Ecuadorians react to Villavicencio assassination while honoring their independence in Hartford
August 10 commemorates Ecuador's initial steps toward independence. But, for many Ecuadorians who came to celebrate at the state Capital Thursday, it was a bittersweet celebration. Just the day before an Ecuadorian presidential candidate, Fernando Villavicencio, was assassinated.
However, those gathered decided to continue their celebration at the Hartford Capitol with a flag-raising ceremony.
As afternoon rain fell on the state Capital, the mood was somber. People donned black pins to show respect for the late candidate. Representatives of the state and members of the Ecuadorian community spoke about the importance of keeping the celebration alive despite the tragedy.
Stalin Martinez is a member of "Ecuatorianos Unidos en Connecticut," a committee of 12 Ecuadorians who work to promote their culture across the state. He said his community is mourning to see their country hurt.
“I am heartbroken,” Martinez said. “We found out about this when we finished our meeting planning. I can't believe it. I'm speechless. As things are going, I don't know how our poor countries are going to end up. May God bless Ecuador, and may God bless Latin America.”
South Windsor Town Councilman Cesar Lopez grew up in Ecuador. He traveled to the capital for the celebration and said the assassination was a tragic return to violence.
“There has been a period of peace, in which Ecuador has lived for quite a few years,” Lopez said. “And now seeing this happening again, it really saddens me. And I know that these are exceptional cases.”
Despite the somber mood the ceremony continued with traditional Ecuadorian folk music. Traditional dances by Jatun Mashikuna and Flor de Viento filled the air, evoking rhythm, vibrant colors, and nostalgia. Ecuadorian appetizers were served, with people lining up to savor the "empanadas de platano" and other traditional dishes.
Angelica Mesias is originally from Quito. She said she is excited to be sharing her culture at the state capitol.
"It's emotional to see this,” Mesias said. “You can connect with your country, even if you are far away.”
According to the 2021 Census data, about 33,000 Ecuadorians live in Connecticut.
"I know of many Ecuadorians that are organized not only here in the capital, but also in New Haven, in Danbury, Wallingford," Martinez said. "They organize events such as hoisting the flag and preparing typical dishes."
Martinez also said that many Ecuadorians had brought their national sport, "EcuaVolley," to Connecticut. The "EcuaVolley" is Ecuador's version of volleyball, but played with 3 players and a soccer ball.
"These are traditions that our people have ingrained and have continued to practice here," Martinez said.