Community and Family Life

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Ecuadoreans/Lynne Phillips

The Ecuadorean community in Toronto and Montreal has been maintained primarily through soccer clubs. Informal groups were started in Toronto in 1970, and the Liga Ecuatoriana de Fútbol Aficionada (Ecuadorean League of Amateur Soccer, or LEFA) was officially registered four years later. Women participate in the sports clubs in a limited way, primarily through beauty pageants. For men, on the other hand, they provide an important social, as well as athletic, function. In his history of LEFA, Jorge Romero has commented, “Playing on the team soon came to serve as an escape valve for tensions and worries.” In some cases, membership in soccer teams reflects regional origins in Ecuador, and the groups are named after highland or coastal provinces, such as Pichincha, Tungurahua, or Manta. Others are based on residential neighbourhoods in Canada, such as the Jane-Finch or Christie areas of Toronto.

Like other new Canadians, many Ecuadoreans feel that a major advantage of living in this country is the material improvement to be made, but they recognize that such gain comes at a cost. Women’s marginalization from community ties, combined with their responsibility for maintaining the family, means that they are aware of the significant psychological adjustments that Ecuadorean families in Canada must make, but they do not have the advantage of social support. There is some indication that Ecuadoreans have not been as likely to use social services as other Latin Americans in this country. Thus increased family problems and loneliness are often experienced most acutely by Ecuadorean women.

A study of one family in 1993 demonstrates the difficulties that Ecuadoreans have typically faced. Rigoberto and Clara arrived in Toronto in 1970. He had been a mechanic in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, and now worked in a factory assembling air-conditioners; Clara was employed as a supervisor for a janitorial company. She suffered anxiety about changes taking place in the family and her husband’s lack of support. He expected her to do all the housework and raise their four children, as well as be employed outside the home, and refused to allow their sons to help with chores around the house. Clara’s English remained poor, and she lost a promotion at work because of her lack of facility in the language. She worried about Rigoberto’s drinking and his spending money on sexual services. At the same time, their growing children were experiencing doubts about their identity and demanding more independence.

In Ecuador such a household might receive help from other family members or the community priest, but in Canada such sources of support were either unavailable or not pursued. The family was not accustomed to using community services and did not trust those that it heard about because of uncertainty about what might be expected in return. For some time Clara absorbed this high level of domestic stress, resigning herself “to lead a life of suffering, just as my mother did.” But her attitude was eventually challenged by the children, who demanded a more active approach from her. Steps were eventually taken to draw up a “family accord.” Rigoberto agreed to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and join a soccer club with his two sons. Clara would be able to take some English-language courses. Their eldest daughter was allowed to major in political science at university (she did not want to become a nurse or a computer technician as her parents had hoped), and the two older children would assume responsibility for improving the Spanish spoken by the younger ones. Clara eventually considered herself a “transformed woman,” and although their problems did not end, family members found a way to adapt to the new environment in which they lived.