Many people when they first move to Cuenca, and are temporarily staying in a hostel or hotel, ask the expats where the good neighborhoods are and the response is always the same, "why in the gringo neighborhoods, of course".
This response is relative, subjective, bias, and opinionated. In fact the interactive crime map for Cuenca shows that most of the violent crimes in Cuenca are very near where all the gringos live. So how then can this area, locals refer to as gringolandia, be a better neighborhood than some other neighborhood in Cuenca?
Actually the best areas in Cuenca are not anywhere near the expat condo buildings and they are Ecuadorian neighborhoods where almost no gringos live. But the expats will not tell you this. Instead they steer you towards the more expensive rental area where you will be gringo gouged for your rental while living in a, what one expat called it, "sterile environment".
Cuenca Ecuador: 22 homicides to date in 2012
Look for yourself: click here to see the crime areas of Cuenca. Scroll down and look on the map. You can make it bigger by clicking on the "plus sign" on the left. You can move the map around with your mouse and you can also click on the little pins to find out more about the crime. Get yourself comfortable with the map because we're going to be talking about crime in Cuenca using this map as reference.
Look North West on the map. Notice the five or six murders in the same area, just a short distance away from Las Americas and Grand Columbia. This is where many of the gringos refer to as a "good neighborhood". In fact the six murders happened just a few short blocks from Supermaxi (expat store) on Avenida las Americas.
Cuenca does in fact have gang related activity and it is near the brothel / drug areas of Cuenca very near the Supermaxi store up on Avenida las Americas. However, according to the interactive crime map the violent crimes victims all have Latin American names, telling us they are not targeting expats but are most likely drug related crimes. Even so, you surely would be living right next door and you are pretty darn close to where numerous murders have been committed.
Most cities of considerable size will have a bad area where crime is more prevalent and where you don't want to be walking around alone during the night, or even during the day. It is understandable you would want to stay out of the bad neighborhoods. This is why we're here to show you the Cuenca neighborhood map of where all the violent crimes for 2012 occurred and you then can make your own judgment through your own observations.
Looking at the map we see that about 6 of the 22 violent crimes occurred right off of Avenida las Americas and close to Ordenez Lasso / Grand Columbia area. This is where all of the gringo condos are located!! And if you notice further west, one of the murders happened right off of Ordenez Lasso where many of the expats say is a good neighborhood. The rest of the murders are pretty well scattered throughout the city of Cuenca with one or two south, one in the north, several downtown, and a few in the further east. But no where else in Cuenca is there 6 crimes all in the same area.
So why so many violent crimes in this one area? We have been told by a local real estate agent that this area is where the gangs are located, drugs, prostitution, etc, etc.
UPDATE November 2014 - Just a few days after we posted this article in Sept. 2012, there was news reporting that they were going to remove the brothel and expunge the gangs from the area described above to a different area of Cuenca; it was never done and they both remain in the same area and going strong. We have searched high and low for a new 2014 map of the crime ridden areas of Cuenca and they have NOT posted anything new...for obvious reasons that would hurt the tourist market.
When expats say the good neighborhoods in Cuenca are in the gringo neighborhoods they are basing that assumption on nothing but speculation and bias opinion. Obviously they have not seen the crime ridden areas of Cuenca on a map and they obviously do not know that there are gangs in that area as well.
Well, here it is.
We know of several really nice Ecuadorian neighborhoods, with beautiful homes in Cuenca that are nowhere near the above mentioned area. In fact, they are clear over on the other side of town! Don't be fooled or mislead by what people say on forums and blogs because most of the time it is based on conjecture and bias. This is how people become misinformed and then later regret something they did based on that conjecture.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 2014: the condos on Ordenez Lasso are no more gringo gulches than any other neighborhoods in Cuenca. Gringos live all over the city now, and that is a good thing because they are dispersed proportionately throughout the Cuenca city. So far, as of date we do not know of any neighborhoods (subdivisions that house just gringos, like in Mexico.
It's not the neighborhood which keeps us safe, its how we behave and what we do that keeps us safe!
We live in an Ecuadorian neighborhood (we're the only gringos) and it is quiet and safe, never had any issues and we are glad we live here!
The point is, don't rely on what others have to say, especially something that you really need to judge for yourself; look at the map and decide on your own where you would like to live. Go walk around in some of the neighborhoods you are interested in, during the day and night to see if it seems like a peaceful and quiet area that you would like to live in.
The beauty of Cuenca is it's all good, (except for where the gangs and drugs are)...and not just the area where all the gringos happen to live.
For more information on how to live well on a local Ecuadorian level see the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide on this blog.