From just getting by in Spain to running a business in Ecuador

By Fernando Gimeno

Quito, Jun 20 (EFE).- A restaurant, a pastry shop, a clothing store, a livestock-raising farm and even a car decorating business are just some of the entrepreneurial activities started over the past year by Ecuadorians who have returned to their homeland after initially emigrating to Spain but facing adversity there and finding themselves in vulnerable situations.

Each of these business activities was preceded by a sojourn in Spain filled with difficulties that ended when the emigrant took advantage of the voluntary return program, according to which Spain’s Ministry of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration and the European Union (EU) are financing productive projects to allow migrants to reintegrate themselves into their countries of origin.

Over the past year, at least a dozen Ecuadorians have returned to Ecuador to start their own businesses, including 69-year-old Jose Paucar, who – after working for 22 years at various jobs in Valencia – had been left practically helpless after experiencing a progressive loss of mobility.

Via the program, he was able to return to Ecuador to reacquaint himself with his son, whom he had not seen since he’d emigrated, and they subsequently opened a restaurant together.

“He left when I was 9 or 10 years old, and now I’m 32,” Jose’s son Jairo told EFE regarding his father’s absence, saying that “there’s nothing to complain about. Just to move on.”

“He’s now my family together with my daughter and my wife,” said Jairo, who handles the kitchen duties, specializing in food from the Ecuadorian coast. He said he hopes to recover their initial investment in the venture in about 10 months so that they can open a second restaurant.

Also starting over was Candy Bayas, 24, who returned to Ecuador after spending 18 months in Navarre accompanying her young son so that he could undergo a spinal cord procedure, but the boy experienced problems with the treatment and she had to stay longer than expected, and during that time the financial help he was being given by Ecuador’s Public Health Ministry ran out.

“I had to start cleaning houses and taking care of elderly people and children to pay my expenses,” said Candy, telling EFE that she had experienced some “very tough” times with her son, who suffers from an immunodeficiency disorder that makes him very vulnerable to infections.

Her original idea had been to start a pig farm, but her son’s condition made that unfeasible and she opted to open a clothing store in the same town where Marjorie Huilca, 49 and also returning from Navarre, opened her own grocery store.

Majorie, with a degree in social education, had been unable to find any kind of stable employment during her six months in Spain, where she, too, got sporadic jobs cleaning houses.

“It’s hard to find work when you’re undocumented,” said Marjorie, who found herself forced to return to Ecuador when her two parents became invalids. Her store has “a little of everything,” she said. “It’s a small place, but it’s working out.”

Two months ago, 29-year-old Viviana Minga also returned to Ecuador to open a car decoration printing business after spending six months in Madrid and Toledo with her husband and son.

“My husband got a job doing labeling, and he gained a little experience there. He liked art and we saw a business in it,” said Minga, who also cleaned houses and made home deliveries via apps on her mobile phone.

And Rocio Silva, 43, went from being a cashier and house cleaner in Madrid and Toledo to owning and operating her own pastry shop, thanks to courses she took online during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I want to start a new life and not return to Spain again,” she said, noting that she was returning to Ecuador for the second time after initially spending 12 years in Spain from 1998 to 2010 and then her most recent five-year stretch.

The voluntary return program pays for the flights back home and provides a bonus of 450 euros (about $491) to each beneficiary as well as up to 6,000 euros (about $6,550) to start a business, under the condition that they not return to Spain for a minimum of three years.

In all cases, the applications were handled in Spain by the Rumiñahui Association, which has managed to help more than 250 Ecuadorians over the past 15 years, with support in Ecuador itself being provided by the Vista Para Todos Foundation.

“They are people who need to be supported with enough resources so they and their families can live with dignity,” said Rumiñahui Association president Vladimir Paspuel during a visit to the various businesses.

Meanwhile, Spain’s Inclusion, Social Security and Migration Ministry advisor in Ecuador, Sagrario Salaberri, hailed the opportunity that these migrants have had to return to their homeland to start businesses that will provide good livelihoods for them and their families.

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