I just received a comment from one of my readers about not being able to find comments or information from people who didn't like living here and left. He also said, "Though people say there is crime in all countries, I have yet to see a town as small, that has so much security around homes and businesses."
I started responding to the comment with a comment of my own and decided both these issues deserved their own post, so here goes.
You are absolutely right about both issues, Paul. Many people visit or move here and then discover that this really isn't where they want to live at all. There are many reasons but it generally boils down to the cultural issue--some people don't find living in an area where people are this much different than where they came from is something they like after a few months. I know there are people who have left after having had their home broken into and their electronics stolen. That's a traumatic thing to have happen regardless of where you live and knowing that it could have happened anywhere else doesn't help when it's your house they broke into.
That moves nicely into the second part of what you said. Yep, there's a ton of security here. There are bars on almost all the windows and doors are either metal or have metal gates in front of wooden or glass doors. Please believe me when I tell you that I'm not saying the way the culture is around stealing is either good or bad. It just is what it is and it's part of living here. It was explained to me not long ago that the whole thing comes from way back when there were the big haciendas and peons. There were the very, very rich and the very, very poor and not much in between. The people who were at the bottom of the financial pile would be viewed as "crafty" or "talented" if they could get a little extra from the hacienda owner--a little extra food, maybe something more durable like a piece of leather or fabric. At any rate, this became a way of life and it was seen as something positive. It was getting one over on the people who had stolen their land from them.
As the years and centuries passed, that general attitude of "getting one over" on someone with more money than you have is still a part of the culture. If someone can come into my home and take my computer, camera, cell phone, and television, there's someone out there who will do it. I've heard a rumor that one person was injured during a robbery but I haven't found out who it is or been able to talk to him about what happened so I can't say for sure. The woman I know who was robbed while she and her husband were home were tied up while the thieves took their electronics. They weren't injured physically and there weren't even any threats made. That doesn't make it any less traumatic to be robbed but the point I'm trying to make is that while there is less concern here about stealing from the "rich" there is also far less violence in the thefts.
I'm not saying any of this at all well. I don't want it to sound as if I condone robbery or the attitude that it's OK to steal from people if they have more than you do. I'm saying that this is what it is and people acknowledge that that's how it is and make their homes and businesses secure to guard against such things.
Personally, I don't find this a problem. I'm pleased to live in an apartment where I feel completely secure and never worry about having someone come into my apartment to steal from me. I'm not sure why but I know I am comfortable with the difference in how this is here as opposed to places I've lived in the States. Part of that comfort for me may be because I've lived in some less-than-safe neighborhoods where some of the security measures in place here would have been helpful there. Perhaps it's just that I have a higher tolerance for these differences. I don't know what it is but it works fine for me.
This is just part of what is very important to take into consideration before moving here. Moving to Cotacachi isn't just about saving money and having great weather. It's about living in someone else's country where things are going to be different than they are wherever you're living right now.
Please let me know if this has been helpful and whether or not you would like to see other posts that talk about some of the other problems some people have when they move here. None of this is meant as a criticism of either the people of Ecuador or the people who find that living here isn't for them. It's hopefully a way to help people who are trying to decide whether or not this is the perfect place for them to make a decision based on more than all the fabulous stuff those of us who totally love it here tend to talk about.
(P.S. My computer hard drive is in the mail. It's en-route from the U.S. and was mailed three weeks ago. I'll definitely let you know when it arrives.)