The people of Ecuador are rising up to refound their country as a pluri-national homeland for all. This inspiring movement, with Ecuador's indigenous peoples at its heart, is part of the revolution spreading across the Americas, laying the groundwork for a new, fairer, world. Ecuador Rising aims to bring news and analysis of events unfolding in Ecuador to english speakers.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lake Forest woman has presidential son

A Lake Forest woman lives a dream while her son campaigns to govern Ecuador.

LAKE FOREST – Norma Delgado starts out each morning feeding her 101-year-old father and 99-year-old mother breakfast and giving them their medication in their Lake Forest mobile home.

She tidies the house and begins preparing lunch. Sometimes, she heads outside to clip the fuchsia rosebuds she planted on the lot the family owns in the seniors' community.

But when her sister Pepa calls out that Norma's son Rafael is on Ecuadorean television – beamed into their home over cable – the 72-year-old woman hustles into the den to catch a glimpse of him on the air.

"I prefer not to watch too much," said the petite caretaker, whose brown eyes dance through gold-rimmed glasses. "My sister watches. And when there's something good, I run to see him."


Norma was born on a coffee and cocoa plantation on Ecuador's rugged Pacific coast. A farm administrator, her father Valentin left the countryside and moved the family to port city Guayaquil when it was time for his six children to attend school.

The second child in line, Norma graduated and took a job as a secretary in a construction firm. She walked to work every day and met her husband on the way, a road inspector named Rafael Correa who ushered her to dances, courted her and married her.

Children came quickly – a boy and a girl, then another boy and girl. So did hard economic times as Rafael moved from job to job. Within a few years, the couple separated.

Norma's eldest two children – Fabricio and Pierina - were outgoing and athletic. Rafael – who she affectionately calls "Rafico" – spoke little as a toddler but quickly became curious and mischievous, eating snacks his sister set out for her tea parties and playing pranks on his brother.

Once they left for school each day, Norma cooked lunches she would sell to neighbors to make a living, asking the boys to deliver the food on their bicycles after class.

As Rafael grew older, he joined the Boy Scouts and excelled in public speaking, winning prizes for oratory. Valentin dubbed him "my presidential grandson" for his leadership of the troop.

By then, Norma's brother had moved to California. Valentin and his wife, Luz, followed and became U.S. citizens. One by one, so did their children, settling in Los Angeles and later Orange County.

Norma stayed in Guayaquil, taking a job as a supermarket manager.

One day, Norma got a call from California. Her mother had started forgetting things and was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. It wasn't safe for her to be left alone.

Norma began packing her bags.


As Norma settled into life in California, Rafael headed to Belgium for his master's degree in economics and to Illinois for his doctorate. He eventually returned to Ecuador and began teaching at a university on the outskirts of the capital.

Rafael served as Ecuador's finance minister in 2005. Norma was puzzled when she saw him take the oath of office on television since he had never shown an interest in politics – nor had she.

Six months later, she'd get another surprise when he called.

Mom, I'm going to run for president, he said.

That's great, son, she said, thinking she was playing along with one of his jokes.

Norma began to see her son more and more on television, giving fiery speeches in small jungle villages. At that point, she began to believe. And as a mother – she began to worry.

Norma heard critics attack her son, labeling him a communist for his calls to help the poor and his friendship with left-wing Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. A devout Catholic, Norma prayed for her son. As the election neared, she flew to Ecuador, joining him on the campaign trail and filming a television ad to support him.

On election night, Rafael gathered his campaign staffers and family in a hotel banquet hall to hear results trickle in from the polls. Every time his rival – banana tycoon Alvaro Noboa – won a precinct Norma felt her stomach churn. At 10 p.m., the television networks declared the victor.

The crowd roared. Norma's eyes filled with tears. She reached through the masses of people to hug her son and whispered in his ear: "God is good."


In the weeks that followed, Norma prepared her wardrobe. She had only seen Congress and the presidential palace from the outside, when she visited Quito as a tourist.

"It all felt like a dream," she said.

The inauguration was in the vast congressional hall. Norma sat up front with Rafael's wife and children and the two dozen relatives who made the trip from California. The outgoing president slung Ecuador's yellow, blue and red presidential sash across her son's chest. Goosebumps ran up Norma's arm. Valentin, who also made the trip, filled with pride.

Months later, cousin David Delgado fingers a bronze commemorative coin Rafael sent from the presidential palace. Pepa's grandson brags to his third-grade teacher about his presidential cousin. In Valentin's house, a photo of Rafael at the inauguration is propped alongside snapshots of his grandchildren.

Like any mother, Norma worries. She gets upset when she hears critics blast Rafael's proposals and ardently defends his intentions to push changes to aid Ecuador's poor.

She calls him on Sundays – the only day she can catch him by phone – and hopes to visit in January. Until then, she spends her days caring for her parents with help from her sisters, who shuttle in groceries from Costco every few weeks.

Sometimes, she catches Rafael on the news. But she looks away when his opponents take the screen.

"I live under a lot of stress," she said. "Anyone who is a mother can understand, and if you're not, the day you become a mother, you will understand."

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:10 am

    Pretty convenient for Correa to blast at the USA with his words, but reap the benefits of his education received there while his mother and grandparents enjoy the luxurious benefits provided them by the American people.