TEXT: ÁNGEL MARTOS PHOTO: THINKSTOCK
The green province. This is what the Ecuadorians call Esmeraldas, a land richer in landscapes than in stones. Quito’s inhabitants bathe at its beaches and enjoy its natural parks with the tallest mangroves in the world, while its forest is still home to indigenous communities, such as the Cayapas, Epera or Awa. A natural exuberance that revealed its cruelest facet in 2016, with the earthquake of April 16, which registered 7.8 on the Richter scale, and the successive aftershocks throughout the rest of the year. None of the 670 people who died in the catastrophe belonged to the fishing population of San José de Chamanga parish, one of the areas most affected by the earthquake. However, 90 percent of their homes were razed to the ground. The collapsed buildings included the Monsignor Enrique Bartolucci school, where 400 under-14s studied.
Today classes are being offered in makeshift tents, in the hope that international aid will enable the school – once a benchmark in the region – to be rebuilt. Manos Unidas (literally Hands United), the NGO of the Catholic Church in Spain, is leading this project, with Fundación MAPFRE readily lending a hand. An alliance between the music of Bach and traditional carols formed the repertoire performed last December by the baroque orchestra of the Royal Conservatory of Madrid. This solidarity concert, held in the church of the Jerónimos, was honored with the presence of Infanta Elena and managed to raise 10,000 euros.
But the relationship between Fundación MAPFRE and Manos Unidas in Spain goes back many years, with the greatest manifestation being the Manos Unidas Awards. These are designed to recognize works which sow the seed of solidarity in the neediest of countries. Fundación MAPFRE promotes the Special Manos Unidas Award which, in the latest edition, went to Julián del Olmo, a priest, journalist and director of the program on Spanish state television called Pueblo de Dios.