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Ulises de la Cruz:  remembering Piquiucho

By Karen Juanita Carrillo 

Afro-Ecuadoran soccer player Ulises Hernán de la Cruz Bernoid is sponsoring a trip to Ecuador through the England-based adventure-travel/charity organization the Adventurists

The trip will serve as a fundraiser for his Fundación de Ulises de la Cruz/Ulises de la Cruz Foundation (FUNDECRUZ), a non-profit organization that Cruz created to support his native community of Piquiucho.  

The Afro-Ecuadorian village of Piquiucho in northern Ecuador's Valle de Chota is a short three-hour drive from Quito, the nation's capital. Yet the Ecuadorian government has for decades ignored the small village of little more than 200 families. It was not on official maps, and services to its inhabitants have been non-existent.

The village of Piquiucho and the plight of its people only became known following the selection of seven of the villages' sons to represent Ecuador's eleven-member team in the World Cup in 2002 and 2006.

Following his performances in the World Cup, Cruz, one of Piquiucho's most renowned players, was drafted to play abroad. He currently plays as a defender with The Royals, the English Premiership club's team in Reading.

With his earnings from soccer, Cruz created FUNDECRUZ on June 17, 2002. ulises121-05-0725001.jpgAnd via FUNDECRUZ, the soccer player has been able to transform Piquiucho

Ulises de la Cruz visits children at the San Gabriel school in Piquiucho, Ecuador. (Carlos Armas/www.eluniverso.com))

So far, FUNDECRUZ has paid for the building of a water treatment plant and the installation of water pipes, a sewage plant, new homes, street pavement and the construction of a sports center in Piquiucho. Cruz donates ten percent of his annual salary toward the foundation, which has also built a medical center and pays for a doctor, dentist and nurse for village residents. The foundation also buys breakfast and lunch for some 100 children attending school in the village.

In an interview earlier this year with the BBC, Cruz explained that: "The 2002 World Cup, when Ecuador qualified for the first time, financed the 18km of water pipes and a treatment system.

"The 2006 World Cup in Germany, when we reached the second round, was important because the success means I can finance a new sports and community centre, now under construction."

"Following the construction of the community sport center, FUNDECRUZ is now involved in a project to construct a stadium in the region of Piquiucho, which will have capacity for 10,000 people," reports the foundation's website, ulisesdelacruz.org.  "The stadium will be of modern design, and will provide facilities for a wide range of sporting activities, and cultural events.

"A future part of FundCruz's work will be dedicated to the planning and to co-ordination of events to take place in the stadium including international football matches, national Ecuadorian league matches, concerts, fairs, festivals, cultural celebrations, and much more.coliseoulisesdelacruz.jpg

The Piquiucho sports stadium is
named the "Coliseo Ulises de la Cruz."

(http://ulisesdelacruz.org) 

"The aim of these events is two-fold, helping raise the profile of the Afro-Ecuadorean community as well as raising funds for FUNDECRUZ and other communities in the area. The long-term aim will be to make these annual events that will attract both national and International interest and increase tourism to the surrounding area."

A BBC video report shows Cruz explaining to children in England that "when you're born in a different country and live life poor, you need to help your people:  you need to look back."

Ulises De la Cruz has been named a UNICEF ambassador and he has received official recognition from the Ecuadorian Congress because of his foundation work.

The FUNDECRUZ sponsored trip with the Adventurist is being termed the "Ruta del Sol." It will begin in Quito, Ecuador end in Rio, Brazil and is scheduled to take place for three weeks beginning February 2, 2008.

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