10 Years of Blog Archive

Sunday, June 05, 2016

2011 Case Study: How Cuencanos Feel about Influx of Foreigners - UPDATED 2016

Update 2016:  We first published this post 4.5 years ago. The case study was conducted in December 2011 when the gringo population in Cuenca was reported to be around 500.  However, there was also a huge influx of visitors arriving in Cuenca at that time as well; it was right after International Living announced Cuenca as being "best retirement city in the world". 

We recommend downloading and reading the full thesis. Once on the website there is a PDF download on the right hand side of the page.

Source: http://scholarship.claremont.edu/scripps_theses/29/

University student, Denise M. Bustamante from Scripps College conducted a case study on the retired expatriate community in Cuenca, Ecuador", interviewing nine Cuencanos about how they felt about the migration of gringos into Cuenca Ecuador. 

What her data suggests is consistent with what we've been observing and reporting on this Discover Cuenca Ecuador blog. Now you can read it again from a University student who conducted this case study.  

...below is a snippet from her thesis.

"In addition to the language barrier, other negative aspects associated with the presence of expatriates in Cuenca include increases in the cost of living and their arrogant attitudes. The presence of an expatriate community in Cuenca contributes to a rise in costs because their incomes are higher than that of the locals and they are willing to pay these high prices. Jennifer, the former real estate agent, mentioned that many landlords prefer renting their property out to foreigners because they pay more money, they are punctual with their payments, and they take better care of property than the locals. Sara, a professor at the University of Azuay, has a friend who is the only Cuencana in her apartment building. Each month, her landlord pressures her to sell her apartment because he is aware that he can make a larger profit by leasing it to a foreigner at a steeper price."

"Data suggest that Cuencanos resent the impenetrable language barrier and their cultural disengagement. The Cuencanos responses also indicate that a deeper understanding of the country and culture is necessary on behalf of the retired expatriates to facilitate their integration into the existing culture rather than trying to create an exclusive subculture within Cuenca".

One expat in her study pointed out, "Many of the retired expats arrive in Cuenca, buy or rent their luxurious skyscraper apartments and stay there. It's as if they are watching life happen on their big screen TV and they do this without even realizing it.

Update 2016 - This of course was said back in 2011 when the expats moving here were afraid to live outside of the gringo high rise buildings, gringoland neighborhood. However, we changed that misconception of being afraid when we moved into an Ecuadorian neighborhood and detached house in June of 2011.  By 2012 expats began living all over the city instead of just in the high rise buildings located in Gringoland.

Today most of the gringos still prefer to live near the downtown area (Westside) and walk to a grocery store. Some things are just not going to change. 

Update 2016 - On the one hand, the foreigners have fanned out throughout the city, however, whether this has resulted in a “blending in” or “living local” is questionable, since it appears that price increases on everything have also ‘fanned out’.

Source:  Bustamante, Denise M., "Amenities Migration: A Case Study on the Retired Expatriate Community in Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador" (2012). Scripps Senior Theses. Paper 29. 

This is only a small portion of her case study. Miss Bustamante also interviews twelve expats to Cuenca on how they feel about living in Cuenca, Ecuador. To read the full thesis, click here. 

Update 2016:  On the flip side, there were also University students that had to interview expats that had moved to Cuenca. It is our understanding that for their graduation thesis, the students had to choose either interviewing Cuencanos about how they felt about expats or interview expats about how they felt about Cuenca and its people.  

Update 2016: Our family was interviewed by three University young ladies one day in Park Calderon. They asked us questions such as "do we work", "are we retired" "How old are you", "Do we speak Spanish?" "Do you like Cuenca?" They asked, “what do we like about Cuenca” and other questions you can find in this video. After the interview they said we saved their life as they had to present the video to their teacher.


Until we write again, here are a couple of articles that back then addressed the issue of living in a house versus high rise condo in the gringoland neighborhood. 

We're an expat family of five living in Cuenca Ecuador. We vlog and blog about what its really like to live here and in Latin America. We have numerous experiences to share. We'd love for you to come along and enjoy the adventure with us!


  1. Perhaps Ms. Bustamante would have had another point of view if she had not only interviewed Americans as to why they have moved to Cuenca. Most of the cdn's that I know have not moved because of the low cost of living as Canada is not in any recession. Another point is in proportion of # of expats, % of Cdn's that speak Spanish is higher than Americans. Perhaps that might be a good subject of research.



  2. I just return from 19 days in Ecuador. Most of them were in Cuenca. During that time I took Spanish language classes for a week and stayed with an Ecuadorian family in a modern hi-rise apartment. The Cuencanas were incredibly friendly and helpful to me throughout my visit. I didn't see many expats or foreign visitors even except for one instance where the woman I stayed with and I happened upon a "yard sale" outside of an artisan fair. My host was excited to find low cost american used clothing for sale and was happily gathering items to buy. The four Americans were so mean! Unhelpful and without grace I was embarrassed to hear their greedy and ungenerous attitudes. And this in a country where everyone is so gracious!
    made me reconsider living in a country if this represents the expat community.I'm hoping it was not indicative but I could tell from conversations with taxi drivers that there is not enough effort made by extranjeros to learn and communicate in Spanish either. Entitlement and disrespect are very unattractive qualities.

  3. My husband and I (both Canadians) have moved to Cuenca because we love the people, the city and the climate. We're working on our Spanish and use it every opportunity. Cuencanos have been so friendly, patient, gracious and accommodating with our efforts. We appreciate and are learning more about the culture, but you have to be really observant because they seldom let us know us when we goof (the "gringo pass"). I don't understand why would anyone move to Ecuador and NOT try to learn the language and respect the culture. Perhaps these are the same expats who complain about immigrants not speaking perfect English 'back home'? Cuenca IS our home. We love it and appreciate it, and are grateful to be here :)


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