Sunday, November 4, 2012

Security Measures and Unhappy Campers

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.)


  1. Thank you Cynthia,
    Edward is right, yours is the only blog where I have been able to find honest replies to questions and meaningful posts that are not a continual advertisements. I do understand the differences in cultures and am aware that when living in that culture, much changes.
    Credence for any blog comes from a willingness to post both sides of the story.
    I am not trying to knock Ecuador or its people either, just trying to be more aware of the living conditions as they are. Knowing what I will be dealing with prepares me to succeed in my expat adventure.

    1. Thanks, Paul--I'm glad I have so many readers who enjoy my style of posts. As I said to Edward somewhere else, please let me know what you want to hear more about and I'll do my best to address it.

      Yes, being aware of the living conditions is critical in my mind. I think far fewer people would have to go through the move back to their home country if they had more places to get as much information as possible. Not everyone can come down here for a few months to check it out before they move here. I'm one of those people. I had a choice--I could either come check it out or move here. Of course I could have turned around and gone back to the States and started over (I've done that before) but as it turns out, it is as perfect for me down here as my friend just knew I would be.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.


    Having been born in a country where there still are BIG HACIENDAS AND PEONS, I understand what this combination causes in the psyche of the common people.

    The motto: "getting one over" on someone was probably buried for some time in the minds of some local people in Cotacachi, but the sentiment has been awaken by the arrival of the "new rich", the new "hacienda owners":... THE EXPATS.

    This has been exacerbated by the humiliation that the land developers have inflicted on the "peon" minded people. Without any regard to the way local people feel and think, these greedy land developers have thrust in the heart of these small communities what they considered "progress": Gated, fenced communities with names like "Primavera XX" where the new "hacienda owners" live... yes, in those luxury condominiums there are things "to get one over" on those new "patrones", there are all kinds of electronics, jewelry, etc.

    That new kind of housing is an affront to the people of Cotacachi and other small towns where those same greedy, heartless developers continue making tons of money.

    The resentment, the desire "to get one over" on the new owners will continue, and will foster even more crime and insecurity in Cotacachi. More people will move away, except those like Cynthia who have come to understand what lays beneath the problem.

    This situation is serious. The seed of discord has been planted by the land developers and it will continue to bear fruit in the form of more crime, even violence as the "peon" minded people continue to realize that there are lots to be gained by just breaking a couple of windows or doors. Goodbye peace, so long security, au revoir happiness. Welcome iron bars on doors and windows, alarm systems, armed security guards.
    Edward Solano
    (My plans to move to Cotacachi are still firm, first days of January 2013, as soon as the sale of my property closes.)

    1. Thank you so much for this long and well-thought-out comment. I'm so glad you understand what I was trying to say.

      The wonderful part that might not have come through in the post is that all that security doesn't change a thing about how warm and wonderful all the people are! It's fabulous. It's kind of like the security measures help people be less concerned about safety so they can just be open and "out there."

      Uh, going to crowded places is still a bit of a challenge. I was pick pocketed at the Otavalo market not long ago and I know what I should do to keep myself and my money safe.

  3. Cynthia - excellent post and the comments people have already made are helpful. I had a longer reply but somehow lost it - still trying to get used to this laptop. Thanks for the balanced posting and good to see you updating your blog. Ken Merwin

  4. When we lived in Guyana, the majority of people had very little, usually not even electricity or indoor plumbing. There was also a lot of theft. You had to keep things well protected. Even our washing machine was chained to a pole that held the house up with a heavy lock on it.

    When someone's bicycle was stolen, they simply stole another. We often joked that sooner or later that person would steal his own bike back. Their attitude was no so much driven by a historical context, but rather by a lack of effort on the part of police to recover anything and just a survival instinct, i.e. "It's there. I need it. Okay, it's mine" kind of attitude.

    We loved the people so much it was worth a little effort to protect our belongings.