10 Years of Blog Archive

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Why Homes Are Walled and Behind Iron Gates in Cuenca Ecuador? UPDATE 2016

I notice that you live behind iron gates. Although you state, in another video, that the streets are safe, could you comment on home theft or petty theft? We know that to be pretty normal for Latin countries.   

Once again we bring you another relevant update about security measures and why homes need to be walled and windows barred. when living in Latin America. This 4 year old article (first published April 2012) really needed some updates.

Notice all updates are in red.  

Update 2016 - Some armchair travelers when they watch our videos remark about the tall iron gates that surround homes and the bars on the windows and don't understand it. They haven't even been here (yet) and they are already in mild shock.  

That's why we write articles like this one so people will have a better idea what's behind all these security measures. Also, most of Latin America is like this, not just Ecuador.

Welcome to Latin America...or should we say, "Are you sure Latin America is a good fit for you?" 

Why do people in North America lock their doors and windows at night? To keep thieves out, right? In North America thieves don’t care if you’re home or not, they just break in and steal what they want and in some cases if you cannot defend yourself properly, they’ll kill you. They call this “home invasion” up north. Most cities of the same size in North America have much more violent crime than Cuenca Ecuador.
Here in Cuenca Ecuador the thieves in most cases wait until you’re not home (burglary) as opposed to the much more violent home invasion. They just rob you blind and they do it, not when you’re sleeping but when you are away from your home. 

Update 2016 - This has changed. It is common practice in both Panama and Ecuador to break into houses when occupants are home and some of these home invasions are violent. It's been happening in Panama for quite some time but some folks with vested interests are keeping it hush hush...sad, really sad. It's only gotten worse there. 

And now that Ecuador is seeing more and more foreigners moving there, the country has been seeing more and more home invasions against foreigners. Be aware, we now advice expats have electric fencing around the perimeters of their houses, dog(s), alarms, motion detectors, cameras, etc and lots of wisdom. 

The difference in crime between the U.S and Ecuador is that in Ecuador (excluding the bigger cities) it mostly is not violent. I say, mostly, because there have been some violent robberies by criminals from Guayaquil in Cuenca.  

Update 2016 - Big change here. home invasions, especially those in gated communities have become more violent, sending expats to the hospital. The Ecuador coast and Vilcabamba have seen the most home invasions, however Cuenca is not immune to such violence. 
At first it can seem intimidating all the tall walls, barred windows, broken glass on the roofs, but after awhile you get used to it and you realize that it is partly a culture thing. If your house was the only one on the block not behind a tall locked gate, or tall wall with glass, you will eventually get burglarized. Why make it easy for the thieves. Be one step ahead of them. 

Update 2016 - Scoffers of crime in Latin countries complain about how ugly the tall gated walls are and bars on the windows but if you are going to live in a house in Ecuador and/or Panama you need this protection! To sweep personal security and crime under the rug would be unwise at best. 
On another note, if some of the bigger crime-ridden cities in North America had tall walls and iron gates around the homes there would be far less petty crime and armed robberies. Thieves want to take down the most vulnerable looking house or person and if they have a choice it will always be the house without the locked iron gate, or the person who seems to be the most vulnerable by “what they do” and “how they behave and live”. 

Update 2016 - Another update we feel needs mentioned is the opening of your gate to strangers, which can and does result in armed robberies of expats.  If you're going to open the gate to people you don't know then why even have a gate and an in-house speaker phone to the gate?  We know of 3 instances where expats have opened the gate to strangers and as a result, got robbed, two of them happened on the Ecuador coast and the other right here in Cuenca.
Yes, as a whole the streets are relatively safe in Cuenca (not talking about other parts of Ecuador) but one still needs to be diligent and stay aware of surroundings because there is petty thievery at work here all over Cuenca. We have talked about this in quite a few of our other blog posts. Please read through the blog carefully and you shall find your answers about staying safe in Cuenca. There’s also more in the DIY (Do it Yourself) Cuenca Landing Guide.

Until we write again, you might like to read these related articles about how to stay safe when living in Latin America.
We're an Expat Family of Five, Living Frugal, Healthy and Happy Abroad. We live in Cuenca, Ecuador and travel the Ecuador coast whenever we get a chance. We just adventured throughout the country of Panama for five weeks! Come along and enjoy some of our experiences with us!


  1. Crime fighting begins with our food system.The food system in Ecuador seems so blessed. What exactly are Americans bringing to this beautiful culture? I would love to hear more from your readers. Perhaps us readers are mere takers of a culture, gatherers of stored knowledge and never sharing their dreams to inspire others.
    Your posts/and some of others, are becoming so much more insightful. Much appreciation.

  2. Hello There,
    My name is Tess and I'm a Professional Blogger. I have more than 3+ yrs of experience writing for the web and have covered plenty of interesting topics.
    I came across your blog and was wondering if you would be interested in allowing me to write relevant & useful topics on your blog at no cost.
    At this point of my writing career, I simply want to get more visibility for my writing and I will write for free as long as you are fine with me adding a small author bio section next to the blog post about myself.
    Please let me know if you are interested and if you'd like for me to submit a sample blog post for your approval.
    Thanks a bunch,

  3. We visited Cuenca in April & felt quite safe on the streets. One must be aware of their surroundings anywhere. Walking home form a club or bar at night=No. do not put yourself in a position to be taken advantage of.

  4. When I lived in Tumbaco, 1980s, there was a lot of DDT in the food chain. Do they still use DDT and other outlawed poisons in Ecuador? Strawberries . . .at least here in California I can get organic.

  5. It amazes me that people in the North sitting in their gated communities with little signs in their lawns saying "protected by so and so security service" would question homes with a few bars and walls.

  6. It is true that a little negligence in taking security measures increases the probability of forced entry and theft. Why not install security gates to avoid such risks, and be assured that your family lives safely even if you are away from home.

  7. are people in Ecuador allowed to own firearms ?

  8. When I read articles like this, I tend to giggle. Homes in South America follow the Spanish/Portuguese format which was the template spread throughout the Roman Empire 2000 years ago. It can be found all over North Africa as well, right up to the present day. Old traditions die slowly, especially when they mold people

    The normal Roman home was built around an "Atrium" with all rooms facing inward. This protected the center from heat and the center fountain collected the rain off the roof tops, often fit with a center garden, a fountain and resultant cool drafts. The format naturally encouraged a tight family life, something that is common to the cultures that use still use it today. The Romans often had NO exterior windows or used bars on the empty paces...after all glass was non-existent.

    Non-travelers assume this format indicates security concerns. But the only modern manifestation of security fears is found in the American invention of the "gated community" which has no other resinaing but to separate the people inside from the people outside, with electronic and deadly parameter security over a large area and armed guards. This sad format goes wherever Americans go..just as the Roman format was imported to SA. I have even seen gated communities in France's once wonderful Provence region, which is infinitely safer than any place in the USA, or the world for that matter! But the way we live shape us long after the original rationale for them is forgotten.

  9. Thank you for commenting. Unfortonately, regardless of the history of walls, which is obviously part of the story, does not negate the busted bottles rimming the top perimeter, and the electric line alarm systems rimming the same, and the barbed wire, and the corresponding crime issues that dot the landscape today. Thanks again for commenting.

  10. I used to live in a bad neighborhood in Los Angeles. I had bars on my windows, with a fence. I would have LOVED To have gate, but I couldn't afford it. Everyone in my 'hood had bars, gates and walls. Latin America sounds just like Los Angeles! Hmm.....but then I did live in a Latino barrio at the time.


HMFamilyLife and Discover Cuenca Ecuador Comment Policy
We welcome applicable and respectful comments. Off-topic comments may be removed.