Home » Antonio Polo | A Mission To Build Salinas, Ecuador | Recap

Antonio Polo | A Mission To Build Salinas, Ecuador | Recap

Catholic missionary whose accomplishments extend far beyond the spread of religion.

by Your Everyday Heroes

Antonio Polo is a Catholic priest and missionary who has spent over 50 years organizing and creating co-ops in the village of Salinas, Ecuador. 

His work, alongside that of the villagers, has pulled Salinas out of poverty, providing jobs and comfortable lives for thousands of families who—had it not been for the arrival of Antonio—would likely still be at the mercy of their landlords. 

Antonio Polo Arrives in Salinas, Ecuador

When Antonio arrived in Salinas as part of what was supposed to be a temporary mission trip, the extent of the village’s problems was immediately apparent to him: “We arrived here after traversing a large hill, as there was no road into the village,” he said. 

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“I saw about 30 small shacks… a stream of smoke was coming out of each shack, each stream forming a single column that rose to the sky. I saw this as a message. I interpreted it as a calling…”

What Was Salinas, Ecuador Like When Antonio Polo Arrived?

Upon arrival, Antonio noticed immediately that Salinas was a village in need. Conditions were dire: With the exception of the landlords, the entire village was impoverished. 

There was a lack of food, electricity, water, or healthcare. And everyone lived in a straw shack. What was most sad was the fact that 45% of Salinas’s children passed away before the age of five.

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But what was keeping the villagers from rising above their unfortunate circumstances? Put most simply, they did not yet know how to organize. This is where Antonio came in.

How Did Antonio Polo Aid the Town of Salinas?

Antonio founded the Cooperative Society, an organization of villagers working for the good of the community. They discovered that, legally, the town’s greatest resource, salt, did not belong to the landlords but was owned by whoever organized to extract it. The realization that the residents owned Salinas’s greatest resource was the first step towards liberation.

Of course, even with the villagers now directly profiting off of the salt mines, more work needed to be done. Antonio had the brilliant idea of starting a company called Salinerito, which sold cheeses. 

Many of the townspeople already had experience making cheese for the landlords. With a bit of learning, they were soon making cheeses worthy of being sold in Quito, Ecuador’s largest city.

Today, Salinerito is sold in Ecuador, France, Italy, Spain, and even Japan. The products have expanded beyond cheese into chocolate, meat, and medicinal herbs.

Because of Antonio, Salinas’s natives have been able to make livings for themselves and build a thriving community based on solidarity, rather than servitude.

Because of Antonio’s organization of the villagers, thousands of families were brought out of poverty. However, Antonio does not take sole responsibility for the progress of the company.

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Click HERE to watch Cathy Jasso’s feature documentary

Antonio Polo on the Importance of Remaining Humble

Because Antonio’s work is so centered around solidarity between community members, he cannot in good faith act as if he is the sole reason for the growth of Salinas. 

While he taught the villagers how to organize, and even in his old age plays a vital role in the Cooperative Society’s functioning, he always reminds the villagers that they are just as important as he is. 

Antonio Polo is a Catholic missionary whose accomplishments extend far beyond the spread of religion. An Italian native, he came to Salinas, Ecuador in 1970 to provide assistance to locals who were impoverished due to harsh conditions imposed by their affluent landlords. 

What was supposed to be a four-month stay turned into 50+ years, as Antonio has devoted his life to creating co-operatives within the village, providing its residence with self-sustainability. 

Antonio Polo Resources

For more information on Salinerito, please see the following links:

Visit the Website.

Check out the town’s Facebook.

Catch up on their Instagram.

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