Eloy Alfaro Commemorated At London’s Ecuador House:

On Friday 3rd February, the “Casa Ecuatoriana Londres” (based at 144-146 Kings Cross Road WC1) held its first major public event of 2012. The purpose of the event was to honour Jose Eloy Alfaro Delgado (President of Ecuador 1895-1901 and 1906-1911) who died on January 28th 1912. The occasion –  organised jointly by the Ecuadorian Embassy & Consulate in London and “SENAMI”  (Secretaria National del Migrante / National Secretary For Migrants) – was attended by a packed audience. Eloy Alfaro is considered to have played a major role in modernising Ecuadorian society – especially its educational, public transport and communication systems – and securing  “national unity as well as the integrity of the country’s borders”. The opening address at the meeting was delivered by the Ecuadorian Ambassador to the UK, Ana Alban Mora, followed by  an in-depth analysis of Eloy Alfaro’s life and times from the Ecuador’s Consul General in the UK, S. Fidel Narvaez. The audience was also shown two films featuring key moments in the development of Ecuador’s railway infrastructure as well as assessments by contemporary Ecuadorian commentators of Eloy Alfaro’s most significant contributions as the country’s President.

 SENAMI was set up by President Rafael Correa in 2007 with the primary objective of providing support for Ecuadorians living outside the country. Its first office was opened in Spain, though it now has (as listed in it’s London booklet) representation in New York, Caracas ,Madrid & Milan and “Casas” in Mexico DF, Santiago, Barcelona, Lorca, Genova, Rome and Brussels. Its London office was inaugurated in September 2010 and is currently run by a staff of three – among them, Paul Madrid, who pointed out that the origins of SENAMI (and the need for it) can be traced back to Ecuador’s economic and political crisis in the late 1990’s. Three million Ecuadorians have left their country  since then, most of them ( as confirmed by B. Jokisch & J. Pribilsky, authors of “The Panic To Leave: Economic Crisis and the ‘New Emigration’ from Ecuador”) heading mainly for Spain but also to France, Italy and the Netherlands.  Paul Madrid estimates that there are between 15,000 – 20,000 Ecuadorians now living in the UK ( mainly in the London boroughs of Lambeth, Southwark,  Plaistow, Harringey, Newham and East Ham) and also notes that there has recently been a marked increase in the numbers of Ecuadorians arriving from Spain, due to the dire economic situation and high unemployment rate over there. Most of them already have Spanish nationality and so have an automatic right to settle in this country.

 The Casa Ecuatoriana  / SENAMI office in London is financed by the Ecuadorian Government and therefore doesn’t have to raise funds for its upkeep. It is thus able to concentrate its efforts on assisting , supporting  and liaising with the Ecuadorian community  – for instance, organising workshops for those who want to open businesses, offering courses in computer technology and providing English classes given by native speakers. As Paul Madrid acknowledges: “The language barrier is a big one: If they want to progress in this society, they have to integrate”.

 It isn’t all “one way traffic”, however. The economic circumstances in Ecuador (as elsewhere in Latin America) are gradually improving. Its Government would like many of its emigrants to return home and put their newly acquired skills to the service of the nation.

 

 

 

 

Filed under: Politics | Posted on February 8th, 2012 by Colin D Gordon

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