Hitting the Doors in Ecuador

organizer role plays

Quito  Every country is different, every city is different, and every community is different.  We start from there, and then we adapt what we have seen work in so many places and modify it to fit the circumstances and objectives of our organizing program.  No matter how many times I have done this, it still seems like a glorious miracle when we re-engineer the model, gas it up, put it on the streets, and once again see it work, which is exactly what I have been doing with Marcos Gomez from ACORN Canada over the last week.

In collaboration with Ruptura 25, we have fashioned the ACORN program we call “puerta a puerta y calle” – the “door-to-door and street” program for building contacts and commitments of support throughout the community.  Yesterday we put the organizers who are going to be our potential field managers in Carcelen, an area that our friends thought might be hostile.  Even on their rookie trip, the organizers did very well, so we’re on our way!  “Count-on-me’s” or “Cuenta Conmigo!” as we call them were signed by 10% of the visits almost.  Another 10% agreed to host house meetings (reunions en casa), and we had 25% of the visits rank as #1’s which is too high, but they will get more accurate as we go along.  It’s exhilarating!

In Quito “seguridad” or safety is a constant concern.  We have to navigate the visits through gates, bells, windows, and iron doors.  Multi-story buildings lead us to the house meeting program to build our organizing committees in buildings, much as we learned to do in Buenos Aires and Toronto.  We are pulling the organizers off the streets at 6PM as darkness closes in, so the schedule involves training, then street work among business and high traffic areas in the neighborhood to accelerate contacts on our 10-week timeline, and then four (4) hours puerta a puerta followed by the debriefing.

Some things change, but some things stay the same.  We may be posting the daily results on butcher paper with all the organizers names in our “territorio oficina,” as they call it here, but we’re also posting the daily totals on Google Drive, so other folks can see the results in a timely fashion.  We text back and forth to determine locations on the streets, which in much of our areas are letters and numbers (C-45 for example), rather than having names, particularly where the barrios began as informal squatting settlements.

Today we put out twenty (20) organizers to start the program, ready-or-not, in earnest in Quito Norte.  We made plans for expanding to Guayaquil yesterday.  Plans are moving for next week in Santo Domingo, the 4th largest city.  A trip to Manabi on the coast, will open another front.


Marcos Gomez going over the field plan

United We Dream, Training in Quito, and Ecuadorian Volleyball

With Valentina Ramia of Ruptura25 we begin training organizers for first visits in Quito Norte barrios

Quito    Nice to wake up and read the front page of the New York Times and see our companero/companera Carlos Saavedra from Peru and Boston and Gaby Pacheco from Ecuador and Miami, along with other young organizers and activists with United We Dream finally get the credit for their courage and skill in breaking through both the Congressional and professional nonprofit Beltway gridlock to force actions which have now given at least temporary relief for more than 300000 immigrants raised in the shadows of the United States after their parents arrival.    We met with them at length in Washington last year and couldn’t have been more impressed.  They are a case study in how to make change, despite the odds, by creating a narrative around injustice, building and holding onto a real base, and then creating tactics that are not artificial but real demonstrations of anger, courage, and resolve.  We are all so close to seeing real change for so many of these young people, and hopefully many of their families, that even though it is still too early to celebrate victory, it felt great to finally see them get a small measure of the huge credit they deserve.  Viva!  Se si puede!

Speaking of Ecuador, it was exciting to start training our first thirteen organizers preparing to go puerta a puerta or door-to-door to begin building a base in the barrios of Quito as part of our partnership between ACORN International and Ruptura25, an emerging progressive political party in the country.  It was great to see the organizers point out on the large map of Quito, where they lived, as they introduced themselves to each other.  It was also fascinating to listen to them when we got them talking about local issues in their own barrios.  There was excitement talking about the corruption of local officials, unremediated by the national law enforcement apparatus, and having to pay bribes to place their children in public schools, get accepted for public day care, and even see their fathers pay to get professional jobs with contributions to politicians and parties.

While scouting turf in various barrios in Quito Norte, I got to see and enjoy a unique scene:  Ecuadorian Volleyball, or as our companera, Valentina Ramia, called it – EcuiVolleyball.  There are three players to each side, the net is very high, there are very relaxed rules on “holding” the ball, there’s no spiking, and people seemed to have huge fun with crowds gathering along the fence and in the stands for these specially built courts, in order to watch the action from one group of players after another.   Valentina told me she has seen other courts even in New York City, but it was news to me, and wonderful to witness!

Ecuadorian Volleyball