things that matter

How Working In Ecuador During The Venezuelan Crisis Helps Me Understand The Central American Asylum Seekers

Courtesy of Urooba Jamal

“Señorita! Puedo preguntarle sobre—”

“Ah, lo siento, no hablo español!” (“Sorry, I don’t speak Spanish!”)

Conversations during my first few months in Ecuador often took this tune: brown-skinned and dark curly-haired, I certainly looked the part. But I didn’t yet speak it.

Once my Spanish grew conversational, I could answer the confusion — somewhat. Always in a cab, the taxista would begin his string of rapid-fire questions, beginning with, “Where are you from?”

“Canada,” I’d respond with a knowing smirk, expecting the next comment.

“But I was born in Pakistan,” would be my eventual answer and the driver’s quizzical expression would shortly dissolve out of sight.

I spent two years living and working in Quito, Ecuador, never had my identities challenge me, or take on new meaning, as they did during my time living in South America.

There were, of course, strange — and comedic — blips in this journey. My first friend there, who I met through work, was Indian, and we took on the label of desi gringas together. Desi, the general grouping of South Asians, and gringa, women foreigners in Latin America. Or so we thought.

“You don’t want to call yourself gringa,” my friend from Costa Rica told me one day, stifling back laughter. Gringo and gringa, she explained, were “annoying white people from the U.S.” We dropped that label quick.

A foreigner, but not white, brown but not Latina.

CREDIT: Courtest of Urooba Jamal

I was slowly falling in love with Latin America but I craved something familiar. So, I took refuge in Quito’s desi restaurants. Surprisingly, there were several.

There was Sher-E-Punjab, the biggest one that always came up first on Tripadvisor searches, with its fancy decor, cloth napkins, and smiling waiters. I’d have to reassure several times that I did indeed want my food “extra, extra, extra picante” (spicy) because I was Pakistani and could certainly more than handle it. It was important to add “extra” many times because Ecuadoreans add tomate de arbol — or the tamarillo fruit — to their aji, or hot sauce.

Then there was the one owned by Pakistanis, where the chefs added literal sugar to their mild curries, I assume to make them more palatable to both Ecuadorean and gringo palates.

Finally, there was the one by my workplace, which was, in all honesty, quite average, with most patrons rarely ordering Indian food, opting instead to sip on cervezas and eat a fast-food staple, papi pollo (fried chicken and fries).

I returned often because of the woman who owned the place. She had fled her abusive husband in India almost a decade ago, working as a cook and chef in many different countries before eventually settling in Ecuador.

She lived above the place she owned and had learned Spanish simply by getting to know her customers. She was so happy to speak to me in Urdu-slash-Hindi every time I came in.

On one of my early visits, I asked the restaurant owner why she had chosen to stay in Ecuador. She smiled, then replied with a laugh, “Because they don’t think we’re terrorists here.”

CREDIT: Courtesy of Urooba Jamal

A decade ago, under the former government of Rafael Correa, Ecuador ended visa requirements for foreigners, earning the credit of having one of the most lenient visa policies in the world. Many South Asians, including many Indians and Pakistanis, as well as people from the rest of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, began migrating to the equatorial country for the first time.

According to Ecuador’s National Immigration Office, while only 92 Pakistani citizens had entered Ecuador in 2006, shortly after the policy came into effect in 2008, 178 had entered. By 2010, 518 — an increase of 550 percent in just four years.

Just last year, the UNHCR applauded Ecuador for its then-new Human Mobility Law — which regularized status for all refugees, asylum-seekers and trafficking victims — but it now appears that the new government of Lenin Moreno is set on reversing many of these policies. Blaming an influx of Venezuelans migrating to the country, it still stands to be seen what this means for migrants to Ecuador from other parts of the world.

While I met many migrants from many places in the region, such as Cuba and Colombia, it wasn’t till more Venezuelans started arriving in 2017, that I became aware of a changing tone in the country.

I was taking Spanish classes at a local university in Quito, one of them a conversational class with a fiery, expressive professor who was half-Colombian and half-Ecuadorean. Always impeccably dressed, she led our class — often just me and another young woman from Norway — with no structure. Instead, she would incite class discussions on hot-button topics from abortion to the death penalty. It was hard to place where her own opinions lay, as she wove in tales of everything from family members kidnapped by guerillas in Colombia, to the first time she snuck out from under her Catholic mother’s eyes to go party at a discoteca.

On one particular day, she started off class sharing news of a taxi driver murdered in the country by a passenger. The man who had stabbed him, she explained, was Venezuelan.

“Since Venezuelans have started arriving here,” my professor started off slowly. “Crime has gone up.”

CREDIT: Courtesy of Urooba Jamal

I sat there stunned, unable to string a sentence together in Spanish — or any language for that matter. This story would be the topic of discussion in my grammar class the next morning, where my other professor implied the same. I began noticing headlines from local papers, eyeing newspaper vendors as they snaked through Quito’s traffic, and their use of the same alarmist tone about Venezuelan migrants.

For the restaurant owner from India, along with many other migrants from around the world, Ecuador was a chance to start over. The country that is Latin America’s largest refugee-hosting country became their refuge.

Elsewhere in Latin America, thousands from mostly Honduras and Guatemala are currently fleeing their homes, hoping to escape poverty and violence by seeking asylum in the United States. Their own governments have long been allied with the country they hope to reach, with the United States having backed military dictatorships and coups there. These coups are as recent as 2009 in Honduras, and as early as 1954 in Guatemala. The migrants stay stranded, having been met with tear gas by U.S. border patrol agents, amidst threats of deportation.

Before the migrants had even reached towns bordering the U.S. in Mexico, where thousands are still awaiting their destiny, U.S. President Donald Trump made inflamed remarks against them, chastising the caravan as one “full of criminals.” Residents of Tijuana, Mexico have also marched against the migrants’ arrival — with even Mayor Juan Manuel Gastélum echoing Trump’s comments.

As I follow their journey, I often flick through my Canadian passport, stamped with visas from Latin America and the world: my own family immigrated to Canada when I was two years old, leaving Pakistan forever.

Getting my Ecuadorean visa with my Canadian passport my first year was as simple as gathering my forms and picking it up four days later. By my second year, it required several more trips, many more forms, and a couple hundred dollars more; I got it four months later. The lines and wait times had multiplied: many were Venezuelans who may not receive visas at all, in not four days or even four months.

I think about these Venezuelan migrants, fleeing Central Americans, the Indian woman, about my own experiences.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Urooba Jamal

I’m finally reading Eduardo Galeano’s “Open Veins of Latin America,” the classic 1971 literary indictment of five centuries of pillage and plunder on the continent. Galeano once said: “We must not confuse globalization with ‘internationalism’…We know that the human condition is universal, that we share similar passions, fears, needs and dreams, but this has nothing to do with the ‘rubbing out’ of national borders as a result of unrestricted capital movements. One thing is the free movement of peoples, the other of money.”

Despite the despair in his writings, Galeano remained hopeful all throughout his life. On this (open) vein, I probe: What if we never had to escape to find refuge?

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These Sexy Husbands And Boyfriends Of Famous Latinas Make For The Perfect Eye Candy From Red Carpets To Running Errands

things that matter

These Sexy Husbands And Boyfriends Of Famous Latinas Make For The Perfect Eye Candy From Red Carpets To Running Errands

ryanaguzman / Instagram

They say that behind every successful woman is a devoted and supporting man. This is true for these famous Latinas who have some handsome eye candy hanging on their arms. Their sexy husbands proudly walk by their side during everything from award shows to grocery store trips.

In no particular order, here are 21 of the hottest husbands of our favorite and most loved latina celebrities!

Gerard Piqué

Credit: @3gerardpique/instagram
 

Gerard Piqué is popularly known for his football career. The Barcelona-born center back started dating the stunning Colombian singer Shakira in 2011. Love was in the air since his appearance in her popular Waka Waka music video, one of the official songs of the 2010 World Cup held in South Africa.

Marco Perego

Credit: @pirateyadimar/Instagram

We cannot deny the laid-back, yet hot-looking Marco Perego. From humble beginnings, he pursued football until a leg injury put him out of his career. Nonetheless, Perego continued to pursue another passion which is art. He paid for his art studies by working odd jobs such as waiting tables and teaching soccer to younger kids. Perego is a renowned Italian artist, and some of his work has reportedly sold for an estimated $30,000. The artist and actress Zoe Saldana began dating in 2013 and got married later that same year.

Javier Bardem

Credit: @javierbardem.penelopecruz/Instagram

We cannot deny the dashing look that is Javier Bardem. The actor met the love of his life, fellow actress Penélope Cruz when they co-starred in the romantic comedy “Vicky Christina Barcelona” in 2007. The beautiful couple got married in 2010 and have been together ever since. Bardem and his beautiful wife are both award-winning actors and have starred in several blockbuster movies.

Joe Manganiello

Credit: @joemanganiello/Instagram

Italian actor Joe Manganiello is known for his roles in movies such as “Behind Enemy Lines”, “Magic Mike”, and “Rampage”. He also featured in TV shows such as “American Heiress” and “True Blood.” The actor also once formed part of the road crew for the band Goldfinger and is a good friend of the lead singer. Manganiello and award-winning actress and model, Sofía Vergara tied the knot in 2014.

Matthew Hussey

Credit: @thematthewhussey/Instagram

British heartthrob and dating expert Matthew Hussey has taken YouTube by storm with his step-by-step dating tips and advice for women. He has over 1.5million subscribers which include celebrity figures. He is also renowned as New York Times bestselling author of “Get The Guy.” Hussey is dating Cuban pop singer and former Fifth Harmony member Camila Cabello.

William Levy

Credit: @willevy/Instagram

William Levy started his career as a model and was signed with NEXT Models Agency. Apart from his modeling career, he is recognized for his acting and featured in TV shows like Sortilegio, Pasión, Cuidado con el ángel, and Triunfo del amor.  Levy is very passionate about people and donates towards fixing houses in low-income family homes in Mexico. The steamy hunk is in a relationship with Mexican actress Elizabeth Gutiérrez and the couple has two children.

José Pepe Bastón

Credit: @pepebaston/Instagram

José Pepe Bastón is a popular figure when it comes to TV. He has worked as the President of International Television and Contents Director of Groupo Televisia, as well as other media-related companies. He met his wife, former Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria on a blind date through a mutual friend in Mexico City. The pair tied the knot in 2016 in Mexico with a beautiful, intimate wedding ceremony.

Eric Winter

Credit: @ebwinter/Instagram

The actor, model, writer, and producer Eric Winter is best known for his role as Dash Gardiner in the Supernatural TV show “Witches of East End”. Before going into full-time acting, Winter pursued a modeling career as a high-profile male model for designers like Tommy Hilfiger. He also holds a degree in Psychology from UCLA.  He married his wife, actress and model Roselyn Sanchez in 2008, and the couple has two children together.

Ryan Gosling

Credit: @gosling.mendes/Instagram

Ryan Gosling is no stranger to Hollywood and is also a musician. It’s only natural that a talented star like him would be side-by-side with an equally beautiful Wife. Gosling and actress Eva Mendes co-starred in the American movie drama “The Place Beyond The Pines.” The pair started dating in 2011 and have two daughters together.

David Boyd

Credit: @me_Is_Boyd/Instagram

David Boyd is known for his career in performing arts and is a professional breakdancer. His charming boyish looks add to his character in person. Boyd and his girlfriend Christian Serratos who plays the role of Rosita Espinosa in AMC’s The Walking Dead had their first child in 2017.

Diego Boneta

Credit: @DiegoBoneta/Instagram

Gorgeous Mexican heartthrob Diego Boneta is a singer and actor known for his lead character role as Luis Miguel in the TV show Luis Miguel.  His music genres are Latin Pop and he is signed with Labels 222 and EMI. He is currently dating Mexican actress and singer Camila Sodi.

Ryan Piers Williams

Credit: @justjared.com/Pinterest

Ryan Piers Williams is a leading actor, producer, director, and screenwriter. He married lead actress America Ferrera, known for her role as Betty Suarez in the comedy series Ugly Betty. The pair tied the knot in 2011.

Wilmer Valderrama

Credit: @wilmervalderrama/Instagram

Wilmer Valderrama is an American singer, actor, and producer of Columbian and Velesuan descent. The handsome dated fellow singer, actress, and songwriter Demi Lovato since 2010 but allegedly the pair was reported split up in 2016. However, they still seem to be close, but it’s unclear whether or not they are back together.

John Beverly Land

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John Beverly Land also goes by his shortened name “Bev” and is a professional actor, writer, and director. He is also the grandson of  John Beverly Amos, the founder of Aflac. Land and his wife Dania Ramirez went public with their relationship and engagement in 2011 and got married in 2013.

Gael García Bernal

Credit: Pinterest

Gael García Bernal is a Mexican actor, model, and film director. He comes from a family active in showbiz and modeling as his mother was also an actress and model and his father an actor and movie director. It’s easy to see why this hunk followed into his parent’s footsteps. Gael was in a long-term relationship with Argentinean actress Dolores Fonzi but the pair had split in 2014.

Neymar Jr

Credit: @neymarjr/Instagram

The Brazilian footballer Neymar Junior comes from a football background, as his father Neymar Santos Sr was also a professional football player. Neymar jr showed promise from a young age and by 21 he had already won four consecutive Player of the Year awards. Apart from his very promising career as a professional footballer he was also featured on the cover of Vogue magazine and promotes Brazilian Pop Music. The sexy footballer has one child from his previous relationship and is currently dating Brazillian actress Bruna Marquezine since 2012.

Bruno Mars

Credit: @brunomars/Instagram

When it comes to singing, Bruno Mars can sweep you away into a groovy beat that will uplift your mood. Mars comes from a talented performance arts family, his mother was a hula dancer and his dad played percussion. Bruno was a nickname his dad gave him when he was still very young. The multi-award winning singer, songwriter and record producer is dating fashion model and actress Jessica Caban.

Ryan Guzman

Credit: @ryanaguzman/Instagram

It’s hard to deny the fact that Ryan Guzman must be one of the hottest guys around. He is popularly known for his role as Sean Asa in the movie Step Up. He also featured in several TV shows with a recurring role in Pretty Little Liars and also a main role in the series Heros Reborn. In 2018, Guzman and his girlfriend Chrysti Ane, who is a fitness model and actress announced that they were pregnant with their first child.

Aaron Diaz

Image credit:@aarondiaz/Instagram

Mexican born actor Aaron Diaz is mostly known for his acting career that began at a young age. However, the handsome star also enjoys singing and released his debut album Enamórate de mi in 2009. Chemistry brewed between him and his co-star Lola Ponce when the pair starred alongside each other in “El Talisman”. They started dating in 2012 and have two daughters.

Rodrigo Santoro

Credit: @fronckowiak_e_santoro/Instagram

The Brazillian actor Rodrigo Santoro starred in several great movies such as Love Actually, 300 Rise of an Empire and Rio. He also has a main role in the hit TV series Westworld where he plays the character Hector Escaton. Santoro has been in a long-term relationship with 30-year-old Brazillian actress and singer Mel Fronckowiak since 2013 and they have one daughter.

Lionel Messi

Credit: @leomessi/Instagram

Football star Lionel Messi is one of Argentina’s best football players to date. Messi showed promise on the football field since the young age of 13. As a child, he was diagnosed with a growth deficiency and the treatment at the time was too expensive for his parents to afford. However, Barcelona’s football manager Charles Rexach saw Messi’s potential and offered to fly him and his family over to Spain.  Rexach also funded the treatment Messi needed. The talented footballer married Argentinian fashion model Antonella Roccuzzo. The pair has known each other since they were kids.


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