Ecuadorians in Springfield raise flag, reflect on crisis in their native country
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Ecuador is dealing with the aftermath of a presidential candidate's assassination. This was on the minds of Ecuadorians in Springfield on Thursday as they gathered on the steps of City Hall for a previously scheduled celebration of the country's independence.
After singing the national anthem, Fatima Guerra, who is on vacation in Springfield from her native Guayaquil, Ecuador, cried for her country.
"I am very emotional about this, because he was a candidate who was possibly going to save Ecuador," she said in Spanish, lamenting the loss of Fernando Villavicencio, a presidential candidate assassinated Wednesday after a rally.
Justine Bravo is Ecuadorian and a Springfield resident. She hopes the flag raising will bring awareness to what's happening in her country.
"I think it's not being talked about enough. We need help from other countries since our government is doing nothing," Bravo said. "My whole family lives in Ecuador — my brother, my sister, my father — and it's been very difficult. It's so sad, the situation."
"The country is very beautiful, but it's very dangerous and something needs to change," she said.
Springfield Mayor Domenic J. Sarno said the flag raising has been taking place for the past 15 years. Omar Albán, a longtime Springfield resident and community leader, started the event and now organizes it with his daughter Xiomara Albán Delobato, president and chief of staff with the Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, every year.
"You could see the tears in people's eyes and how heartfelt this was, especially with what occurred in Ecuador, which is a beautiful country, with the presidential election. It's just untenable," Sarno said.
He credited the Ecuadorian community with being industrious.
"They've come here and invested in businesses, working hard and getting an education. [The flag raising] means a lot because it shows that they're recognized and respected here in the city of Springfield. We try to do that with all our cultures," he said.
Bravo said it means a lot to the community to have the flag raised in the city.
"I feel very proud of my country to see the flag in the United States, especially in Springfield," she said.
There are more than 17,000 Ecuadorians living in Massachusetts, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.