Between goals and shots: the most violent province in Ecuador is the cradle of Enner Valencia

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The pride in the footballer who scored the goals for his team in the debut against Qatar put the focus once again on Esmeraldas, taken over by drug gangs and taxes homicide record

Between goals and shots: the most violent province in Ecuador is the cradle of Enner Valencia

By

Yalilé LoaizaFrom Quito

Between goals and shots: the most violent province in Ecuador is the birthplace of Enner Valencia

Enner Valencia opened the goals at the World Cup in Qatar. The best footballer in the Turkish Super League and Ecuador's top scorer in the World Cups comes from a province abandoned by the state. (REUTERS/Matthew Childs)

The victory of The Ecuadorian team in the opening match against hosts of the Qatar World Cup 2022 not only brought joy to the country but also opened a debate on state abandonment in Esmeraldas, the border province that has become one of the most violent places in Ecuador due to the presence of criminal gangs and armed groups < /b>irregulars with ties to drug trafficking.

Enner Valencia, who opened the Qatar 2022 World Cup scoring goals for the Ecuadorian team and who established himself as the all-time Ecuadorian goalscorer in the World Cups, is originally from Esmeraldas, the most forgotten province in Ecuador.

The triumph of La Tri, as Ecuadorians call the soccer team, happened on the same day that Esmeraldas commemorated 175 years of provincialization.

Enner Valencia was born in San Lorenzo, one of the cantons of Esmeraldas, known not only for being the birthplace of the Ecuadorian striker but also for the violence, kidnappings and deaths that take place there.

Between goals and shots: the most violent province in Ecuador is the birthplace of Enner Valencia

In January 2018, there was a bomb attack on a police station in San Lorenzo. In April of that same year, three journalists were kidnapped and murdered. (Esmeraldas Governorate)

San Lorenzo is located 290 kilometers from Quito. The canton is located on the border with Colombia and its population is constantly intimidated by the narco-criminal groups that operate there, since that is the gateway for drugs grown in Colombia to enter Ecuador.

In 2018, San Lorenzo was the scene of the attack on a police station and after the kidnapping of the journalistic team of the newspaper El Comercio, whose members were assassinated by the Oliver Sinisterra Front, a group of dissidents from the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC).

San Lorenzo, as well as other cantons of Esmeraldas, have seen the growth of the great figures of Ecuadorian soccer. Sport has become a passso that children and young people aspire to a better quality of life, but today even that opportunity is elusive, since criminal gangs are co-opting minors to join their crimes.

Between goals and shots: the most violent province in Ecuador is the birthplace of Enner Valencia

A good part of the Ecuadorian national team squad and its stars come from Esmeraldas. (REUTERS/Molly Darlington)

Enner Valencia, who now plays for Fenerbahce in Turkey, grew up in poverty. During his childhood he helped his father to milk cows and sell milk, but his soccer skills allowed him to play in the best teams in Ecuador and later to be recruited by international teams.

Today Valencia is not only the Ecuadorian scorer who opened the World Cup goals, he is also the best player in the Turkish Super League this year.

But in contrast to the success of Enner Valencia and other athletes from Esmeraldas, as of October 20 of this year, the province of Esmeraldas registered 416 violent deaths since January 2022, 179% more than the 149 homicides in 2021.

Esmeraldas has a rate of 64 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, which is the highest rate in the country's history and one of the ten highest rates per city in the world, along with the Mexican Tijuana and Acapulco or the Venezuelan Caracas and Ciudad Guayana.< /p>

Between goals and shots: the most violent province in Ecuador is the cradle of Enner Valencia

Fear has seized the inhabitants of the province of Esmeraldas, in Ecuador, who feel unprotected against the criminal groups that operate there. (Elsa Guerra)

The state's abandonment of the border province not only demonstrates government inefficiency but also the racial exclusion that is still installed in Ecuador.

The people who excitedly shouted Valencia's goal belong to the same Ecuador that still discriminates against Afro-Ecuadorians, whom, according to the United Nations Organization warns, they are constantly denied their right to a clean environment, as well as access to justice, education, and decent work.

Afro-Ecuadorians, like Valencia , represent 7.2% of the national populationl, however, they represent 40% of those who live in poverty. That is why the places with the largest Afro population, such as Esmeraldas, have high rates of poverty and inequality.

Between goals and shots: the most violent province in Ecuador is the birthplace of Enner Valencia

40% of Afro-Ecuadorians in Ecuador live in poverty. (Unicef)

The president of the UN Working Group on People of African Descent, Ahmed Reid, explained that “Esmeraldas is one of the poorest provinces in Ecuador; 85% of its population lives below the poverty line, 23% have access to only the most basic services, and 15% of the population is illiterate.”

Proof of inequality, in something as basic as access to education, is that in Ecuador Afro-Ecuadorians, like the Montubios and indigenous people, have the lowest levels of schooling and while 32% of whites and 24% of mestizos go to university,only 11% of blacks can enter higher education and of these only 6% graduate, according to the 2010 Census and the Integrated System of Social Indicators of Ecuador of 2013.

The Ecuador that is still racist is the same one that is happy and recognizes Afro-Ecuadorians when they win medals or sports tournaments, but after the hubbub excludes them.

Between goals and shots: the most violent province in Ecuador is the birthplace of Enner Valencia

Enner Valencia played 77 minutes in Ecuador vs Qatar and scored the goals that They gave the Andean country the victory in the opening match of the World Cup. (FIFA)

Like other sports stars who reach the top and who do not forget their origins or ignore the reality of their own, Enner Valencia has decided to donate all the economic prizes to Esmeraldas that he obtained during this year's World Cup.

Enner Valencia, as mentioned by several fans on social networks, with his football, his history and his altruism has done more for his province than many authorities. Enner Valencia's goals not only gave Ecuador its first victory in Qatar and made it the first team in the world to beat the hosts in the opening match, but have once again brought to the fore the problems that Esmeraldas and his population face.