With his resume as a leader of New Haven’s burgeoning Ecuadorian community, Dixon Jimenez seemed like a shoo-in for a prestigious post back in his native land. If only the mail had arrived on time.
On Christmas Day, Jimenez got word of a new opportunity, the chance to return to Ecuador as a government official.
Jimenez was notified of the possibility of joining a council established by the recently adopted Ecuadorian Constitution. The new seven-member “Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control” is charged with monitoring the function of the other branches of the government.
He scrambled to assemble all the necessary paperwork and and take an aptitude test within a week. But the material arrived too late for Jimenez from to be considered for the position.
While he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of continuing his pursuit of a government post, the community leader has turned his attention to the next organizing initiative: registering Ecuadorians in Connecticut to vote in the upcoming Ecuadorian elections.
Overdressed For Soccer
Over the past year, Jimenez, who’s 30, has emerged as a leader of New Haven’s growing Ecuadorian community. He helped to found and serves as secretary for Virgen del Cisne, the new Haven Ecuadorian group that has organized adult and youth area soccer leagues. Jimenez led an initiative to raise money for flood victims in Ecuador. He was instrumental in the recent creation of New Haven’s Ecuadorian consulate.
Over peppermint tea at Atticus Bookstore, Jimenez explained how the council appointment process works. In addition to taking a test on Ecuadorian history and current events, applicants are given points for civic and community leadership and participation. The seven applicants with the most points win seats on the council.
Paging through stacks of highlighted paperwork, Jimenez explained that by his own point calculations, he would have been among the top candidates. He estimated that he would have had the best score out of the eight applicants living in the United States and among the highest of all 23 of the expatriate applicants. But his record of accomplishments didn’t arrive in Ecuador by the deadline.
He heard of the opportunity on Christmas and had only about a week to take the test and send in all his papers.
To be disqualified because of a mail delay was disheartening. “Personally, I don’t feel good,” he said in Spanish.
Searching for the right analogy, he described his situation as that of a soccer player who shows up to play a big game without the proper equipment. It wasn’t a level playing field, he explained. Without his paperwork, he was wearing a suit and tie while the other players were in shorts and cleats.
A Great Hunter
The opportunity to serve as a council member would have been a continuation of Ecuadorian civil service for Jimenez. Before moving to Connecticut five years ago, Jimenez worked as the treasurer for the Ecuadorian municipality of Puerto Quito. He was president of the employees’ union.
Since moving to Connecticut, Jimenez has been working restaurant and construction jobs. He currently lives near Saint Raphael Hospital and has been unemployed for the last four months.
He was motivated to pursue the council position by a desire to serve his country, he said. “This was a call from the fatherland,” Jimenez said. “I can’t say no.”
“Imagine that you are a great hunter,” Jimenez explained, holding up an imaginary rifle. “If there is a huge animal to be hunted, you can’t simply sit back and leave it to someone else to kill it. “I couldn’t sit and do nothing.”
Jimenez is already looking forward to the next project. He held up a flyer for a voter registration drive that he is working on. He wants to make sure that all the Ecuadorians in Connecticut vote in the upcoming Ecuadorian national elections, in April.
“I’m always trying to do more,” Jimenez said. “I can’t live alone, uninvolved.”
“The people need someone to grab the flag and say ‘Let’s go!’” Jimenez explained.
Jimenez plans to continue to work for the Ecuadorian community here in Connecticut, but ultimately he will return to Ecuador to be with his young son, Elian.
Asked if he would ever consider running for political office in New Haven, Jimenez quoted 19th century Cuban leader Jose Marti: “The true man does not look at which side lives better, but on which side duty lies.”
“In other words,” Jimenez said, “I will be where God wants.”