In the 2006 World Cup, Ecuador advanced to the knock-out stages for the first time in the nation’s soccer-playing history. It was a source of immense national pride. The team’s success also had an important side effect: It thrust a small and often ignored minority group into the spotlight.
Ecuador’s Afro community, descendants of African slaves brought over centuries ago, comprises about five percent of the population. They often live in isolated, rural areas in extreme poverty and face ingrained racism and government apathy. Yet the influx of Afro-Ecuadorian soccer players was a main reason for the nation’s unprecedented success. Even more unlikely, most of team hailed from the same small region known as El Chota Valley.
Betty Bastidas is an Ecuadorian-American filmmaker. Her current project is called DreamTown, and it explores the stories of three Afro-Ecuadorians from El Chota who are using soccer to lift themselves and their community out of poverty.
Trailer for DreamTown