JACKSON HEIGHTS, Queens (WABC) -- Thousands of miles of ocean and land separate the U.S. from Ecuador, but with hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians calling New York home, the violence and unrest in their home country have become more apparent.
Ecuador's president is calling it an internal armed conflict against terrorist groups running rampant. This is happening nearly 3,000 miles away, but for the more than 420,000 Ecuadorians living in New York, it's a crisis that is not being ignored.
Renee Barzola is the owner of Barzola's Restaurant, a popular Ecuadorian eatery on 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens. On Thursday, he had his family in Ecuador on his mind.
"Little by little they have been getting visits from -- I don't know how to call, terrorists, coming in and if you guys don't want us to hurt you, pay us a fee, we'll keep going," Barzola said. "And then if you don't, come back, they hurt somebody, shoot somebody, blow up the place. It's just a tragedy what's going on."
Ecuadorian President Daniel Noboa has declared a State of Emergency as criminal groups took more than 100 prison staff hostage, armed men interrupted a live television broadcast, and other acts of violence were committed.
New York is home to 35% of the Ecuadorian population in the U.S., with a majority in Queens.
Customers at Barzola's, who are worried about their loved ones, are glad to have this community.
"It's a very dangerous place now." customer Luis Pena says. "Ecuador is going through a crisis right now."
Barzola staff member Byron Canipatin left Ecuador just three years ago, and is hopeful.
"I hope everything becomes more secure over there so my family can be safe," he said. "I don't want to be afraid in my own country."
As for Renee Barzola, he hopes the people enduring the violence back home know people are supporting them.
"We are here with you, and we want to support whatever's going on whatever help you can get, we stand strong with you 100%," he said.
The Consulate General of Ecuador in New York has been posting updates online about the situation abroad, saying Ecuadorians are stronger than this adversity and remind those here in New York who may need assistance, that they are open seven days a week.