaks at the Ecuador Consulate in New York. (Photo by Javier Castaño via Queens Latino)

Maria Luisa Jácome speaks at the Ecuadorean Consulate in New York. (Photo by Javier Castaño via Queens Latino)

After a strong quake struck the Manabí province in northeast Ecuador on April 16, taking the lives of at least 350 people and leaving thousands injured, members of the large Ecuadorean community in New York immediately offered their support. Below are excerpts of a story by El Diario’s Edwin Martínez.

Juan Inga, a community leader and activist in New York, called on his fellow Ecuadoreans and other city residents to not let the victims of the earthquake suffer alone during this time.

“This is the time for everyone to help. We have people among our donors who have family there and we know that many were left homeless and others perished. That is why we need to come together to try and alleviate this situation,” said Inga. He added that a fundraising event will be held at the Sabor Latino restaurant in Elmhurst, Queens, on May 1.

“We are calling on Latinos and non-Latinos to help us with this cause,” said the activist.

The Consulate General of Ecuador in New York also encouraged Ecuadoreans to remain calm and help distribute donations.

“The authorities in charge of handling emergencies are evaluating their need for external support. Based on that, we will be able organize our efforts,” said Consul Linda Machuca. She also warned people to beware of ill-intentioned individuals who may try to profit from the situation.

“Help us channel our immigrant community’s expressions of solidarity and also to prevent abuse coming from unscrupulous people attempting to collect donations in the name of the victims,” said Machuca.

(…)

For his part, Assembly member Francisco Moya, the first elected official in New York of Ecuadorean descent, said he was saddened by the tragedy and expressed his desire to lend a hand to his people.

“On Saturday, when I heard about the devastating earthquake that shook Ecuador, my heart sank. Just like many other Ecuadoreans living in New York, my first thought was finding out if my family and friends who still live there were safe. Since then, I have been working closely with members of the community and representatives of the government of Ecuador to connect family members and coordinate assistance efforts.”

The Assembly member also established a hotline to offer direct help to Ecuadoreans wishing to obtain more information. The number is (718) 458-5367.

(…)

Meeting at the Ecuador Consulate in NY to coordinate relief efforts. (Photo via El Diario)

Meeting at the Ecuadorean Consulate in NY to coordinate relief efforts. (Photo via El Diario)

Unrest at the Consulate

El Diario’s David Ramírez reported on the opening of a donation center in Long Island City, amid the chaotic scenes on Monday at the Ecuadorean Consulate which was overwhelmed by the community’s response.

New York City has established a drop-off location for tri-state area residents to deliver provisions and nonperishables for the victims of last Saturday’s earthquake.

The center is located at the Local 78 headquarters at 11-17 43rd Ave. in Long Island City, Queens. Donations will also be accepted at the Ecuadorean diplomatic offices throughout the tri-state area.

The announcement was made during an organizing meeting held at the Ecuadorean consulate in Manhattan [Monday night], with Consul General Machuca, Assembly member Francisco Moya ‒ of Ecuadorean descent ‒ state Sen. José Peralta and a representative of the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit in attendance.

“We are grateful for the expressions of solidarity during this terrible tragedy. This is a time for unity and a moment to assist our compatriots,” said Machuca.

The diplomat pointed out that she spoke to customs officials in the U.S. and Ecuador to allow donations to be sent and delivered as quickly as possible.

(…)

Hundreds of Ecuadoreans gather at the Consulate of Ecuador in New York. (Photo via El Diario)

Hundreds of Ecuadoreans gather at the Consulate of Ecuador in New York. (Photo via El Diario)

The consulate office was crowded as hundreds of Ecuadorean residents of the tri-state area blocked access to the building on Second Avenue and 42nd Street.

“We want more swift action. This emergency requires leaving bureaucratic formalities aside and taking action. The situation in Ecuador is critical,” said Roberto López, an Ecuadorean who could not access the meeting.

The NYPD installed metal barriers on the sidewalk outside the consulate to control the crowds.

There was uncertainty among those present, many of whom carried Ecuadorean flags. They all agreed that the consulate was not offering enough information.

The NYPD arrested a woman who tried to gain access to the Ecuadorean Consulate by force. (Photo via El Diario)

The NYPD arrested a woman who tried to gain access to the Ecuadorean Consulate by force. (Photo via El Diario)

“This is a huge tragedy, and so far they have not told us how we can help. This is exasperating,” said María Mejía, from Guayaquil.

A large police force was needed to maintain order. As anxiety ran high among many who wanted to enter the consulate, the NYPD had to intervene and even arrested a young women who tried to force her way in.

 

Queens Latino’s Javier Castaño also reported on some of the proposals heard on Monday inside the Ecuadorean Consulate. Below are some excerpts.

One by one, dozens of Ecuadoreans spoke about wanting to help the victims, and at least 25 of them said that they intended to set up donation drop-off sites. “I want to do a concert with Ecuadorean musicians, but I need the consulate’s guidance,” said Manuel Paida, from Choque Producciones.

“I will hold a vigil in front of the consulate on Tuesday in the name of Telemundo, and I want people to bring candles,” said Verónica Bornos. “We will hold another vigil at María Hernández Park in Brooklyn,” said Esmeralda Valencia, from Make the Road New York. The organization will also have a drop-off site at its Jackson Heights location, on Roosevelt Avenue and 92nd Street in Queens. (…)

“However, we must have only one bank account for everyone to donate there. Many people love Ecuadoreans because of how generous we are,” said Harold Miranda. “One bank account, or we will be making a fool of ourselves,” replied several of the people in the group who gathered at the consulate.

“This is our first meeting, and we are listening to all the alternatives,” said Ximena Peña, an Assembly member in Ecuador. “The government has already allocated $300 million to help the victims.”

Next to Peña stood Consul Machuca, Judge Carmen Velásquez, New York state Sen. José Peralta, Assembly member Francisco Moya, Council member Ydanis Rodríguez and Roberto Pérez, deputy commissioner at the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit. They all said that they were willing to help.

Gabriel Reinoso, from an Ecuadorean cultural center, said that they too would set up a donation site from Monday through Friday between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. and organize a concert at Corona Plaza, on 103rd Street and Roosevelt Avenue.

Nataly Bermeo is also planning an independent telethon for May 1, entitled “Te damos la mano Ecuador” ‒ “We Will Lend You a Hand, Ecuador” ‒ counting on the help of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Donations may be sent to Bank of America, account number: 4830-5892-3853, routing number: 021000322. “We will gather the money…and then travel to Ecuador to make sure that it reaches the neediest,” said Bermeo.

Rev. Sabiel Vargas addressed the group to say that “all the money will get to Ecuador, but how else can we assist those who are unable to travel there to help their families and who need psychological support?”

Hilda Saona, vice president of New York’s Centro Cívico Ecuatoriano ‒ Ecuadorian Civic Committee of New York ‒ said that her organization will set up a donation center at their headquarters located at 103-36 43rd Ave. in Corona, Queens.

Another drop-off site will be established by Roy Guzmán, from Rodeo Guzmán, located at 46-06 Astoria Blvd. in Astoria, Queens.

“I am here at the consulate to make my donation and do my bit to help,” said María Luisa Jácome, from the Alianza País ‒ Country Alliance ‒ party.

Fátima Ptacek, the actress of Ecuadorean descent who is the voice of cartoon character Dora the Explorer, spoke in English during the gathering and said that there should be only one collection campaign, one bank account and one Twitter hashtag. “We need to be united during this tragedy,” she said.

The Consulate of Ecuador provides details of the bank accounts that have been opened to receive international donations on its Facebook page.

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