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Friday, June 15, 2012

Where Afro-Ecuadorian Stars are Made

DREAMTOWN
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Dreamtown, Ecuador, generally known as Juncal, 
in the region of Valle de Chota (Chota Valley)


Have you seen the film Hoop Dreams about African-American basketball talent being created in the hood, aspiring to be stars in the NBA? Well, similar dreams are occurring communities around the world, such as Juncal in Ecuador's Valle de Chota (or Chota Valley) region where international soccer stars are made. After Ecuador's impressive performance in the 2002 and 2006 World Cup games, tourists from around the world, including I, wanted to visit the very town that gave Ecuador a respectable name in international soccer. However, my motives were somewhat different.

As a hobby, I get hands on experience developing my Spanish by traveling, primarily to black communities. in Latin-America. Juncal, in Ecuador's Chota Valley joined my list of places to visit, and I finally arrived in December of 2009. I saw the soccer field where these young aspiring stars are trained and was given the full scoop on the community and their stars by three teens who were fascinated by the presence of an African-American wanting to learn about their community. I left Juncal feeling exhilarated after having met and chatted with several members of the community. Even police officers who questioned my presence in their town were flattered and pleased. I gave everyone I met a post card of my home city, Oakland, and post card of the Obama family. A gesture very much appreciated in my travels.


Augustin Delgado, all-time top scorer for the Ecuadorian National Team, 
who played professionally in Ecuador, Mexico and England.


As of this writing , the dreams of soccer stardom and wealth by young men in this town are being made into a documentary called Dreamtown--the HOOP DREAMS of Ecuadorian Soccer. The producer Betty Bastidas puts it this way, it is an underdog story with a universal theme that will move and inspire every person to keep striving for their dreams no matter the odds or the obstacles! DreamTown is about the thrilling victories and tragic challenges that three young athletes face to secure their dreams as they start out playing barefoot in their impoverished town, and eventually to wealth and stardom in international stadiums. Betty goes on to explain how these players' hunger and passion about soccer, a source of Ecuador's greatest pride, and the great sacrifices they make for themselves, their families, and their community! 

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Excited young boys on the very soccer field that produced 
international soccer legend Augustín Delgado

It's been estimated that only 5% of Ecuador is of African descent and the racism is rampant and glaring from my own observation during my visits to this country on the Pacific coast. Yet over half of Ecuador's national team that scored impressive victories in World Cup competitions were Afro-Ecuadorians straight out of Chota Valley. One of these players who rose from the impoverished dirt fields of Chota Valley to the ranks of world class stardom was Ulises De La Cruz who donated much of his earnings to promote land development of his hometown, which had been neglected by the Ecuadorian government. Today, his donations and promotional campaigns has resulted in new schools, hospitals, running water, and paved roads. He is inspiring others who come behind him to do the same.

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Young men who gave me the lowdown on 
their community and their soccer stars.

Ecuadorian-American filmmaker and photographer Betty Bastidas holds a Master of Arts Degree from University of California at Berkeley's School of Journalism, and a degree in Documentary Photography from Salt Institute of Documentary Studies in Maine.  Her work has been exhibited internationally and she herself has been the recipient of numerous awards including the 2010 NALIP/HBO Documentary Award for DreamTown, 2008 NALAC Fund for the Arts, the 2006 NYFA Photography Fellowship, among others. Betty was recently selected to attend the 2011 NALIP Producer’s Academy with the DreamTown documentary.

 If you want to host a screening or get involved, e-mail Betty... betty.alexandra@gmail.com

The Voices of Dreamtown--Trailer