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.