It is 3:30 A.M., and I can’t sleep. All night long, I hear the sound of construction equipment as work continues through the night on the street outside my apartment building. Disruptive at the moment, it is only one sign, apparent to me, of massive changes taking place here in Ecuador.
But first, have you ever heard of Ecuador? Do you know where it is?
Ecuador is a small country of about 14 million people on the North West shoulder of South America, between Colombia to the North and Peru to the South and East. If you know of it, that may be because you have seen the country's name one of its main exports - bananas. It is much more.
I came to Ecuador three years ago because, in significant part, two friends, a Venezuelan and a Chilean, advised me that the people of Ecuador were the most “carinoso” (warm, loving) people of all South America. While I am not in a position to compare, I can certainly vouch for the fact that this “gringo’s” daily life encounters are filled with warm hospitality and smiling faces.
International Living magazine annually rates Ecuador as the best place in the world for retirees to live well. Note that the Ecuadorian government is actively encouraging migration of retirees from developed countries. Though applying for resident status may be, at the moment, burdensome, it is largely because the system is being computerized and transferred from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Exterior.
Ecuador is a jewel in the making. A poor country, it is inherently rich. Located on the Equator, it has climate, a Pacific fishery, a year round growing season for agriculture, oil, a vast array of minerals including what may be one of the world’s largest copper supplies.
The international press only reports on the sensational and that, for Ecuador, usually refers to allegations that the socialist President is suppressing freedom of expression or pushing change without consensus. I will not get involved in these arguments, except to say that whenever there is tremendous, rapid change, there will be disruption, some people will feel uncomfortable, and there will be push back.
Back to my being awakened. –
At the municipal level –
Since moving to Quito, the capital, I have noticed a significant effort to rehabilitate historic buildings as well as create new growth in run-down neighborhoods.
To cope with street crime, which is a common problem in the developing world and major Western cities, increased attention to social programs and a significantly increased law enforcement presence is evident. This is especially evident in tourist areas.
The image of the city is also being enhanced through extensive clean-up measures, and, in my area, a massive program to bury the ugly telephone and other cables is underway. It is this round-the-clock work that kept me awake last night. I am truly fond of the new displays of art in Carolina Park and along a major street near my home. Cities and towns around the world could learn from Quito, a United Nations identified world heritage city.
To develop greatness and obtain a country's full potential, a solid, modern infrastructure is essential. This is particularly relevant in the underdeveloped world. Having defaulted on its national debt a few years ago, the entire population of Ecuador is now witness to key initiatives designed to spur advancement. Without pretending to represent all that is being done, most striking to me are:
Yes, the noise outside my window keeps me awake. But there is more. There is excitement, controversy and the buzz that comes with a country determined to become the best it can be for its people and a model for others.
A good place to retire? You bet!
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