2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage

2012 Cuenca Perspectives Collage


My mission in publishing this blog is first to provide a living history of my settlement and life in Cuenca, and to provide myself and the reader with a journal account delineating my reasons for why I have chosen to settle in Cuenca. Second, the posts are my way of staying in contact with family and friends back in the states, and to provide them with an understanding of a country and culture that most North Americans have little knowledge and awareness. Third, the blog is open to one and all who wish to compare and contrast the experiences of expat bloggers living in Cuenca, so that you can determine whether or not from your perspective Cuenca is an appropriate move for you. Fourth, my blog provides another example of how expats view and interpret life in Cuenca. Ecuadorians and Cuencanos who may read this blog are especially invited to post comments that may enhance all expats understanding and appreciation of Cuneca and its people, or to correct any misinterpretations in my assumptions and perceptions of Cuencano culture. Finally, I hope I can convey the feeling of love and appreciation that grows within me each passing day for this heavenly city nestled in the Andes and its very special people.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


While my brother, Leo, his wife, Carla, and I were visiting in Guayaquil we walked along two or three streets that paralleled the Malecon Drive.  Primarily, we were seeking a place for lunch.  Restaurants seemed far and in-between.  Restaurant scarcity seemed odd in an area dense with financial institutions and government office buildings.  We did find a crowded corner restaurant, which offered a buffet amuerzo.  It was heart-warming to see how quickly the young wait-staff went to work to find us a table and help Carla get herself situated as we made our way down the tight aisles on one of the few days we used a wheel chair.  I don't recall if we were the only gringos in the place, but the staff having to deal with a crush of customers, went out of their way to get us situated and explain the procedure for using the buffet and the various dishes available on the buffet.  I don't how my brother pulled it off. I wasn't standing next to him when he went through the buffet line, but while I had to make choices among the food items offered, Leo just told the server that he wanted one of everything, and that's what they gave him for the same price.

After lunch we walked along the city streets and snapped photos of the beautiful architecture in that part of town near the Malecon.  I didn't take notes on the buildings we saw, so all I have to share with you are the unidentified architectural facade photos.  In the opening slides along the sides of some tall buildings, if I understood correctly, were actual paintings done by well known Ecuadorian artists. It would be great to see a project like that completed in Cuenca.  If not with well-known Ecuadorian artists, then certainly with established and up-and-coming Cuencano artists, who can be free to express their own thing.

We also visited the the Museo Nahim Isaiah, which has a collection of over 2,000 art works.  The exhibits are particularly focused on colonial art and religious art.  Many videos are scattered throughout the exhibits with what I assume were explanations of the history of much of what was being presented on exhibit, since the videos were presented in Spanish.  Those of you from Chicago, who have seen the European religious art on display in the Art Institute would be underwhelmed by most of the paintings on display here.  However, it was interesting to see the contrast in South American artistic take on how the religious art was presented in the various statues and paintings. What I enjoyed the most was the museum structure itself.  It is a beautiful modern building inaugurated in 1989, architecturally designed as truly an art work unto itself, and I did enjoy the way in which many of the works of art were presented without just simply flat-wall lining.

I don't know what many parts of Guayaquil look like  However, near the Malecon, and the plaza walkway a couple of blocks in from the Malecon Drive, one couldn't visit a more nicely maintained area.   The area reminded me of the improvements being made in Cuenca, as well as the improvements that need to be made.  As I said in the previous post, we abruptly made this trip without any research, other than Ecuadorian friends who had told me that the Malecon was one area worth a visit in Guayaquil, and that as we found, was very safe.

A number of major projects are currently underway, or will soon be undertaken in Cuenca.  Such projects include the construction of the underpass on Avenidas de las Americas and Gran Columbia; the excavation along part of the Third of Noviembre, where as I understand it, many cables are being placed underground; construction of many new walkways and observation points have been built along the Rio Tomebama in the past year;  major renovations and rejuvenations of the open air San Francisco Market are to begin soon; the first leg of the electric bus line along Gran Columbia is to begin this year in El Centro, and eventually extend to other streets in El Centro to discourage auto traffic as well as replace the polluting combustible engine gas buses;  twelve miles of new sidewalk construction in El Centro is also scheduled for this year, and is sorely needed; and  Parke Madre will soon be excavated to make room for a 350 car underground garage, and an entirely new park with high quality grade running lanes for joggers will be constructed.  The destruction of this park will be sad to see, along with the loss of so many mature trees.  It will take fifteen to twenty years before the new park will have the beautiful shade trees that form a canopy over many sections of the current park, but in the long-run the park will give greater benefit to the people, and no doubt more parking spaces are needed.

All the delineated above projects cost money and as far as I know are fully funded.  Ironically, two things can be done to spruce up El Centro that would be very inexpensive compared to the above costly projects, and go a long way in improving the beauty of the historic district.  Many commercial buildings in El Centro, no matter what renovations may or may not be needed to their interiors, are sorely in need of fresh paint jobs and in some places fresh plaster to the exterior of the buildings as well.  One example of facades in need of fresh paint jobs, are the buildings that house the Ramipampa Restaurant and Tutu Freddos on Benigno Malo. Especially considering that these buildings are next to the New Cathedral, and within eye view of anyone walking or sitting in Parke Calderon.  One would think coordinated steps between property owners and city officials would work out a plan to spruce up the facades of many of these buildings.  Some buildings only need a fresh paint job at street level, and look fine further up.  While many structures have undergone extensive renovation and restored to their Spanish Renaissance magnificence,  Simple paint jobs to many other facades would certainly contribute to the beauty and freshness of El Centro.

The other problem continues to morph into monstrous proportions since last summer and that is the egregious tagging that has become pervasive like a lethal virus throughout the city.  I have had a number of tourists in recent weeks wonder how a city can be rated the number one city for retirement, or has been designated by UNESCO as an International Preservation Historical Site, and so little respect seems to be shown by the residents of a city with acts of cultural indifference to their heritage by all this pervasive tagging.  Fresh paint and curbing of the tagging problem are two simple things that can be addressed. Neither are cost exorbitant, and yet would go far to enhance the beauty and magnificence of the historic district.

Here's the link to Guayaquil:  Click on the slideshow link in the upper left-hand corner, and best to just quickly click on the forward arrow, so you can control the speed at which you wish to observe each slide.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Visiting Guayaquil--PART I-- THE MALECON

When I first arrived in Ecuador in July of 2010 for my one month visit to Cuenca, I stayed overnight in Guayaquil.  The passage through customs was long and grueling.  It was well past midnight, and getting settled into a comfortable hotel, and sleeping for a few hours before preparation for my flight to Cuenca did not give me the opportunity to experience Guayaquil in any meaningful way.  I just remembered the great hotel I slept in that night, the wonderful bell-hop who assisted me, the humidity, and the warning not to venture far from the hotel because of crime.

If you wish to read about that first day of arrival in Guayaquil, Ecuador; you may do so at the following link:


Since I have lived in Cuenca, I have heard universal stories about the corruption and crime levels in Guayaquil, how it is Ecuador's industrial city, not very attractive as industrial cities go,  with not much to do, and with little in the way of cultural activities.  A few months ago I briefly made a transportation transfer from Playas on the coast, to Guayaquil, and back to Cuenca.  The humidity in the city was stifling, and I did not care if I never set foot in Guayaquil again.

When my brother, Leo, and his wife, Carla, took me for a loop, and suddenly announced they wanted to spend a few days of their two weeks in Cuenca to visit Guayaquil and experience another part of Ecuador as well; I was abruptly caught off guard.  I decided the one positive place I had heard about in the city to visit was the Malecon.  The Malecon 2000, as it had been aptly named,  had been developed in recent years, and runs for about three miles along the Guayas River in Guayaquil, which leads to the Pacific Ocean.

I was really happy we made the trip.  The weather was humid, but tolerable during the two nights and three days that we visited.  Both days it rained during the morning, and it was all cleared up by late morning, and remained that way the rest of the day.  We stayed at the Ramada Inn which is across the street from the Malecon.  It was very clean, with spacious rooms, reasonably priced, and had an excellent handicap room and shower to accommodate my sister-in-law.

For those of you from the Chicago area, I can best describe the Malecon as being somewhat comparable to Navy Pier, only instead of protruding into the lake like Navy Pier, the Malecon parallels the Guayas River for approximately three miles.  A very beautiful job was done with the layout of the Malecon and the endless attractions it has to offer.  However, the Malecon does lack the dramatic effect provided to Navy Pier and the coastline by Lake Michigan, whose expanse on the horizon is far beyond what the eye can see.  Nor does the river, like Lake Michigan, provide the rolling waves that continuously wash up and break along the shoreline of the Great Lake.  The Guayas River is wide, and like any river one can see its bank on its opposite side, but it probably is wider than all four rivers together that meander through Cuenca.  However, the water basically just lies there.  This is quite a contrast from the very narrow four rivers which run through Cuenca. These river waters follow the gravitational force downward from the Cajas, and the large amount of rocks found in these unnavigable rivers, only adds to the excitement of the rapids as they pulsate through Cuenca.  I would describe the movement of the river in Guayaquil  at best as serene, and at worse as lifeless.

Nevertheless, the Malecon itself was well worth our time, and a creation that the people of Guyaquil can be very proud.  It offers casual relaxation not only to the tourists, but to those people of Guayaquil who are fortunate enough to take advantage of its amenities.  We spent from Monday until Wednesday in Guayaquil, and I just can imagine the crowds present on the weekends.  Late afternoon and early evening was a nice time for us, with less humidity and some breezes off the river.

Besides being an exceptionally  beautifully designed, expansive walkway, the Malecon offers something for everybody:  museums; botanical gardens with fountains, lagoons, islands, bridges, and ramps; playground areas for the kids; boat rides up and down he river; historical statues and monuments; a Moorish Clock Tower; restaurants, bars, and endless eateries; shopping malls that are ensconced at a lower level stretching along the esplanade with the multiple cellular structures of the overall mall prevented from dominating the space around it.  The mall complex is fully air-conditioned, and separated into sections as one walks from one section of the mall to another as it snakes its way along the esplanade.  There are also attractive and fun playgrounds for the children.  The Malecon is also home to the Guayaquil Yacht Club, and the Naval Yacht Club.

We were not interested in taking a boat ride, and my brother and his wife tired the first evening.  They returned back to the hotel, while I continued my walk along the river.  The next latter afternoon and early evening we walked the same length, because Leo and Carla had missed so much from the day before.  By the time we arrived back to the entrance area of the Malecon near our hotel, we did not continue down to the other end.  I assumed it could not be but a half a mile to a mile, because the stretch we had already walked in just one direction seemed like at least two miles.  The following day as we made our way in the taxi from the hotel to catch our van ride back to Cuenca, we drove past the part of the Malecon that we never did get a chance to walk.  Much to our surprise we saw as we rode by:  the Planetarium; the Museum of Anthropology, which also features local and international artists, with frequent changes in exhibitions; and of course, that was also the area where the IMAX Theatre, the first built in South America, was located.  Oh well, something for me to look forward to the next time I am in Guayaquil, and I will be looking forward to telling Leo and Carla all about what they missed.

I hope you enjoy the slides.  I do not have any slides of the mall.  I just didn't think to take any while we walked through
the mall, and of course, there are no slides of the museums and IMAX that we missed at the other end of the Malecon.  Nonetheless, this is truly a trip worth taking.  If you don't know the routine yet.  Click below.  Click on the "slideshow" label in the upper left-hand corner of the page.  Either set the timer for seven seconds, or as I would recommend just continue to manually click on the forward arrow, and then you can view each slide at your pace:


Friday, March 16, 2012

VISITING CUENCA--Part II--Mall Del Rio Dance Program

Last Saturday, March 10th, Martha Abril and I took my brother, Leo and my sister-in-law, Carla to the Food Court of Mall Del Rio, for a dance program.  Martha's son Joshua who is fourteen years old, and her daughter, Amy, who just celebrated her ninth birthday were both performing during the program.  Amy recently took a silver in a country-wide dance competition in Quito, which was especially amazing since at the time she had only been dancing six months.

The dance was sponsored by the Fama School of Dance.  The information below is taken from a post by Larry Marler and his wife, Linda, who are expats who stay young and healthy as dance students of the school:

FAMA School of Dance and Bailoterapia

David Ortega - Dance Choreographer 

Location:  Av. del Estadio y Roberto Crespo (Edificio El Estadio next to Pronto Pizza), Cuenca

David also has a group of dancers that performs shows around Cuenca.  His dance troupe has put on shows at California Kitchen and the Eucalyptus Cafe, plus many others.

You can also get dance lessons for:  Salsa, Bachata, Meringue, Hip-Hop, Reggaeton, Cha-Cha-Cha, and Tango.

Bailoterapia:  0700 - 0900  ($1.00 per hour) + $5,00 inscription for the year and 2000 - 2100

Phones:  07 286 6228; Cellphones 08 795 4749, 08 582 0762.

My disappointment with the program was that with my relatives in town, I had hoped for them to experience some of the dance programs that would give them a real experience of traditional as well as contemporary dance.  Some of the programs I have attended during my year here in Cuenca featured a variety of dances, with some young performers in their traditional, amazingly colorful costumes and greatly talented in their presentations.  These presentations would have been something  Leo and Carla very much would have enjoyed.  Some programs I've seen have also featured some of Cuenca's finest Salsa as well as Tango dancers.  

This program was strictly contemporary dancing which can be seen among young people almost anywhere in the world, although no doubt the performers were talented and performed well.  The large audience certainly had a good time, and so did we. The program included  aerobic dancing by folks in the packed food court who chose to participate, while members of FAMA SCHOOL of DANCE led the aerobic dancing. There was also a belly dancing performance by a young man and two attractive young ladies.  I had seen them perform before some months ago, and they have definitely gone from performing well to performing to a very good status.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I don't have any pictures of their performance.

As the program approached its close, the audience by their applause and cheers judged who among the voluntary aerobic dancers was the best.  A young man who you will see in a black tee shirt after multiple reactions by the audience emerged the winner over a young woman who was also very good.  The young man won a two day stay at a hotel, while the young woman won a month of free lessons at FAMA SCHOOL.  Getting carried away in my enthusiastic exuberance, I promised that I would begin to take Salsa lessons in June when I return from my trip home to the states.  It is amazing the things with which I continuously preoccupy my time to keep from seriously studying mi Espanol.  I use to know the basic steps to the Tango, and I loved to Cha Cha.  Maybe, I'll take up Hip Hop as well, and if my heart holds out, give Joshua Abril a run for his money.

Here is the link below.  You click on the slide show in the upper left hand corner and set the timer for two seconds, or you can just continue to click on the forward arrow of the slide presentation at your own pace of preference..  

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


The past four weeks have presented me with an extraordinarily busy social life, and peaked with my brother, Leo, and his wife Carla, spending two weeks with me in Cuenca that flashed by quickly.  While we saw all the usual sites in Cuenca, and it gave Leo and Carla the opportunity to get a feel for the city, I sometimes think we did way too much which gave us little time to relax and get a leisurely feel for the city.  At least from my perspective, I felt more like we were tourists that had to get as much as we could squeeze into two weeks, but Carla and Leo seem to have an enjoyable time.  In fact, enjoyable enough that my brother already wants to visit more of South America with a visit to Santiago, Chili next year.  Our two weeks together also included three days in Guayaquil, which I will have more to share in later posts.

The next few posts will provide coverage of our two week marathon.  Today's post sports photos of our day at Feria Libre the largest outdoor market in Cuenca.  I chose Wednesday to visit the market, because Wednesday along with Saturday are the two busiest days at the market, when the vendors are endless.  My sister-in-law began with her wifely duty of shopping, while my brother did his husbandly duty of pulling out his wallet.  Carla bought a cape that goes well even with blue jeans, and it took her no time to find a hat she liked.  Leo just was not going to go for any Panama style hats, and stuck with his cap.  Except for our first evening at eating at Ramipampa Restuarant which is nestled to the right of the Immaculate Conception or what is better known as the New Cathedral, and to the left of Tutto Freddo's Ice Cream Parlor; lunch at Feria Libre was one of the few really everyday type of Ecuadorian amuerzos my brother and his wife would get to experience.

The people who sat around the table with us were helpful and friendly even though none of them spoke English and went out of their way to make room for us at the table.  Leo and Carla gave the meal two thumbs up.

Enclosed is a slide presentation of our time at Feria Libre:  (Just click on slideshow in the upper left hand corner, so you can see enlarged photos, then click the time from 3 to 7 seconds, so you have a chance to briefly savor the slide.)