Thursday, March 22, 2012
My Feelings About Ecuador
I've been getting quite a few e-mails from African-Americans people reading my blog posts on Ecuador and wanting to travel to there for either vacation, to learn Spanish, or to teach English. They all ask my opinion and advice based on the things I've posted, mostly about the Afro-Ecuadorian experience and racism. The question that always pops into my mind when I receive these e-mails is why Ecuador? Of all the different Latin American countries to visit, to learn Spanish, or teach English, why Ecuador?
OK, let's forget the racism because that is everywhere, some places are more subtle than others, but it's there. Being American and spending your U.S. dollar will greatly lesson the impact of racism. In Perú, like Ecuador, blacks are limited to certain types of jobs. As a general rule, you won't see black people working in office buildings or in shops, even though the average Peruvian (and other Latin Americans as well) will swear up and down that there is no racism in their country. It's just that I find people of other countries, like Panamá, Perú, Cuba, Venezuela, and hell, even Colombia generally warmer than Ecuadorians, especially Quiteños (people from Quito, the nation's capital). Quito is congested, and the people are relatively aloof, which has more to do with the culture than anything else..
Don't get me wrong, I've met some lifetime friends in Quito. For me, they were exceptions. However, I felt more warmth from people outside of Quito and Guayaquil, another large city in Ecuador, in places like Ibarra to the north and the predominately black Esmeraldas on the west coast. There was one all-black town Ecuador's state of Imbabura called Valle de Chota, where the people were very suspicious of me until we began to chat. One lady even went to get the cops, and the cops even felt better about my presence only after I explained my motive for being there. I'm a fan of Ecuador's international soccer team because their star player Augustin Delgado is from Valle de Chota. Those cops.were even happier when I later hopped on the bus headed back to Quito.
On a positive note, Ecuador is one of the better places, outside of Mexico, to study Spanish because Ecuadorians, generally speak slower, and don't chop and slur their words like so many Venezuelans, Peruvians, Cubans and Puerto Ricans. Also, your dollar will go a long way in Ecuador. A cab ride within reasonable distance is $2.00. A bus ride is 15 cents. On my last trip to Ecuador, I took a couple of friends to lunch for a nutritious meal on a university campus. The cost... $6 for the three of us.
I'm always willing to answer any questions about my personal experience. Just remember, my thoughts are solely based on my own personal experience, perceptions and observations. It would behoove you to seek other opinions, as well.