By Merry Pool and Jelena Kopanja, FI2W contributors
After 15 years of living in Europe, Sandra Bustamante was going home to Ecuador on the day of her 40th birthday. For months, she and her husband had not been able to find stable work in Spain and going back to Bustamante’s native country seemed the only option for this family of five. Her 4-year-old daughter Camilla encouraged them with her excitement. Although Camilla had never been to Ecuador, “ever since we’ve told her we’re going, she had been running around the house, waving the Ecuadorian flag and yelling ‘Viva Ecuador!’” Bustamante said.
That was last August. A year later, it seems that Bustamante’s dream of opening an Italian restaurant in Quito is well on its way, according to an infommercial by the Ecuadorian National Secretariat for Migrants (SENAMI).
Bustamante’s family was one of the first beneficiaries of the recently established Plan Bienvenid@s a Casa (Welcome Home Plan), which offers business subsidies, customs breaks and low-interest loans to Ecuadorian migrants who want to return home.
It is estimated that some 1.5 million Ecuadorians, 11 percent of the country’s natives, now live outside the nation’s borders. The Welcome Home Plan is part of President Rafael Correa’s 2006 campaign commitment to make migrants a central component of his administration’s agenda. Ecuador may well be the only Latin American country trying to lure its citizens home during the global economic crisis.