10 Years of Blog Archive

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Notarizing a Document in Cuenca Ecuador: Just Another Day in the Life!

All I want to do is get one page notarized. That’s it.

It’s not even front and back, it’s just one side, and it’s just two itty bitty little paragraphs.  I know it’s in English and I’m in a foreign country with a foreign language, so I expect to have to jump through a few hoops. I’m going to send the notarized page up north to finalize some loose ends. 

So I show up at the notary here in Cuenca Ecuador and he somberly tells me that he cannot notarize something in a foreign language, that I would have to get it translated into Castillian (Spanish).  Ok, no issues there, fully understandable.  I was expecting that.  And I’m prepared. 

So the next day I ask my Cuencana translator friend to do the translation and go back to the notary with me so that she can certify (to the Notary) that the translation is correct.  This is referred to as an Ecuadorian Certified Translation.  It’s the same process foreigners have to go through as part of their Ecuador visa applications, and many foreigners actually pay their lawyers to do it. 

Anyhow, I show up the next day with my translator friend, she with her ID in hand and me with the papers.  Now the Notary tells me, that he can only notarize the Spanish translated document, and not the original English one unless I want to get both documents – ahem, approved, by a court approved translator.  This is the same Notary person in the previous paragraph I saw on the previous day. I didn’t roll my eyes just yet, but I smelled a rat.  

I’ve said before that I’m a student of observation, and my observation told me that this was some sort of scheme to enrich someone else in the pipeline.  What was going on in my mind at the time, was that I recalled reading an international type newsletter just a few days earlier, where the writer said that, in reference to the South Americans, when there’s a high foreigner demand for something, the South Americans will milk it all the way.  Well, I got the feeling the milking was just getting started.  Why? The magic word “approved” that’s why.  In my experience, anytime you have to get something “approved” the translation is: “reach for your wallet”.

Back to the notarization. So, I’m thinking, “court approved translator”, maybe a young lady in her twenties fresh out of college or something.  No way.  It’s a 40 year old guy in a three piece suit with the letters DOTTOR (Dr.) in front of his name.  Really.  So we hand him both documents, the English one and the Spanish translated one.  What followed was a very long presentation—about 20 minutes (in Spanish). 

On and on he explained blah blah blah.  Bottom line?  He wanted an additional $15 dollars per page, yes per page, to attach his approval signature, or he couldn’t do it.  I  put my arm on his shoulder and with a big grin told him -- that was a whole lot of talking for an extra $30 dollars.  He smiled back...it was all in great fun.  We had a good laugh.

On top of that, he explained, the notary was going to charge $10 dollars per page, for His notarization.  Total = $50.  So I politely excused ourselves, and when I got outside, told my wife, son and Cuencana translator friend there was no way I was going to pay $50 dollars to notarize one itty bitty little page.  Maybe in Tokyo it costs that much, but in Ecuador?

So as a solution, our translator friend suggested another notary just outside of the city center. Our thinking is: Once we get outside of the center, things will get easier and cheaper.  And it’s true.
The new Notary can notarize both pages for $10 each TOTAL.  

Not out of the woods yet though,as she ushers us into a nearby office for the (approval part, no extra charge) where another Dottor guy in a three piece suit sitting behind a desk with a stern look scrutinizes the documents.  He proceeds to demand explanations, and with an intimidating loud voice requires the translator to translate the documents back into English verbally on the spot.  Further, continuing with this stern and serious demeanor, demands a Spanish dialog from the signer, supposedly as some kind of test, and when I intervene on my wife’s (she’s not fluent in Spanish) behalf he points out his hand toward me and tells me to be quiet.  You’d a thought we were in a Gestapo interrogation room, or some sort of court hearing or deposition or something.  Anyhow, I just give him a big smile and at the end shook his hand and bid him a good day.   It’s all in good fun. 

The women were a bit shook up however.  On the way out, the man explains that we will need to go to another office in a different building at a different location to get both documents Apostilled, in order to be able to use them in another country (outside of Ecuador). Understanding this to be correct, I thanked him, shook his hand and we went on our way. We’re down to $20 dollars now, a stern interview and one afternoon.

The next day, we go to the “other” government office for the Apostilles. In this office, they tell us they can only Apostille the translated Spanish document, and not the English one. And that it will cost another $10 dollars.  Why is everything ten dollars in this frugal paradise of Cuenca Ecuador?  According to the rule of three and four, that’s like $30 to $40 dollars.  Sounds kinda high, don’t you think?  I got my Apostilles in the U.S. for $8.  These people must have forgotten Ecuador is supposed to be cheaper than the U.S. not higher! 

Ok, so at $30 dollars total so far, we’re still $20 dollars short of the original $50 it would have cost in the City Center, and in the end I would end up with only a Spanish document notarized and Apostilled, and one English document with a foreign (to the U.S.) notarization, which is not usable in a foreign country such as the U.S. 

On top of that, had I not had a translator friend, I would have had to pay a translator and add at least another $10-$20 for a total of $40-$50, and still not have what I needed. 

When was the last time I spent $50, visited three different offices on two different days to get one itty bitty little page notarized you might ask? And how many rich foreigners just pay the original $50 quoted for a total of up to $70 for one page?  

Paul from California says: Because of your wonderful guide “DIY Cuenca Landing Guide” in which you gave all the info about getting a visa, it took me yesterday exactly one hour at the Ecuadorian Consulate in Los Angeles to get a 6 months visit. Absolutely no problems at all. Many thanks. Paul from Porterville, CA


  1. Makes me think twice about moving to Cuenca - but I really want to!! What else is that much of a pain in the ass?

  2. Is it not possible to get something notarized at a bank where you have an account there in Cuenca ... like here in the States?

  3. Try punching in " a day in the life" in the search box on the right...thanks for commenting...


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