An Ecuadorian from Medellín

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Father José Iván works in Krochet Province, Cambodia as a member of the Colombian institute “Misioneros de Yarumal” assisting communities in poor conditions and learning the Khmer culture. He recommends the dophins of the Mekong river that attracts lot of tourists and are very dear to the native people of that northerm Cambodian province. Father Iván is from Ecuador, but he has been living in Medellín and he talked to C.P. about Colombia and Ecuador, his country home.

By Al Rodas and Yulth Oyola

Fr. José Iván Campaña Suárez was born in Píyaro, Tungurahua Province, Ecuador, in 1974. He knew in his town the works of the sisters “Hijas de la Misericordia“, a religious institute of Colombian origin connected to the Misioneros de Yarumal Institute. Through them, Fr. Iván became missionary of that Catholic organization founded by Mgr. Miguel Ángel Builes Osorio in 1927 to support the work in world dioceses with difficulties in having enough priests to attend the pastoral activities. The missioners of Yarumal are present in several countries in Latin America, Africa, Oceania and Asia, most of them Colombians and Ecuadorians, but also they have religious from countries like Kenya and Bolivia.

Yarumal is a town 113 kilometers at the north of Medellín, known as the “Star of the North“, 2.100 meters up the sea level and the cradle of Catholic priestly vocations by tradition. It was the place chosen by Mgr. Builes in 1927 to create a Seminary for missionary vocations that would become a very important Colombian institute overseas. Starting with works in Colombia at the side of indigenous peoples in places like Vichada, Guaviare, Buenaventura and Arauca, the first “foreign” country where the young Institute went was Ecuador.

Going to Colombia

Quito at night by Jungle Boy.

Fr. Iván talk about his first experience in Colombia as a young student of Theology:

“When I knew I have to go to Medellín to study in 1998, I was real afraid, because in Ecuador we use to think Colombia as a very dangerous country. It was even more fearing when they told me I have to go by bus from Quito to Medellín. In Ecuador we use to think that travelling in Colombia by its roads is something just crazy to do.

The trip Quito – Pasto is about six hours. When I saw Pasto it was real amazing for me. Actually Pasto is a very developed and organized city and then I liked what I saw. We took so a bus espress Pasto – Medellín, it would take 16 hours more. The bus went to the north, getting me far from my country. I enjoyed then the plains of Valle del Cauca, Cali, the cane plantations, it is a great view. It made impression to me the bus terminals in the main cities, big and modern. Then the bus went up the mountains and we arrived to Medellín, the city I would live for the next years.

In the beginning it was not easy to get use to a new culture to me. The Ecuadorian is actually very different to the Paisa culture. In Ecuador we depend very much on our families and so when we leave it causes many personal troubles. Luckyly the Paisas have something that it is admired everywhere: they make you feel at home. The other cultural shock was that Ecuadorians are rather introvert, but Paisas are outspoken. They say what they think directly. They do not send messages with others. If they like you, they will say it to you. If they do not like you, they will say it to you the same, if you are lucky, smiling. At the beginning it was difficult to get use to that, but as soon as you get friends, and it is very easy in Medellín, you will feel at home.

Ecuadorians in Medellín, Colombians in Ecuador

“The Head”, work of in the Botero Park in Medellín. By Naty Rive.

I found many Ecuadorians in Medellín. They live there very well. Their work is textile and they do not have much problems in Colombia. I found many Ecuadorian men married with Paisa women. There are many Colombians in Ecuador too. They have companies, business, commerce. For example, Pilsen belongs to Colombians, the industry of chocolate and many other factories. I think when Ecuador changed its currency to dollars, it attracted many Colombians ready to get that dollars in Ecuador. For me that is good because they contribute to create an atmosphere of work, commitment, investment, they create new companies and it push also our people with the example. For example, knowing the Paisas and their business mentality, it means a great contribution to Ecuadorians, because Paisas are very clever doing business and you have to be ready to answer to their challenge. Of course, there are also difficulties. For example, when the national police captures a gun or criminal organization, in most of the cases there are Colombians involved. It does mean I am saying that all Colombians go to Ecuador in bad business. As I said up, most of the Colombians in Ecuador are doing honest works, but not all.

Colombia and Ecuador

Down in Medellín by Juangore.

The relations between Colombia and Ecuador have been good throughout our common history. Colombia is a country that moves the public opinion in Ecuador most of the time. Sometimes for good things, sometimes for difficulties that do not have the power to make our two countries separated. The Colombians who are legal in Ecuador are a very good element. The difficulties can come from those who are not legal. Fighting groups in Colombia such as the guerrillas have cause conmotion in Ecuador in the last years due to the attacks on them of the Colombian army. Losing space in the Colombian territory, they try to take refuge at the Ecuador side and it causes discourage in the Ecuadorian public opinion. Fortunatelly, the Colombian president, Uribe, does very good in international diplomacy.

I think it is good and possible an economic integration between Colombia and Ecuador. We have lot of products to interchange. For example, Colombia is powerful in the production of very good textile. It is very famous in Ecuador. At the other hand, Ecuador has a good production of fruits. Things we have to overcome to do so, for example, nowadays, if a Colombian or Ecuadorian young person want to go to study in a university in the brother country, he/she needs visa. Easy to take a visa in the border for 20 days for tourism or short stays, but you need a visa for long stays. For me, if we want integration, that is not needed. The European Community is our example. A French does not need a visa to come inside Spain. Furthemore, citizens from rich countries found easier to come to Colombia than Ecuadorians and the same at the Ecuadorian size.

Dawn in Medellín by Juangore.

Both countries could do a lot in things like education interchange. In both countries we have good universities and superior institutions. When you interchange the youth for education, the love and appreciation for the neighbour country rises and it is a good benefit for both.

In Ecuador we have many places to see: the Galapagos Islands are very famous, but it is real expensive for the Ecuadorian pocket to go there and that is a pity, that the poor people can not enjoy their own country. But the islands are a real wonder. In Quito we have the Colonial Center, a beautiful place. The cable to go up the Guagua Pichincha, the banana plantations in Machala, the tour we call “Amazon Adventure” and the beautiful islands of Esmeráldas, no far from Tumaco, Colombia.

When people ask me about Colombia, I use to say that Medellín is one of the most beautiful cities I have known in my turn around the world. The Paisas – that is the popular name as it is known its people -, are the most kind and welcoming persons. As I said before, they make you feel as at your home. Colombia is a huge country to see. It is amazing so many different regions and so many different cultures. They are not the same everywhere. I did not have problems living in Colombia and I would live in Colombia again, now with more reasons when I know that the country is safer. The Colombians are kind and they know how to be friends and, of course, they have very beautiful women.”

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