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.

Saturday, August 24, 2013


I published a post sometime ago on the Tagging and Graffiti problem in Cuenca, which has become so endemic that it cancels out most of the beautification efforts in Cuenca.  What is sadder than for tourists and passerbys to see attractive new pathways along Avenida Third of Noviembre by the Rio Tomebama already scarred with senseless tagging.  Unfortunately, city officials do not care to address this problem in any meaningful way, and the Cuencanos I have spoken with just shrug their shoulders like what's the big deal.  I didn't think that such apathy and indifference on the part of the city and its citizens was a cultural value in Cuenca, because the problem hardly existed until August of 2011 when it became endemic.  Why suddenly at that time, such degrading behavior began to spread, I can not explain.  It just began to happen.

Some gringos point out that Rome is infamous for its tagging and graffiti and it hasn't hurt their tourist industry.  Well, first I know this sounds very Un-American, but aesthetics is an important part of life that should not be based simply on whether or not the marring of a city affects the financial bottom-line.  Second, Cuenca is not Rome.  Cuenca has many attractive fifteenth century colonial structures of Renaissance architecture with an El Centro that still maintains a fairly Old World feel to it.  However, Cuenca is no Rome with Vatican City, St. Peter's Bascilica, the Colleseum, fountains and monuments that dwarf anything Cuenca has to offer, and a church history and an empire history that transcends 2,000 years and can more than compensate for its dirty and shabby appearance marred in graffiti and tagging in many parts of the Eternal City.  To date, the problem has only gotten worse in Cuenca to the point where new tagging is being spray painted over old tagging due to a lack of open spaces on some walls immersed in mindless spray painting, and the problem is being left unaddressed.  Because the problem has been allowed to go unabated in El Centro, it has begun to spread into other areas as well, which include the outer walls of some of the most affluent neighborhoods in the city.

Why pay public workers to soap, scrub, and hose down the plazas and pick up trash everyday, and then neutralize their fine efforts with the lower levels of almost every building in El Centro covered in mindless tagging?  Why rebuild and paint the facades of buildings only to have the lower levels disfigured by individuals bereft of any talent and creativity to do anything positive?  Yes, I apologize for applying logic to an illogical world.

Secondly, I published a later post http://cuencaperspectivesbyjim.blogspot.com/2013/05/

A-proposal for the Majestic-Beautification of  Cuenca based upon beautification efforts in China that could easily be applied to Cuenca where flowers and plants are readily available and inexpensive, in a climate where such plants could for the most part survive and be on display the year round.  I have been told by some gringos, of course, that the idea would go nowhere, because no one would push for something in which they can't figure out a way to make a buck from it.  I at this point don't believe most Cuencanos think like most gringos, but these kinds of projects become initiated by those in leadership positions, and these may be the type of Cuencanos who won't support a project that won't result in votes or extra money in their pockets.  I hope I am wrong, and in one economic sense, such a project would certainly make Cuenca even more attractive to tourists and to both foreigners and Ecuadorians as a place to visit and to live.

Thirdly, Presidente Correa recently announced that the gas and oil subsidies, which have allowed Ecuadorians to use home fuel and to drive private vehicles well below market world prices will end in two short years.  I hope that public transportation like buses and taxis will be exempted, and their subsidies will continue.  Major increases in the cost of public transportation would be very  prohibitive for many Cuecanos, the majority of whom depend upon public transportation.

At the same time, the impact on the sale of private transportation most likely will result in fewer car sales, which would entail fewer autos on the roads, or at least a major slow down in any growth of autos on Ecuadorian highways.  This slow-down would be especially welcomed as a way to lighten if not end the increasingly insane clogging of arteries in Cuenca as autos attempt to get in and out of the city during certain times of the day.  Not to mention the traffic congestion caused during the numerous festivals held throughout the year.  Streets in Cuenca, particularly in El Centro were not made for modern day traffic and can not be widened.  There are times when I literally get out of a taxi and walk the three or four blocks in El Centro to my destination, because I can walk it faster than the taxi can get me there.

When Cuencanos find that they will suddenly have to pay possibly three times what they now pay for gasoline, assuming current oil market prices hold.  Much of the congestion problem may be solved overnight.  Electric buses would also be a move in the right direction, although to date city officials to my knowledge show no interest in the purchase and use of electric or hybrid buses.  On the other hand, the European style of light rail traffic presently being initiated in Cuenca is also in the long-run going to make a major improvement in the reduction of traffic congestion.  However, that light rail system of interlocking transits throughout the city is expected to take at least ten years to complete.  In the meantime, as more buses are currently being re-routed out of El Centro and if fewer autos find their way onto the streets of Cuenca, especially in El Centro;  Cuenca does offer the year round climate that could make mopeds and bicycles an appropriate and inexpensive way for many people to get around the city, reducing traffic congestion, noise, and carbon pollution.

Needless to say, who better to offer a technological breakthrough that could be applied to Cuenca than the Japanese.  The following short video and it use of robotics, underground storage, retrieval, and security of bicycles is a Japanese marvel that is sure to spread to many parts of the world.  Why can't Cuenca be among the early leaders in the implementation of such a project?  It makes more sense than encouraging more cars to drive into El Centro by building more public garages.  The construction of more public garages is counter-intuitive to the purpose for building the light transit rail systems, as is the replacement of  buses in El Centro only to accommodate more congestion with more cars.

I encourage you to watch the following video.  It will amaze you.


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Wednesday, August 14, 2013


The following article was published on Cuenca Highlife, which is an online publication featuring articles on an almost daily basis dealing with Cuenca, Cuencano culture, and Ecuadorian politics when it impacts the lives of people living in Cuenca.  The publication is of high quality, published in English, and is a great resource for gringos who live in Cuenca and for those who consider visiting or moving to Cuenca.  

One of today's articles is an excellent piece written by Gerard Alvarez, which provides insights in particular to those living abroad who are considering moving to Cuenca or its surrounding area in Azuay province.  Here is the link for Cuenca Highlights, if you would like to bookmark it:


Cuenca and Azuay Province popular with Ecuadorians returning from the U.S. to build their dream homes Posted By Admin | Published: August 13, 2013 02:55
By Gerard Alvarez
Patricio Matute is building his dream house in the Ecuadorian Andean mountains near Cuenca, thanks in part to the 10 years he spent working at a boat canvas factory in Ronkonkoma, New York. The two-story, Swiss-chalet-style house will have a swimming pool, a soccer field and an outdoor kitchen sheltered by a red tile roof. A trout stream runs in front of the property.
Matute's home, 20 miles east of Cuenca, isn't even the most impressive one that immigrants on Long Island are building in the area. Some look like small hotels, rising four stories high next to the mud houses their neighbors inhabit. Dozens of the big homes dot the Andean mountainsides outside of Gualaceo, a town of 10,000 people.
Millions of immigrants from Ecuador and throughout Latin America have headed to the United States and Europe in the last few decades in search of the storied American dream. But for many, the dream will be realized only when they return home to the houses they build with money earned in the United States.
The area around Cuenca, including Gualaceo, is the most popular region for returning Ecuadorians, according to real estate experts. "Cuenca has always been magical for Ecuadorians," says Marco Lopez, a real estate consultant in Quito. "Even those who are from other parts of the country want to live in Cuenca. This holds true for Ecuadorians living overseas too." Lopez says that 30% to 40% of real estate sales in Azuay Province are to returning Ecuadorians. "They keep the market very healthy." 
Lopez adds that there's a misconception that North American and European expats are a major driver of the local market. "They buy property but are really marginal in the overall picture. Of course, the gringos like to think they are having a major impact in the market but they really aren't."
The more luxurious homes feature large tinted windows, upper-floor balconies and grand entrances flanked by pillars. Many are half-finished and empty, waiting for their owners up north to earn enough to complete them. Often, it takes years.
While not all the homes are mansions, they are still far better than what the average Ecuadorean can afford.
The money the immigrants send home also helps their families survive, paying for food, clothes and schooling in a country where many workers earn about $200 a month. Natives of Gualaceo send home an estimated $80 million a year, said Murillo, who is assisting Lucero's family.
Many of the migrants go to the United States illegally because visas are difficult to obtain.
Murillo said it is common for the estimated 1.5 million Ecuadorean immigrants in the United States, including thousands on Long Island, to eventually return home to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
"Everybody wants to go back to their roots, to their families," he said.
One reason is that their lives in places such as Patchogue often can be dreary and summed up by one word: work. Commonly they will hold two full-time jobs, starting work as early as 7 a.m. and finishing at midnight or later.
"You work like a burro, but you return like a king," said Matute, 30. "You have your mansion waiting for you."
He said his house will cost about $120,000, including the property. He still has to work in Ecuador to pay for it, and holds a few jobs including selling bottled gas. He expects it to be complete in November.
Beyond their new houses, the immigrants return because they miss their country, their culture, their family and friends. Back home, they feel, their lives are richer.
Juan Pablo Jadan had a job as a waiter at upscale restaurants such as Louis XVI in Patchogue and Tellers in Islip. But he recently returned to Gualaceo after 20 years.
"I got very tired of the United States," Jadan, 38, said in Spanish. "Something in my heart told me to come home."
He said many of his friends had been on Long Island when their elderly parents died in Ecuador, and he didn't want that to happen to him.
Murillo noted that not everything is perfect when the immigrants return to Ecuador. Many find their savings quickly evaporate, and work opportunities are sparse.
Some end up returning to the United States, Murillo said. "It's a cycle."
"The United States is like a maximum-security prison," Jadan said. He said many Latinos feel isolated in the United States because of discrimination. "Here in my country, we are in paradise."
Photo caption: A home built by returning Ecuadorians in Challuabamba, near Cuenca.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


I actually arose very early for me at about 8:00 a.m., so I could view Cuenca's Ten Kilometer Race on May 14th, particularly with thousands of runners making their way down the narrow avenues of Cuenca, and running in the high altitude of 8,500 feet.  My Ecuatoriano amigo encouraged me to come out and see the race.  I brought my camera, hoping to catch a shot or two of him somewhere along the racing paths.  Needless to say, I never spotted mi amigo once in the mob scene of racers.  However, he did swear he not only was there participating in the run, but also completed the race as well.

As mi amigo got into shape for the race, he ran the ten kilometers one night.  The next night I went with him on the promise that we would walk the ten kilometers.  We accomplished the walk in about three hours late at night around midnight.  Walking through mi amigo's neighborhood areas was a challenge, not from fear of any humans.  I discovered what all those dogs do that sleep all day sprawled on the sidewalks and don't bother anyone.  They are in packs at night.  Four times we were surrounded by dogs who barked and growled.  I had my pepper spray ready, as we walked very slowly through each pack we encountered.  As close as the dogs got to us within inches, not once did any of them try to attack or bite us.  Neither did we  make any quick moves.  Once we were out of their territory, the dogs backed off and left us alone.

The photos of the race can be viewed here as a slide show or you can control the view of each photo.  Either way, you need to click on the first photo for enlargement of all the photos.  Almost all of the enlarged photos contain a commentary about the race and where the racers are running in Cuenca.  You'll see some nice views of the city as well as its colonial architecture.