A man on a mission: Building a caring community in Paute for his family and expats
Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series about Wilson Suquitana, Paute’s favorite facilitator. To read part 1, click here.
When Wilson Squitana’s father turned his back on him, he knew that the family would never again be whole. He was as confused as the snow swirling the sidewalk obscuring any trace of the torturous trail he forged for half his lifetime to reunite them; he roamed the U.S. for almost four years before finding the road home. One morning while musing over a cup of coffee, the dark clouds obscuring his view lifted, exposing a simple truth, “It doesn’t matter who my father is; what matters is who I remember him to be.”
Clutching this simple act of forgiveness, Wilson shouldered his backpack and went home.
The city of Paute was established on February 26, 1860. It is a tranquil farming community noted for the variety of farms, greenhouses, and orchards clinging to abrupt mountains, and pictorial villages overlooking the valley. The population is just over 25,000. It is a small city, clean, well laid out, and peaceful. It has inviting stores, a central park, cobblestone streets, a thriving mercado, and an excellent canopy of shade trees. It is here that the Suquitana clan crossed the mountain from Azogues and established its roots in the early 1940s.
When Wilson returned in 2005, he faced two obstacles; how to heal his fractured family, and how best to support himself. He quickly learned that the English he mastered in the US was valuable. He also learned that a cousin had chosen a new line of work and wanted to sell his taxi. Taxi medallions — or licenses — were inexpensive in those days, so Wilson dug deep, borrowed a few dollars, and set about growing his business, assisting people who needed his help. This single decision to dedicate himself to the service of others influenced his life in fundamental ways.
It did not take long for the tiny expat community in Paute to take advantage of the “new guy in town” who could facilitate the complexity of establishing residency in Ecuador for those without the benefit of speaking Spanish. Wilson, however, imagined his role with greater complexity. He believed that encouraging newcomers to establish trust within the community and creating a sense of family was, by far, the best path forward for a successful transition from the hazardous rancor infecting North America to the gentle farmland that is Paute. He fully understood that life is better here, and he wanted to share the good news with his new friends and neighbors.
As to be expected, not everyone who moves here can smoothly transition from their prior lifestyle to one as informal as the laid-back attitude prevalent in Ecuador. One newcomer was having a particularly difficult time and felt no hesitation to voice her occasional irritation that things were done differently than “back home where I come from.”
Wilson realized that what was distressing this woman so greatly was not the differences or unfamiliarity, but a sense of belonging in the community; she had no family within a thousand miles, and missed them very much. From that day forward — over nine years — Wilson has included her in every family gathering. She is now the godmother to a Suquitana.
“I cannot do everything, but I can do my best.” – Wilson Suquitana
Wilson is recognized as among the most trusted and loved members of the expat community. One day last week, I joined him as he cashed a pile of checks from several clients and then paid their bills and did their shopping. He proudly told me, “My clients provide the means necessary for me to fulfill my dreams. I will never take lightly that they want me to help them. It is truly an honor.”
Wilson Suquitana is also the patriarch of a loving family. His oldest daughter, a senior in high school, wants to study medicine. His second, almost 15 years old, is all a flutter in anticipation of her upcoming Quinceañera, and his youngest, a nine years old boy, wants to be “a famous soccer player just like Papa.” He gushed that they will all move into the new house that Papa has been building for them when it is finished later this year.
When school is not in session, the children take turns riding with their father in his taxi. They enjoy talking to “Papa’s friends”, and are learning English. Their world is larger by any measure and they can grasp their father’s hand while traveling on tales of fantastical stories told by exotic and interesting people from faraway lands.
Media and misguided notions too often waylay us into thinking that success is defined by Bill Gates, Tom Brady or Jeff Bezos. What makes Wilson Squitana’s story so compelling is that his success is measured in a currency far removed from the holdings in any bank or financial institution.
He is building a home for his devoted family and caring for those who need his help.
This, too, is an accurate measure of success.