Coronavirus in Ecuador: Guayaquil seeks a new rebirth on the Bicentennial of its Independence

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It is celebrated this Friday, without pomp due to the restrictions against Covid. The city was the worst affected in the country, with thousands of deaths and a collapsed health system.

After a pandemic that uncovered it before the world six months ago, the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil tries to be reborn on its Bicentennial of Independence, a date on which Guayaquilians compare the libertarian determination of their ancestors with the fight for survival against the coronavirus.

“Renacer” is precisely the name of the Bicentennial song that, for councilman Jorge Rodríguez, refers to the capacity of the city to “rise from the ashes more than once.”

“It was the first that the Covid attacked, the one that had the most deaths, the one that suffered the most, the one that was abandoned by the State. From being the Wuhan of America, it has ended up being a mirror in which everyone wants to look at each other” Rodríguez points out to the EFE agency, in relation to the very low levels of contagion currently, and before the celebration, this October 9, of the emblematic anniversary of 1820.

Between March and April, the city suffered the severe blow of the virus, with a cataract of infections and deaths, overflowing hospitals and corpses that did not get to be buried.

“The rebirth is part of what we have seen in these 200 years. Today this city is being reborn,” adds the official, one of the many who, along with its mayor Cynthia Viteri, was infected with the disease.

And it is clear that it is not a date to celebrate, but to look back, remember those who left and do everything possible so that what happened does not repeat itself.

The anniversary of the independence of Guayaquil, like that of the cities of Quito and Cuenca, is commemorated in Ecuador with a national holiday, unlike the founding of those cities, much earlier, which are local holidays.

This October 9 is not only an important date for the so-called “Pearl of the Pacific”, but for all of Ecuador, and even for other countries in the region, says Ezio Garay, historian of libertarian movements in Latin America.

“As of October 9, the populations of Guayaquil, Cuenca, Loja and southern Ecuador begin to become independent. Furthermore, it was we who, with our army and foreign armies, would be the protagonists of the Battle of Pichincha in 1822 to free ourselves from the Spanish “, he recalls.

And he assures that the Guayaquil army also contributed to the independence of countries such as Peru or Bolivia, to which they sent their generals so that “America could be totally free.”

But as then, the historian considers, also now, With its 3 million inhabitants, Guayaquil was left alone in its fight against Covid-19.

“It was abandoned by centralism, just as the Spanish had us subjugated. It is the same struggle, the same revolution to maintain Guayaquil,” he compares on the claim of many Guayaquil residents that between March and April, at the worst moments of the pandemic , they did not have the necessary support from the government of Quito.

For Garay a “land of opportunities”, throughout its history Guayaquil has absorbed citizens from all over the world and, unlike the capital, which is much more homogeneous demographically, it is a melting pot of European, American, Middle Eastern and even Asian cultures. .

With a contribution to the national GDP of more than 20%, and as the main port, it lives off trade and financial activity.

This year, the Mayor’s Office intended to inaugurate a series of works and call for massive celebrations, now postponed or reinvented by the pandemic. Of the budget for celebrations, 35 million went to health.

And despite being the worst hit city in Ecuador, due to the number of deaths perhaps in the entire region (there are 2,362 officials, but there is a gap with the Civil Registry of more than 10,000 deaths), its leaders remember the metropolitan spirit of a city After the hard blow, he turned to assist others in the country, as in the libertarian process.

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