Hopes raised among Ecuadorian plantation workers to receive compensation after judge ruled they had been victims of modern-day slavery in historic ruling

Susana Quinonez was born and raised on an abaca tree plantation along Ecuador’s western coast where back-breaking work and extreme poverty were what passed for a normal childhood.

For 16 years, Afro-Ecuadorian Quinonez labored on the estate, stripping abaca fibre from the stalks of banana trees, removing the pulp then washing and drying the yarn for export to the United States and Europe to use in paper, cars, and teabags.

She recalled rising at dawn to cook by candelight on a wood-fired stove. Dodging snakes, Quinonez would navigate narrow dirt paths carved between endless rows of trees, to work 12-hour shifts before returning to her bare, cramped concrete hut.