Marta’s kiosk was destroyed and looted by demonstrators during the protests in Ecuador.
For 35 years, Marta Yambay has been making a living selling products at a kiosk located on one of the corners near the Casa de la Cultura, in the north center of Quito. This is an area that in times of peace concentrates cultural managers, vendors, street artists and tourists, but in times of social upheaval it becomes the meeting place for protesters and also the field of confrontation with the public force. At 65 years old, Marta, from her kiosk, has seen several social explosions, but she never imagined that this last one, which paralyzed Ecuador for 18 days, was going to leave her in ruin. But that she would also restore his hope.
On June 13, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationality began an indefinite protest against the government of Guillermo Lasso to demand compliance with a 10-point agenda. Thousands of demonstrators arrived in Quito to join the mobilizations and what would be a peaceful protest, but everything led to clashes, acts of vandalism and police repression that left at least 8 dead and around 300 injured.
June 23 was one of the most violent days of the protests. It was that day when Marta lost her kiosk. (Photo: REUTERS/Adriano Machado).
The most violent day was June 23, day 11 of the protest. El Arbolito, a park next to the Casa de la Cultura, became a battlefield between protesters and police. Marta, who was in her kiosk that day, saw that the spirits were radicalized. To protect herself from what would be one of the most conflictive afternoons of the strike, in which a young protester was even killed, Marta closed her business and returned to her house.
Early in the morning, on June 24, Marta arrived at her business again, to start a new day at work, but she found a heartbreaking scene. The place where the booth was embedded in the sidewalk, was a void. In the middle of the street, like a shield, a trench, was her kiosk, destroyed, vandalized and looted.
In a video shared by the councilor of the Municipality of Quito Luz Elena Coloma, and which later went viral on social networks, thanks to the dissemination made by journalists and other users, Marta cries next to her kiosk, regrets having closed and tells that he had no way of safeguarding the products that were stolen from him. That morning, Infobae contacted Marta, who could not speak without her feeling overwhelmed by tears and despair. She was devastated, because this was not the first time that she had lost the modest confectionery and food business, for which she has worked for the last 35 years.
The protesters used Marta’s kiosk as a shield, but also stole all her products.
In October 2019, when there were similar protests in Ecuador for eleven days over the decision of the Lenín Moreno government to repeal fossil fuel subsidies, the protesters also destroyed the Marta kiosk. These small metal booths are owned by the Municipality of the Metropolitan District of Quito and are assigned to merchants. To replace the kiosk and the merchandise that was in it in October 2019, Marta had to obtain a bank loan of USD 3,000 that she still pays. For this reason, when this June morning Marta found her kiosk destroyed again, her world fell apart: “How am I going to pay, if I don’t have a place to pay?” Teleamazon.
The kiosk that was used as a barricade had two showcases, USD 200 of merchandise, USD 500 of cosmetic products that it sold, USD 75 of savings, a blender, an electric burner, a pot and other implements. Martha lost everything.
Infobae spoke that June morning with Councilor Coloma, who said that the Municipality of Quito would give Marta a new kiosk, but that with the debt contracted in 2019 and without any product to sell, any additional help would contribute to the restoration of the small business.
In the midst of reports on the national strike, road closures and political declarations, Marta’s case, together with the data to make a bank transfer, took over the timelines of the social networks of Ecuadorians who showed their indignation and solidarity.
Marta Yambay, 65, was one of the collateral victims of the national strike that lasted 18 days.
Thousands of people from all over Ecuador showed up to show solidarity. Some even offered bank transfers to compensate for the losses. Gabriela Robalino, Andrés Toledo, Bel Dueñas, Oswaldo Burneo, Nando Barberán, Tatiana Estupiñán, Mario Ayabaca, Fredy Lovato, Enrique Almeida, Bryan Chicaiza, Cristina Vega, Nicolás Medina, Joffre Flores, Poleth Arellano, Roberto Aguilera, Juan José Paredes, Juan Martín Sempértegui, and hundreds of social network users showed their deposits in solidarity with the small business owner who had lost everything. To these are added other names that have not been traced to those who have also been moved by the tragedy. The contributions range from USD 5 to USD 10 or USD 30 or even more than USD 40 or USD 50, while hundreds of others sought to personally contact Doña Marta to deliver products, groceries or other types of help.
For example, the Twitter user “Catarnica”, with whom Infobae was able to communicate, was looking for Doña Marta to find out the amount she owed from the lost kiosk in 2019: “We are not powerful or privileged, but we would like to know if it can be done something to ease that burden.”
That June 24, which had begun with a terrible reality for Marta, became the day in which, in the midst of chaos, solidarity and generosity became hope for this careful merchant.
Some public figures such as Roberto Ayala, winner of the second season of MasterChef Ecuador, and Shany Nadan, an Ecuadorian actress, sought out Mrs. Marta to help her and shared her case on social networks, which allowed her thousands of followers to also show solidarity. with her.
Marta’s story was even known at the Palacio de Carondelet, seat of the Ecuadorian government. President Guillermo Lasso met with Marta and promised her that the Executive would replace her loss and help her diversify her business: “She will once again have her kiosk with enough merchandise to resume her activity,” said the president. . On her part, Marta told Infobae that “it was very emotional to meet him in front of the president.”
Marta Yambay’s case had such an impact that the president of Ecuador, Guillermo Lasso, met with her and offered her help.
Almost a week later and after the signing of the peace agreement, when Ecuador begins to return to normality, Infobae spoke with Marta again. This time, there are no more tears, a hopeful, happy and surprised woman is heard.
Doña Marta told Infobae that she felt accompanied, because she is supported by the thousands of people who have allowed her to recover from the loss and move on: “I feel very flattered. Many people without knowing me have helped me. I have so many mixed feelings because I know I am not alone. Thanks to the solidarity of these people I will get ahead. May God pay them,” she said.
With bank transfers, donations and other types of help, Marta was able to recover “what was lost and a little more,” according to what she told Infobae.
Although Marta has experienced at least six social uprisings since 1987, when she started her kiosk, she told Infobae that she never saw levels of violence like the protests of October 2019 and June 2022: “Before (October 2019) we quietly sold We even shared coffee with the indigenous people and the demonstrators who came to shelter them.”
Regarding the promises made by the authorities, Marta pointed out that the Municipality has promised to return the kiosk to her as soon as the country returns to normality. The mayor of Quito, Santiago Guarderas, assured on his Twitter account that Marta’s kiosk will be rebuilt with the support of the private company.
As Marta waits for her new kiosk to work as it has for the last 35 years, her voice radiates joy and gratitude. She would like to hug each person who contributed to her cause, but most of them she doesn’t even know her name. Hoping for better days to come, Marta sent a message to all her anonymous heroes and heroines: “Thanks to her good heart, I can move on.”
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