Monday, February 6, 2012

Changes in Ecuador

Hola from Cuenca,

Here are some observations about changes from my 6 years of coming here:

- there is a LOT more traffic! As more and more people join the middle class, they are becoming consumers like us in the USA. I can’t be too critical, since I too have a car, but I can only bemoan this trek to consumerism. Since I first came here, I realized that in order for the third world to have a decent life, we in the USA and the developed countries must be satisfied with what we have and not crave for more and more. But now i see that if everyone in the third world wants what we have, a car or even two, a second home, and more and more stuff, what will that mean for our poor planet?

- when I first come here in 2006, it seemed like every young girl had a baby in arms or was pregnant. The good news is that I rarely if ever see this now. Not that it doesn’t exist, but that it doesn’t exist to the same extent. This can only be good news.

- When I first came, there was a continuing migration of Ecuadorians going (legally and illegally) to the US and Europe to find work – the eternal struggle to improve the prospects for the family. (Note: I never forget that my grandparents were in the same boat over 100 years ago; they left Italy for the same reasons and with more or less the same conditions as there were here in Ecuador – no opportunity.)

In 2006, the largest part of Ecuador’s GDP – after petroleum – was the remittances sent home by Ecuadorians living and working abroad. Now because of the global recession, those immigrants have no work and many are returning, with incentives provided by the Ecuadorian government. There seems to be a lot going on in the Ecuadorian economy – lots of construction, new shops (tiendas) on every block, andlots of government programs assisting the poor with housing, self-sufficiency.

Ironically, Ecuador is now a “receiving” country: migrants from Columbia's continuing civil conflict and drug wars due to drug demand from the US, from Peru where poverty is graver than here in Ecuador. But the most astounding migrants are older people from the US (jubilados as they are called here). Apparently Cuenca has been named one of the best cities to retire – mostly because it is cheap. But it is also beautiful and has a mild climate. So Cuenca is looking more like Vermont – older and white! I’ll let my prejudices show here for a minute since I find that most north Americans in Cuenca live in "ghettos" – not integrating, not learning Spanish, only hanging out with each other and complaining about Latino mores. And, like what happened in “gold towns” in Vermont, they aredriving up the cost of land and everything else. GRRRR.

But somethings haven't changed: I love seeing cows and sheep grazing in the city's round-a-bouts and on the banks of the rivers, munching the grass. The multiplying cars aside, their carbon footprint is still pretty low.

More later…

PS: i'm the world's worst photographer - mostly because I hate taking pictures. But i'll try and include some in my next post. Assuming i remember to take a camera with me...

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