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Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Feelings About Ecuador

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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..

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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.

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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.

10 comments:

  1. I think the reason why everybody ask about Ecuador is because they probably heard the same thing i heard. That the language schools there are good and cheap (relatively speaking)

    http://www.vidaverde.com/en/pay-less.html

    what countries would you recommend that have comparable prices in terms of language schools?

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  2. Hi Reef,
    The schools in Antigua, Guatemala not only has inexpensive Spanish language programs, but I've heard rave reviews about the quality of their training. I went to a language school in Perú where I thought the training was good, but not as good as Guatemala, but your dollar will go a long way in Perú as well. I took my 10=year-old goddaughter and about 15 of her family and friends to a chicken & fries joint. The cost was around $45.

    The big problem with Perú, as I said in my blog, is that your average everyday Peruvian talk fast and mumble. Many of the blacks, like in other Latin American countries, speak a Spanish version of Ebonics, which presents another challenge if you are not used to it.

    On the other hand, I've found the average Peruvian to be much more personable, conversational, and outgoing than Ecuadorians. Just my opinion!

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  3. Reef, I just looked at the Vida Verde web site. I'm not too crazy about that school's policy about not arranging classes. Unless your Spanish is at a survival level where you can function in a all Spanish=speaking environment, I would not recommend private classes. But then again, 7.50 an hour is a damn good price for private lessons.

    Most Spanish language schools will give you a placement test, and based on your score, will put you in a class with students on your level versus your having to find a group on your own, as Vida Verde suggests.

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  4. "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."

    SERIOUSLY?

    I want to become an expat in Ecuador, and I am an IT professional with advanced skills. I was hoping to find work in Ecuador in IT and your message hhere is that I might be denied employment because I am black? Please clarify. You say it is a "general rule". Being honest, do you think I should even look in Ecuador's direction if I want to become an expat there? I already speak a significant amount of Spanish, and I am light skinned (as if it should make a difference). But I am most definitely black.

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  5. Computer Pro,

    I'm hardly an expert on Ecuador because I spent no more than 10 days there. I made some friends, and we are still in communication. I can only share what I observed. I have a black Ecuadorian friend who works at a university and another black Ecuadorian friend who is a medical doctor. However, generally speaking, I could not help but notice how the shops, offices, and public services are extremely low on black employees. I was even pleasantly surprised to see a couple of black employees at the airport.

    Based on my own interactions in Ecuador, I was often treated with more respect when they realized that I'm an American, not African-American, but an American! There was an occasion when I had to wave two five-dollar bills to get a cabbie to pick me up. When he saw the money and let me in his cab, he was relieved and elated to learn that I'm not Afro-Ecuadorian. Hmmmm!

    In your case, I'd say go for it! With your advanced skills and education, you will be in a different “class,” which carries a lot of weight in Latin-American countries. You will be perceived differently by whites, browns, and blacks. If you go, I'd like to introduce you to some of my friends. My e-mail is billsmith510@gmail.com

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    Replies
    1. Well, that makes me feel a bit better, but I also want to associate with other educated working black people (American or not). I hope the Ecuadorian middle class has blacks in it, because there is nothing more alienating than being the only black person working for a company, at a party, in a neighborhood, etc.

      I may very well contact you. I am serious about doing this, and I want to take a "dry run" by doing two weeks there before deciding. Funny how you mentioned the African-American thing! In Europe and elsewhere, black Americans are just AMERICAN, not "African-American". And in more than one African country, the label of "African-American" given to American blacks is considered an insult!

      Thank you for this awesome website.

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    2. I just found this post. I to am going to make a move to expat to Ecuador. I'm currently learning Spanish ad like the gentlemen above I am in the IT profession. What words of advice would you have for me. I'm 30 and would like to make the move in 2~3 years tops, Thanks!

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    3. Hey, Ice T ;-)
      The only advise I could give is to visit a couple of times. Your best work opportunities may be in Quito, Guayaquil, and possibly Cuenca. Also, I'd like for you to register with www.couchsurfing.com where you can interact with Ecuadorians directly who speak perfect English and can give you much better advice than I can. If you speak Spanish, go on Facebook and reach out to Ecuadorian people. Facebook and couchsurfing.com both helped me to make valuable contacts in all the countries that I've visited.

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  6. Good Day W. Bill,

    My wife and I are looking at getting a second home outside of the US. We have gone to Belize and Guatemala and are looking at Ecuador, Chile and the Dominican. After reading this post about Quito (the area we were looking at), it gave me a little pause. We will be visiting all three areas later this year. I am curious to know, based on all of your travels, if you were going to have a second home outside the US... and perhaps even a permanent home, where would you choose to go?

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  7. Hi T Le,
    If I chose to move anywhere, it would be Perú. Like Ecuador, your dollar goes a long way. I just find, as a general rule, that Peruvians are warmer and have more personality than Ecuadorians. And that is the only reason why I would choose Perú over Ecuador. Chile, I understand is expensive!

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