By Wayne Jebian
San Francisco de Quito, best known simply as Quito, is the capital of Ecuador, but for the more than 50,000 Ecuadorians in New England, their capital away from home is New Haven. The Elm City — host to the state’s largest Ecuadorian Independence Day celebration, which took place recently — is also home to the Ecuadorian Consulate.
In addition to handling visa issues and other routine business, the consulate coordinates the voting process in Ecuadorian elections for expatriates and émigrés living in North America. Unlike the absentee ballot system in the United States, in which voters overseas can cast ballots for representatives in their home districts,Ecuador reserves seats in its National Assembly specifically to represent Ecuadorians living outside their home country. Ecuador has two representatives for those living in the United States and Canada. This past year, the consulate also coordinated presidential elections, in which incumbent Rafael Corea was re-elected.
Usually, foreign consulates in the United States are in the largest cities. So how did New Haven manage to become a center of official business for a sovereign nation?
“Very simple,” Consul General Raúl Erazo Velarde said. “We decided to be here in order to cover all of New England. It is centrally located, and the mayor of this city sent a very nice letter to propose that we open our doors here.”
“New Haven prides itself on being a welcoming city,” New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said, pointing out that his city was the first in the U.S. to provide resident I.D. cards. “The Ecuadorian community in New Haven has made our city better and stronger.”
DeStefano was grand marshal of this year’s Ecuadorian Independence Day Parade, the fifth held in New Haven. Not coincidentally, it is also the fifth anniversary of the opening of the Ecuadorian consulate this coming September.
“After five years, we feel that it has been a good decision to open here,” Velarde said. “New England is very culturally diverse and very welcoming to new people here.”
Officially, Ecuador’s Independence Day was Aug. 10.
“This event will be a chance for the Ecuadorian community to come together to highlight the culture and traditions of our beautiful country,” said event chairwoman Janeth Velin. Velin said that prominent Ecuadorians, as well as artists from New England and Ecuador, took part in the day’s events.
The queen of this year’s Ecudorian Parade was Kathleen Torres, of East Haven, a pre-med student at Sacred Heart University of Fairfield. She was crowned in a ceremony on July 26 at the Imperial Eagle Plaza ballroom in Norwalk.