Ecuador - Interlude in Ecuador (Part One)
Travel Tale - No. 11 - Vol. 3
Photographs Copyright © Alinka Zyrmont
The Republic of Ecuador is a country the size of Colorado with approximately 14,483.499 people. About 50,000 US citizens reside there. Their ethnic groups consist of about 72% Mestizos (Ameridian and Spanish) Indigenous 14%, Caucasian 6% and African 4%. Their principal language is Spanish, but dialects such as Quechua and Shuar are also spoken. About 95% of the population is Roman Catholic, but religious freedom is also observed.
In the 15th century, the Inca Empire conquered other indigenous cultures. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived in 1534, they defeated the Inca armies and became the new rulers. Then the Indigenous population was decimated by disease and forced into the “encomienda” labor system for Spanish landlords who owned vast amounts of land. In 1563, Quito became the place of the royal “audiencia,” administered by Spain. Today Quito is its capital.
Independent forces defeated the royalist army in 1822, and joined forces with Simon Bolivar’s Republic of Gran Colombia, but the 19th century was filled with instability and a constant change of rulers. Gabriel Carcia Moreno unified the country in 1860, with the support of the Catholic Church. With world demand for cocoa the economy progressed which led to migrations from the mountains to the agricultural frontier of the coast.
In 1895, President Eloy Alfaro reduced the power of the clergy and was the genesis for capitalist development. In 1996, Abdala Bucaram won the presidency on the platform which promised to challenge the nation’s oligarchy. He was later deposed for corruption.
Rafael Correa, with the PAIS party,( Proud and Sovereign Fatherland) was sworn into office as president in 2007, running on the platform of anti-establishment and calling himself the “change” candidate. In speaking to many Ecuadorians, I was told that they like “some things he is doing, such as fixing the roads, putting children in schools in free uniforms, free medications for the elderly, inexpensive medical treatment, low cost of housing, fairness in labor, such as removing exploitation by the rich, taxing the rich, but that he is seen as arrogant.” In other words, he is considered a socialist. The rich don’t like him and the poor don’t trust him. However, current President Correa, is the longest-serving president since a return to democracy in 1979, and has enjoyed sustained popularity in all regions of the country. But he has created some uncertainty in the business community with his economic policies of increased government control and ensuring a greater share of natural resources revenues for the state.
The United States is Ecuador’s principal trading partner by exporting about $7.5 billion in goods to them, such as machinery, chemicals, fertilizers, computers, electronics, petroleum products, cereals, grains and paper. The best prospects for US firms would be printing and graphic arts, construction equipment, automotive parts, cosmetics, medical equipment, telecommunications, high value agricultural, food products, travel and tourism.
They do have their problems with money-laundering, border controls, illegal immigration, narco- traffic, and poverty. But the government has managed to keep the country free of coca production since the 1980s. With US support it has combated the transshipment of drugs and chemicals needed for the processing of cocaine. Ecuador is also serious about fighting child labor and trafficking of persons.
Ecuador and the US agreed to an arrangement whereby US military surveillance aircraft could use Manta airbase as a location to detect drug-trafficking and drug-laden fishing vessels in the region.
The Ecuadorian economy is based on petroleum production and agricultural production such as bananas, flowers and shrimp; with crude and refined petroleum products accounting for 56% of total export earnings. Gasoline is priced at about $1.83 a gallon in Cuenca.
In 2000, Ecuador adopted the US dollar as their national currency. As the global economy rebounded with a 3.6% growth rate, but with limited international financing, which forced its government to reduce expenditures and cover a budgetary financing gap with loans from China of about $7 billion with interest rates above those charged by international financial institutions such as the World Bank.
The National Passport Information Center : Telephone: 1-877-487-2778.
For security information – Americans living abroad: http://travel.state.gov
More travel-related information: http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Travel/International.shtml.
Emergency Information for Americans traveling abroad : 1-888-407-4747; Outside of the US and Canada: 1-202-501-4444.
Department of State web site: http://www.state.gov
For US companies working abroad: http://www.osac.gov
US EMBASSY IN QUITO: Tel. ( 593)-(2) 398-5000 - Avigiras E12-170 y Eloy Alfaro, Quito, Ecuador. Their mailing address: Unit 3420, DPO AA 34039
US Department of Commerce: Trade Information Center, International Trade Administration, 1401 Constitution Avenue, Washington DC 20230
Ecuadorian-American Chamber of Commerce-Quito, Edificio Multicentro, 4 Piso, La Nina y Avenida 6 de Diciembre, Quito, Ecuador, Telephone: (593) (2) 250-7450; Fax: (593) (2) 250-4571. They also have branches in Ambato, Cuenca and Manta.
TRUSTED TRAVELER PROGRAM
The Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) allows US and Canadian citizens, who are trusted and registered users, to enter their own permits to expedite the re-entry to the US, at kiosks in various airports such as Miami, Houston, and New York, instead of having to wait in long lines, thus making it easier to make your connecting flight. There is a charge of about $100, and you have to have a personal interview. For more information, see: goes-app.cbp.dhs.gov
For Galapagos tours: Hotel Ninfa Tours, Corpoviajes: email: firstname.lastname@example.org (about USD$ 929 – $1,045, plus $100 for taxes to the national park for foreigners. )
I spent a week in Ecuador, staying a couple of nights in Quito, at the Marriott Hotel, and really enjoyed the pool, spa and food. Also, a nice hotel in Quito would be: Hotel Sebastian, Diego de Almagro 822, y Luis Cordero, contact Vicky Cevallos, (593) (2) 2222 400, email: email@example.com (593) (2) 2222 300.
I flew from Phoenix to Houston on Continental/United, then from there to Quito, which was about a five and a half hour flight. Later, I flew on Lan Ecuador’s Airbus 320 for 30 minutes from Quito to Cuenca for $150 round trip, and stayed at the Hotel Boutique Los Balcones, at Presidente Borrero 12-08 y Sangurima, esquina; Tel.: (593) 72842103, for a reasonable price. I thoroughly enjoyed the food at the California Kitchen, at the hotel, eating the best filet mignon and mahi-mahi. I also had a fun time dancing with George, the American expat who owns the business.
My thanks and appreciation to Henry, the manager of Los Balcones who was most courteous and helpful, and gave me tremendous hospitality. The Ecuadorians are very sweet and extremely polite people.
I also must thank Michel, my dancing partner, who runs Radio Ecuador At Your Service, on the Overseas Radio Network. While there tune in to him. If you can steal a dance from him, I promise you will not be able to keep up with his gyrations.
You must treat yourself to a mud-filled day at the Piedra de Agua thermal spa, in Parroquia Banos, Cuenca: www.piedradeagua.com.ec Tel. (07) 2892 496. I felt like a kid again covering myself from head to toe in red, then blue mud. The minerals are great for the skin. They also have a restaurant. It is about 20 minutes from the city in taxi for about $5.00.
Last, but not least, I must thank my friend Grahame, who was a wealth of information, and who is building his dream house in Chordeleg.
My Friend Grahame
BUEN VIAJE! HAPPY TRAVELS!
More Photos from Ecuador