Gonzalo Rueda Ullauri
Consul of Ecuador in Valencia
With his 82 years on his shoulders, 60 years dedicated to the tourism sector, and when he was enjoying his well-deserved retirement in the company of his family, which includes 8 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren, during a meeting with his friend the President of Ecuador the idea arose to take advantage of his extensive experience to support tourism promotion outside his borders. Thus began his collaboration as a consul, first in Alicante and then in Valencia, where he currently serves.
How did you start your diplomatic career?
This is my first mission in both the public and diplomatic sectors. My friendship since 1985 with the current president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno Garcés, with whom I coincided in the private sector, being him the executive director of the National Chamber of Tourism of Ecuador, led me to offer my services to attract tourism to our country, and of course, to take the reins of a consulate. And that’s how I arrived in Alicante and then transferred to Valencia. Now in that city we have an Honorary Consulate.
What is the biggest difference between private and diplomatic activity?
State institutions in the public sector and their officials carry out their actions under the guidelines of laws, regulations and competent authorities. That is why bureaucracy in any country is slow and planning, revisions, approvals and budgets are needed, which makes projects and programs difficult. In contrast, in the private sector, decision-making is more agile and dynamic.
How has the pandemic affected the day-to-day work of the consular office?
We have around forty thousand Ecuadorians living in the Valencian Community. The Covid-19 has provoked very delicate situations, both for those residents and for students and tourists who are trapped, not only here but throughout Spain. The work done for the return to Ecuador, taking advantage of different humanitarian flights by various airlines, was enormous. It was necessary to comply with the health protocols of both Spain and Ecuador. The students and tourists who needed to return were joined by migrants who usually go on vacation and who had already scheduled their trips.
During the pandemic, all the Ecuadorian consulates in Spain developed online group connections, to find the best solutions for our fellow citizens. And many obstacles were overcome in this exceptional situation, although much remains to be done.
On the other hand, we are also committed to making contacts with different local organizations through our social networks, to let our compatriots know, for example, about job opportunities in case they have lost their jobs.
What objectives have you set yourself during your term of office in Valencia?
Firstly, to fulfil, together with the officials of the Consulate, the services and attention to our fellow countrymen. This objective also includes the promotion of the country, where I have already initiated contacts with wholesalers and travel agencies.
Ecuador is not really among the most visited destinations, as it should be. The Galapagos Islands are the most well known. I am going to focus on making my country better known as a tourist destination.
I also have the support of our commercial office in Madrid (PROECUADOR), which depends on the Ministry of Commerce, with whom we work on contacts with companies that can import Ecuadorian products, that wish to invest in Ecuador, etc. This is how we are promoting among Valencian companies, the import of cocoa, chocolate, fruit pulp, among many other products.
What image do Ecuadorians have of Spain?
Ecuadorians have a very good image of Spain. In the past, Ecuadorian immigration was mainly directed to the United States and Canada and Mexico. We were half a million Ecuadorians in Spain before the crisis in 2008 and relations between the two governments have always been good.
After all, we have inherited culture and customs, and although there are differences, such as diversity in the mix, we follow certain traditions so we feel very close to this country.
What is the presence of Spanish companies in Ecuador and vice versa?
In Ecuador we have very important Spanish companies that provide work and wealth. In Spain, for example, we have representatives of Ecuadorian banks in the main cities. Our gastronomy is also present through national entrepreneurs who spread it in various cities.
Why would you encourage Ecuadorian entrepreneurs to invest in Valencia?
The quality of life in the Valencian Community is unique; the friendly, warm treatment of its people, the order, the tranquillity, the climate and the relative security, are factors that invite not only to invest, but to live here.
What is the relationship between the Consular Corps of Valencia?
It is a very homogeneous group. Most consulates are honorary and we meet every month to discuss various issues. The Dean of the Consular Corps plays a very important role, he is a person very loved by all and he manages his function in an optimal way. Unfortunately, with the onset of the pandemic, those meetings were suspended, but since June 26, we have resumed them.
What is Ecuador’s national day and how do you celebrate it in Valencia?
It’s August 10th. This year it will be virtual because of the current situation. In previous years, we have called on all our fellow residents through social networks and have performed typical dances of the country, with artists, singers and traditional Ecuadorian food.
Why Ecuador as a tourist destination? What is its attraction?
Ecuador is unique. In spite of its limited territorial extension (255,000 km.2) it has four regions, different both geographically and in gastronomy, customs, climate, landscape and nationalities, which preserve their cultural legacies, traditions, etc. They are four worlds that offer great diversity in all senses.
In our small country, we can enjoy the Pacific Coast, the Andean Sierra, the Amazon and of course our enchanted islands, the Galapagos.
The Coast, to the west of the Andes, has a hundred beaches of enormous beauty, where modern and historical cities converge, as well as protected forests, picturesque fishing villages, modern spas etc. I highlight our main port, Guayaquil, which shares the modern and historical. Other ports like Manta offer to own and strangers their beautiful landscapes, places for sport and for the refuge of birds or the sighting of whales.
In the Sierra Andina we have the Avenue of the Volcanoes with the Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world, Inca ruins, colonial cities… Also the city of Quito, which was the first city in the world to be named Cultural Patrimony of Humanity and which keeps in its colonial center museums, churches, temples perfectly preserved with great works of art from the time of the Colony. Quito was the cradle of the art of America.
We have the Amazonia, a true natural laboratory. Its biodiversity in fauna and flora make this region an exuberant environment. It is a tropical forest of crystalline rivers, waterfalls and unparalleled landscapes.
Galapagos is our fourth region. Years ago I was one of the promoters of tourism in this region. In 1968 I was given the mission of taking the first cruise from Grecia to Guayaquil to connect the islands. I was transferred from Quito to Guayaquil to organize the logistics of this new destination, which is today one of the most important tourist destinations in the world.