March 22, 2012

Answering Readers Concerns, about Living 10 Minutes by Taxi, from Downtown Cuenca (Part 1)

Comment from a reader: Other than El Centro, are there neighborhoods in Cuenca that are somewhat vibrant with a bit of their own personality that might hold some appeal to expats?
 
Frank and Angie answer: Sure there is; in fact each neighborhood has it's own charm and appeal from the locals who do business there and live; from quaint cafe's to mouth-watering panaderias, We find the Ecuadorian neighborhoods more appealing to live in than the gringo gulches, for the simple reason “this is an Ecuadorian country”, and we feel the best way to truly experience the culture and be a part of it is to integrate yourself into the country you live in. You can segregate yourself from the Ecuadorian neighborhoods if that is what you want, but why isolate yourself? 

However, we think you would be hard-pressed to even find an ONLY gringo enclave in Cuenca; if they are here, we don't know about them and we don't want to know about them.

Update 2014: The areas or neighborhoods that have the most gringos are: Chalubamba. El Vergel, Gringolandia, and El Centro. But they also have Ecuadorians living in these neighborhoods. Also, don't be fooled and think they are the best neighborhoods in Cuenca. In fact, quite the opposite. More home invasions occur in these areas or near these neighborhoods. That is just one of the costs you have to pay if you want to be near other gringos. 

UPDATE 2014: Also the price of rents in these areas is more pricey for obvious reasons but they are not better neighborhoods. In 2011 you could easily rent a beautiful home in Challubamba for $300, today, you are lucky to find one under $900 dollars! 

We feel that anyone who decides to live the North American lifestyle in Ecuador would be doing themselves a big disservice financially and culturally speaking. There is nothing appealing about eating out for dinner at North American prices when right next door there is an Ecuadorian managed restaurant for half the price, nor is it very appealing to pay North American rents, in Ecuador, when you don’t have to.

Ecuadorians are an energetic, talkative, curious, and often vibrant people. Since this is Ecuador you will find that the Ecuadorian neighborhoods are pretty much the same, whether it is downtown area or a neighborhood 15 minutes away. Ecuadorians love to eat, listen to loud music, go to festivals, shop for stuff, enjoy being with family and do fireworks, play in the parks with their children, and socialize in all the areas of Cuenca, in the restaurants and at home, and on the streets. This makes all of Cuenca vibrant and alive!

Comment from a reader: Living outside the action could be quite lonely for someone arriving by him/herself -- or with just one other person.

Frank and Angie answer:  This comment doesn’t apply.  You’re in the city of Cuenca regardless of where you are.  That is our whole point.  Aside from the fact that international expats are tripping over themselves to outbid themselves for the 2 x 4 square mile area referred to as the “historical center”.  Living outside the action? Not sure what you mean by “action”.  

It’s true that the density of people is higher in the “historical center” but everywhere you go in Cuenca, whether the “historical center” or the rest of the city, there are people walking around and shopping all over the place. 

Everywhere in Cuenca there are people enjoying the outdoors of Cuenca and they come equipped with umbrellas too. Even when it rains there are lots of people out and about on the streets. And even though the density is not as high, there are just as many and similar types of stores everywhere else in Cuenca, and some you can’t find in the center, like wood supply, hardware stores, malls, and major grocery stores.

If you’re the partying type and that is the kind of “action” you are referring to, if you move to Ecuador you’d better have a body guard.  Many of the expats that get robbed here are coming out of bars and nightclubs intoxicated, with their guard down, in downtown Cuenca.  Don’t think we have to explain this one. 

If the “action”  is festivals, free symphonies, going out for ice cream, or eating out in restaurants, or taking a tour, and you want to go downtown to do these things then by all means, call yourself a taxi; it will cost you all of $5 bucks both ways, $6 at most.  

There are not daily festivals, these are only occasional, so it’s a misconception that you are “in the action” because most of the time the center is very quiet in that respect.  And once you’ve taken a tour, then, you wouldn’t be taking it again right?  This is what tourists do; permanent residents don’t concern themselves with such things.  Permanent residents can do whatever they want whenever they want, because they don’t have the “tourist” time constraint.

Comment from a reader: Some expats feel vulnerable due to age and the related physical problems that can accompany aging. A secure building is a reasonable solution for many because of this.

Frank and Angie Answer: The high rise secure condo buildings that are geared to older people and physically challenged are not downtown; they are about a 20 to 30 minute walk from downtown on Grand Columbia, and all the way up to Avenida las Americas and Ordenz Lasso.

The State Travel website states that those with disabilities (or age related physical problems) thinking of moving to Ecuador should think twice. Ecuador is not really set up with U.S. style infrastructure to service the disabled or physically challenged person very well, at least not at this time. This may change in the future. But for now, we see this as a fact because we live here. 

Many times you have to walk over big rocks on the cracked up sidewalks, sometimes there is no side walk at all, the bus system also is not set up properly to chair lift a wheel chair it must be manually put on the bus. 

The downtown area has very narrow sidewalks, usually when two people are walking together, one has to get off the side walk or go behind the other just so other people can get by; curbs do not have ramps for those in a wheel chair or for those who have difficulty lifting up their legs and some of the curbs are two feet high! Sidewalks are narrow and all broken up, and quite a few businesses and restaurants have a foot curb that one must step up to get inside. 

So, while the secure building thing may apply in some respects, it really doesn’t erase any of the above mentioned concerns for them.  And following that train of thought, we don’t see that particular minority of people as being the cause of the gringo gulch/inflation going on in the center.   

We do see however, irrational fear among the expat community and a correspondingly irrational sense of security from being in the center.  Again, the facts show that there is just as much if not more petty crime against expats in the center (and the other neighborhoods we mentioned) as anywhere else in Cuenca.  They’re putting a bulls-eye on themselves.

Stay tuned for part 2 where we address more readers concerns about living 10 minutes by taxi from downtown Cuenca.  

UPDATE 2014: We wrote this article in 2011; a whole lot has changed in Cuenca since the first publication of this article. The new Cuenca has expats living all over the city now and are not just confined to the downtown area. As a matter of fact, most expats prefer to live outside of the downtown (el Centro) area as there is less smog and noise pollution away from downtown. So there  you go!  The tourists/visitors are the ones that temporarily live in El Centro.

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6 comments:

  1. These are all good questions and answers. My questions would be be more along the lines of: Do you give up American citizenship? Do you still pay American taxes? What are the taxes like there? If you are no longer an American citizen, can you still draw your Social Security benefits? What is the Ecuadorian government like? Can you own a gun?

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  2. Frank and Angie:

    Thanks for answering several of my questions. Most were asked in the spirit -- of playing devil's advocate. Still, you left me with a much clearer picture of what it is all about living in Cuenca.

    When I mentioned living somewhere "with a bit of action," I meant living somewhere that might have a cafe, restaurant, or wine bar near by where a few people congregate in the evening.

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  3. Vernon&Darla, Your questions : Do you give up American citizenship??? #1)..Why give up US citizenship when you can have two??? Do you still pay American taxes??? #2) US is the Only Western Nation that require US citizens to File and declare World Income even if you do not live in the US...but There is a $89,000.00 Tax Exemption available... but be advised you need to talk to a tax professional not H&R Block.... What are the taxes like there in Ecuador???? #3) How Much Money/ income will you be making yearly in Ecuador??? If you are no longer an American citizen, can you still draw your Social Security benefits??? #4) As long as S.S.I Exists But if I were you I would plan for a back up!!! What is the Ecuadorian government like??? Just like back home but run with a lot less funding.... Can you own a gun??? How well can you handle prison time....Remember Its A Constructional Democracy...Joe

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  4. Back to the citizenship issue, so you are saying you can become an Ecuadorian citizen and if so, what is the procedure for that (in a nut shell)? If guns are a no no, is there still outlaws (or bandidos's) who carry guns (but of course would be candidates for the clinker)?
    If either of us decided to work there, what types of job opportunities are there? And what would be some of the pay scales?

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  5. Hey Vernon and Darla your back lets see if there are answers to your new Questions Back to the citizenship issue, so you are saying you can become an Ecuadorian citizen and if so, what is the procedure for that (in a nut shell)???...It depends do you want to go to the head of the line if so then you will need a big bag of money around $50,000.00 plus associated costs if you are not in a hurry then there are a number of options available.... the Ecuadorian Consulate will give you the skinny on your options .... is there still outlaws (or bandidos's) who carry guns (but of course would be candidates for the clinker)??? ...There are bandidos every where but you have something different in Cuenca as Frank and Angie have clearly told you about YOU ARE BEING PROFILED Gringo get it...If either of us decided to work there, what types of job opportunities are there? And what would be some of the pay scales????....Do you speak Spanish and will you be willing and able to compete with Local pay scale of $300.00 a Month....Opportunities I see Many....Joe

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  6. Hi Nick. Good to see you back.
    Devil's advocate is good, it allows us to see more than just one side of a situation. So we appreciate that.
    Thanks for the post.

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