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.

Thursday, June 8, 2017



U.S. Baby Boomer Gentrification Wreaks Havoc on City in Socialist Ecuador

The small city of Cuenca, Ecuador is struggling to address a growing wave of American “Baby Boomers” who have decided to retire there to take advantage of a socialist welfare state designed for its locals.

U.S. retirees, a recent city study revealed, are also causing conflict in the city, raising real estate prices, demanding English-language service, and threatening to sue locals accustomed to more “casual” business contracts.
In a report this week, the Miami Herald highlights the blissful existence of upper-class white American migrants who have flocked to Cuenca, attracted by retiree blogs and news sites that emphasize the appeal of its temperate weather and inexpensive healthcare and real estate.
“In Cuenca, a city of about 350,000 people, they’ve found robust public transportation, an extensive museum network, solid healthcare and markets bursting with fresh fruits and produce,” the Herald notes. “It’s a place where their two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath apartment costs less than $400 a month. They’ve found that for about $1,500 a month, they can live a solidly upper-class lifestyle, dining out frequently and traveling.” The newspaper notes that a bus ride for seniors costs $0.12, and medical procedures are orders of magnitude cheaper than they would be at home.
The city commissioned a study on its foreign population in February 2017 that identified the majority of these new Cuencans as “‘baby boomers’ who began retiring in 2010 and… 4 percent of this population, estimated at 78 million, is planning to retire abroad.” North American countries – mostly the U.S. and Canada – make up 93 percent of Cuenca’s foreign population.
Cuenca’s “boomers” are more likely to have been professors before retirement than any other occupations, with “executives” coming in second place. The study delicately notes that many of these individuals “are not interested in being part of a new culture, and are more interested in that the city and its people respond to their needs and demands.”
Paramount among the city’s concerns is that many Americans are demanding Cuencans speak English and creating English-speaking neighborhoods within the city. “There is a large group for which learning a language is outside of their interests and, faced with the frustration of not being able to communicate, express annoyance with Cuencans who do not tend to their demands in English,” the study reads, adding that the city has invested in Spanish and idiomatic dictionaries for the new residents, but this has not solved the problem.
Boomers are also annoyed by “the ‘slowness’ of service” in Ecuador compared to the United States, and the common use of verbal or informal contracts. “Cases have been reported in which retired foreigners suggest a lawsuit against those who have not completed a previously agreed upon work,” the report notes.
In addition to cultural tensions, the study notes that 65 percent of the native Cuencan population is under 35, and many are frustrated that they must pay taxes and invest in the welfare state that foreign retiree migrants are now abusing.
The Herald story, which cites some findings from this study, is the latest trend piece on Cuenca in a crowded genre. The Cuenca study followed years of anecdotal journalism noting the idiosyncratic Boomer wave moving south. The city of Cuenca, in a study published in February, found its foreign population grew 173 percent between 2001 and 2010. By 2012, outlets like the BBC were calling it an American “promised land.” That article traced the Cuenca viral sensation among retiree migrants back to an article on the website Gringo Tree, which in turn noted that the wave of thousands of American ex-pats hitting the city followed the 2009 publication of an article in International Living that described the city as “the top destination in the world to retire.”
At the time, Cuenca’s International Relations Director Dani Jara appeared pleased by the new influx of high spenders to her city. She told BBC, “Tourism we promote, one creates strategies for the medium and long term. But in the case of a migratory phenomenon, that is due to the city conditions. Cuenca has grown throughout its history into a city where one can live well.”
By 2013, Cuenca Mayor Paul Granda was describing the mass migrant wave as “a little complicated for us.” “The city is less accessible to Ecuadorians” due to the wealthy Americans flocking there, he argued to ABC News, noting that average prices of basic goods had increased 40 to 50 percent.
Two years later, Ecuador’s Secretary of the Vice Ministry of Human Mobility was warning of wealthy American “ghettos” threatening the character of Cuenca. “There should not be ghettos forming in zones where Americans live, versus those who live permanently in these places,” Humberto Cordero said. The migration, he urged, “must be regulated.”
Cuenca’s American invasion was not regulated, in part because local businesses and real estate owners preferred selling and renting to Americans. “They care for their spaces and pay what is fair,” Cuencan homeowner MarĂ­a Torres told Ecuador’s El Comercio newspaper last year. She noted that their comfortable economic status and lack of children made for quiet, reliable tenants.
The government has nonetheless continued to express concern over American migrants overrunning the city. New International Relations Director Ana Paulina Crespo told the Herald in this week’s column that “Cuencanos are feeling like strangers in their own city” and emphasized, “Cuenca never wanted to attract retirees… we’re facing lots of problems over how to deal with a phenomenon that we aren’t responsible for creating.”
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For those who may wish to peruse the comments section to the Breitbart article, here is the link again:

I would like to discuss a few corrections to the above article and to some of the comments in the comment section:
Cuenca is a city of approximately 310,000 people, and its canton (county) population is a little over 600,000 people. There are approximately 7,000 to 9,000 expats (Almost exclusively Americans, Canadians, and Europeans; who hold dual citizenship or who are permanent legal residents.) However, the actual expat population in Cuenca at any given time is approximately 4,000 to 5,000 people. Some expats procured legal residency with the intent of using it on a permanent basis if the political climate from their perspective continued or continues to deteriorate in the United States, but otherwise, continue to live in the U.S. Some expats intended to remain in Cuenca the rest of their lives, but attenuating circumstances changed those plans Some expats spend a few years of their retirement here, and then as they approach their seventies return home to their families. Most of the expats who have permanent residency without actually living in Cuenca the year-round are snow birds, who may live in Cuenca from two to six months during the North American winter months. Therefore, in the city proper where the vast majority of expats live, their total percentage of the population is approximately 1.5 per cent. Hardly, earth-shattering.
I have found it ironic that at times I have be asked by Cuencanos (people born and raised in Cuenca) and particularly by taxi drivers, if I think there are too many Gringos coming to Cuenca. I am never quite sure why they would ask me as a Gringo such a question, but I have always appreciated their openness to raising the question, and their curiosity about my point of view. (First, let me state that in Ecuador, the term Gringo is not used as a pejorative term; and in fact, we expats adopted it for ourselves, and use it as a badge of honor. One of our leading on-line publications is called the "Gringo Post", and we use to have weekly social Gringo Nights in the city, when there was an influx of Gringos, who needed to learn the ropes and acclimate to their new home.) 

I always reassure Cuecanos when they ask about the growth of Gringos in Cuenca that many of the Gringos they see in El Centro are often tourists who bring money into the economy, and while many check out Cuenca as a place to retire most will never move here. Quite frankly, while there are expats who would love to see Cuenca become another North American city; many of us are contented with the current level of expat population, and do not by any means want to live in a majority expat population. We came to Cuenca, because we wanted to experience and enjoy a Latin culture.
Obviously, in any society, outsiders to a culture will be viewed as outsiders. Some outsiders may be accepted, more outsiders to a society may be tolerated, too many outsiders to a society will be seen as a threat. The threat is especially seen when outsiders are not willing to assimilate to their new culture, but remain aloof or actually want to change the native culture into their own image and likeness, which is happening today with much of Islam all over Western Europe, and with the deliberate initiation and encouragement of the global elites.
While some Cuecanos are concerned about an influx of foreigners taking over their culture. The numbers have stabilized, and there has not been any genuine net gain in expat population since 2014. People from outside Ecuador continue to arrive; while other continue to leave after visits of months or of living for two or three years in Cuenca, and then decide Cuenca was not for them. Unlike practically every American enclave in various countries throughout the world, Cuenca is unique in that the low numbers of expats have spread throughout the city. You will not find any neighborhood in the city that is majority expat. The article on this count is wrong.  There are no rich enclaves of foreigners, who even come close to making up a majority of any neighborhood in Cuenca.
While some Cuencanos will criticize expats, and their complaints, like many expats who are not willing to learn the language beyond rudimentary levels, are valid; it is also understandable that expats who come from societies like the United States, that are expected to provide language translations to customers in businesses, assume the same should be provided in Cuenca. Most Ecuadorian businesses who deal with a significant number of expats; whether it is the restaurant, legal, or banking industry as three examples, have learned to hire some English speaking employees in Cuenca. The number of young people in Cuenca in recent years have observed that it improves their job prospects by learning English. English language schools strive all over the city, and English is taught extensively with varying degrees of effectiveness throughout many of the schools.
The greatest economic and social impact on the city comes from Ecuadorians who legally or illegally were living in the U.S. and have returned to Ecuador voluntarily or involuntarily. Many have money in their pockets, and have been able to return to Cuenca living a middle class life-style by Ecuadorian and sometimes by American standards. They also bring with them cultural accouterments from North America, which begin to impinge favorably or unfavorably upon the local culture dependent upon one's perspective. These returning Ecuadorians far outnumber the expat counterparts, and therefore, have a much larger impact on price increases and upon cultural changes than the small expat community primarily composed of retired expats .
While it may be true according to the Miami Herald article that the single largest group of expats in Cuenca are academics, they would still make up a small plurality of the total expat population. It is just totally false, when some of the commentators extrapolate from the comment in the Herald article that Cuenca is some kind of retirement haven for Left-wing academics. The expat population is tremendously diverse; politically and economically and culturally.
There are expats here who once were very affluent in the U..S. and were greatly hurt financially by the economic crash of 2008. Many of them were entrepreneurs, stock and commodity investors, or contractors in the construction industry. Others were managers and workers who earned upper-middle class salaries, but were forced into early retirement by the economic retraction. Some of them are still affluent by American standards, but can find they can live an even richer life-style here as they once knew in the U.S. before the economic downturn or before retirement adjusted incomes.
In the last three years, Cuenca has experienced an increase in economic refugees from the United States. These are people who basically have little more on which to live than their social security checks. Many refugees find tight budgets in Ecuador, but easier than trying to survive financially in the U.S. However, some of these folks often do not want to be here, and needless to say, some of them make no effort to hide their animosity, and those who behave in this fashion are resented by both Ecuadorians and expats alike.
Another great myth in this article is the idea that expats can come to Ecuador and live an upper-middle class or lower upper class life-style on $1,500 a month and even travel as well. Absolutely, totally false, especially if we are speaking of a couple. People can find some very middle class apartments on that income, but will be pinching pennies  on an $18,000 annual income. A $30,000 income would be more in line for two to live an American-styled, upper middle class existence for two. Expect the need for an even larger income, if you think that you are going to be a traveling globe trotter while living in Cuenca.
While it is true that Ecuador has a socialist government, so does the United States. The U.S. currently is less socialist only in the sense that unlike Ecuador, it does not have universal health care coverage provided by the government. Even Ecuador's newly inaugurated president, although the leader of the socialist party, sounds like President Trump when talking about less regulations on businesses and lower taxes on businesses to jump-start the economy. Otherwise, the United States in its mixed capitalist economy provides all the social welfare benefits even more extensively than the Ecuadorian economy could afford; not only to the low income, but to the corporate welfare rolls as well.
There are Ecuadorians who understand why President Trump wants to build a wall or at least limit immigration, and especially end illegal immigration. As some of them have mentioned to me, "You would not be allowed to remain in Ecuador if you did not meet our immigration requirements, so why should Ecuadorians expect it to be any different?" Even now, many middle class and professional Venezuelans have been entering Ecuador to escape from the mess the communists have produced in that country. They are competing with Ecuadorians in a tight job market since the collapse of oil prices; and the government is and has been taking action against illegal immigration particularly from Cuba, Columbia, Peru, and now Venezuela.
Of course, many low-income Ecuadorians don't care about the niceties of law, and if they have an opportunity to enter the U.S. to improve their lives for themselves and their family back home; I can't blame them for taking advantage of a country that allows its laws to be flaunted and not enforced. That is up to the American people to elect officials to enforce their laws, and to limit immigration in ways that benefit the people of the United States. Every culture should have a right to protect itself, and every country should have a right to protect its sovereignty. Only White Anglo societies and White European societies are being denied that right in today's world. However, they can only be denied that right, if they themselves continue to elect Cultural Marxists and globalists to governed over them.
One of the biggest contentions in Ecuador has been over the number of expats who came to Ecuador to take advantage of the medical system, particularly when they were not yet old enough to be eligible for Medicare, and then returned to the U.S. after exploiting the medical system in Ecuador. Many expats had serious illnesses, and literally contributed to the bankruptcy of hospital-sponsored insurance programs, and private insurance plans. Many of these programs were somewhat flimsy to begin with, did not have actuarials hired to determine price effectiveness; and it appears that private health insurance companies emerging from this mess of a few years ago may be learning from their mistakes. 
The fact that many medical tourists come to Cuenca to take advantage of the excellent medical and dental programs has been a boon to doctors and those in the medical professions. These same doctors know they can not charge more to the native population, so it is not like it is causing medical expenses to rise in any appreciable way for the general population.
It was the Ecuadorian government's decision to allow expats to be eligible for the Ecuadorian medical insurance program, and expanded the program which originally covered workers to include medical coverage for spouses, children, and preexisting conditions. While all fine and good from a humanitarian point of view, it had added by the end of 2016 a two and a half billion dollar deficit to the insurance program, that many Ecuadorians believe may be jeopardizing their entire social security and pension system.
Recently, the government now requires that expats will need to pay 17.5 percent of their income toward their premium costs, where before they were paying roughly eighty dollars per month for two people. It is only fair, and most expats agree in light of the kind of incomes expats make in comparison to native Ecuadorians. However, such a problem and its concomitant resentment by Ecuadorians was caused by government policy, and not by the expats. Most expats will drop the program, and it appears only about 400 or 500 expats were signed up for the program. The reduction of expats from the program or the higher premiums paid will not be nearly enough to turn the huge deficit in the medical insurance program around, but it is a move in the right direction.
New International Relations Director Ana Paulina Crespo told the Herald in this week’s column that “Cuencanos are feeling like strangers in their own city” and emphasized, “Cuenca never wanted to attract retirees… we’re facing lots of problems over how to deal with a phenomenon that we aren’t responsible for creating.”
Wow, what a statement in a community where expats contribute so much in terms of income, hiring new employees because of the money they spend, restaurants that could not survive without expat trade, hours of expat charity and volunteer service and financial contributions, not to mention an entire expat-Ecuadorian facilitator industry that would dry up overnight, as would the tourist industry and its concomitant services as well. Cuenca can survive without the expats; but there would be some economic injury, and probably some reduction in a wider world perspective culturally as the Cuencanos would become somewhat more isolated, although today the Internet and television mitigates some of that cultural isolation.
I could understand Ana Paulina Crespo's attitude, if there were huge influxes of expats moving into Cuenca, and I could understand her concern if the growth of expats were to dramatically increase again. Nonetheless, only 1.5 percent of the population of Cuenca is expat with no appreciable growth in recent years.  When one considers with what the Cultural Marxists and the Globalist corporations and elites are subjecting North America and Europe to in illegal and refugee immigration growth, it makes her comments hysterically laughable. Under the current circumstances, Crespo's remarks are beyond the pale. I have found the Ecuadorians to be generally very friendly, accepting, and helpful. It's ashamed political appointees like her choose to exploit the differences, and play off the resentments of a handful of the local population.  

However, there will always be politicians who will scapegoat a group for that politician's political advantage, when that claim is unfair. There will always be nativists who will fear the unknown and the different. There will always be people who will resent out of envy and jealousy those who have more than they do. It's human nature. There will always be news media who attempt to exploit differences and engender conflict, as the Western media has done since Obama was elected president and continue to do so today. In the end, it will all play out, however it is to play out, like everything else in life and throughout history.

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