Cuenca News

Foreign Ministry studies impact of foreign residents on Cuenca; says some regulation may be required due to affect on local population

Claiming that the number of U.S., Canadian and British foreign residents living in Cuenca exceeds 5,000, Ecuador’s foreign ministry says that some regulation of the influx may be necessary to mitigate the economic impact on the local population.

Foreign residents at a local restaurant.
Foreign residents at a Cuenca restaurant.

The ministry says that in addition to English-speaking foreigners living in Cuenca, there are another 4,000 Latin American immigrants in the city, mostly Colombians and Peruvians.

The ministry says that about 1,000 to 2,000 new foreign residents arrive in Cuenca each year.

Humberto Cordero, who heads the ministry’s office of human mobility, says Cuenca is “flattered” that it has become such a popular destination for foreigners but that the impact on local services, health care and prices must be considered.

“We need to maintain a healthy environment for both Ecuadorians as well as our foreign visitors,” Cordero said. “If we don’t plan for the growth, there can be negative impacts on social and cultural life. We also don’t want bad feelings to develop that could create a xenophobic atmosphere for foreigners,” he said.

Citing a study by the University of Cuenca, Cordero said that foreigners tend to concentrate in the center of the city, in the historic district and within a 15-minute drive of it. “This concentration can affect the local population in terms of availability of housing and services and increased prices,” he said. “We are looking at the impact on real estate, among other things.”

The figure of 12,000 U.S., Canadiean and European expats was based on estimates provided by the University of Cuenca, not from Interior Ministry’s immigration office statistics, Cordero said. In the past, immigration authorities said it could not provide exact figures but estimated the number of U.S. and European residents at “about 5,000.” The Ministry said in late 2013 that there were about 38,000 U.S. and European residents living in all of Ecuador.

The U.S. Embassy and Consulate say that their “best guess” is that there are about 4,000 U.S. citizens living in Cuenca. “There’s no way for us to keep accurate records about this,” said former U.S. Guayaquil consul general David Lindwall. “It anybody’s guess.”

Cordero said that the foreign ministry will propose measures to lessen the impact of foreigners living in Cuenca but did not provide a date when the proposals will be announced.

  • Aleck Inglis

    In late 2013, a German sociologist studying Cuenca estimated the gringo population at 1200-1500. Of course every immigrant community has a tendency to overestimate their numbers. Certainly only a small fraction of that number turns up at gringo events. Notarial figures have 1.7% new residential buyers being expats, the rest are Ecuadorian. But an astounding percentage of those are Ecuadorians returning from abroad after many years.

  • Carol Huntington

    wondering just what kind of restrictions might be imposed and if they would affect other areas of the country such as Cotacachi or Vilcabamba or Loja . . . .

  • Jane

    What are some of the proposals to “lessen the impact of foreigners?”

  • Aleck’s comments sound more accurate to me. Even accepting the number of 12,000 suggested. It is a miniscule percentage of the greater Cuenca urban area of 700,000 I believe verifiable from Ecuador census.

  • Gary

    Ecuador has the technology to track immigration, and entrance/exits of passport activity for all nationalities. Cedulas registered to an address would indicate what city. There then becomes an additional step in requiring transient activity on those cedulas. I hope they are not counting 90 day or 120 day extensions of visas in these resident numbers. Is Ecuador reducing numbers when expats become citizens?
    The cost of housing is directly related to a free market. The land owners and apartment owners will charge what they can without any real impact on Ecuadorians. It may be that people of means can afford better living accomodations which would not be affordable to others who cannot. The article and the government are not addressing the impact of Ecuadorians returning to Ecuador from other countries with a “gringo” wealth impacting the economy.

  • Danica

    I’m not quite certain how much of an impact that less than 2% of the population can actually have on all of the issues that seem to be a concern. Is there anyone really analyzing this more thoroughly to see where the real impact is coming from. Perhaps it is all of the Ecuadorian’s that have returned from abroad since 2008 that have created the major impact on these areas of concern and Correa and his government are the people that were encouraging them to come home which is wonderful because it is helping the country and it’s citizen’s as does immigration in general. So are the gringo’s just a scapegoat?

  • John G

    This is just local politicians looking for votes. Someone is running for something. Plus, Correa just announced a pay cut for many gov`t workers, so someone is bucking for a promotion and higher pay grade somewhere. It´s all baloney.

  • Warren Light

    Looks like a “gringo tax” is on the way.

  • I am hoping that one of the rules they apply is to make it illegal to only rent to extranjeros. I see adds like that and I am furious. This is how alot of bad feelings begin. This and the outrageous rents so the local folks cannot afford to rent in specific areas, are issues the ministry should be looking at.

  • So foreign residents may be welcome in the future in Ecuador, but just not in Cuenca. So what would be the most practical approach the government could take to discourage expats from wanting to live in Cuenca?

  • Karen Sueetta Joyce

    I truly believe there needs to be a limit on how much rent can be charged for Gringos or locals as the prices are escalating out of all reason. It is getting to the point that rents here are as high as in the USA and a major attraction for living here is the COL is much lower than in the US making it more possible to live better on less, eve for Gringos. Just because there are some wealthy Americans, it needs to be understood by locals that most Americans here are NOT wealthy. So rents should be lowered making ALL apartments affordable to locals or Expats. I think otherwise there will be all kinds of hard feelings developing with local people against Expats and with good reason, I believe. This is their country after all and should be maintained so they can enjoy it fully and conveniently. And Expats should not be taken advantage of either.

    • Dave Edwards

      Thanks for using the term ‘expat’ and not ‘gringo’.

  • Jon Rice

    seems to me I read a while ago that there are rent controls based on purchase price and improvements and limited annual increases. and so, landlords are overcharging (and getting away with it) since gringos are willing to cough up the extra bucks. perhaps they need to enforce those laws.

  • broomfieldbill

    Just another attempt to micro-manage aspects of human life and activities in Ecuador….Correa and his cronies just can’t or won’t believe that the “free-market” system can work. The government should call in its Cuban and Maduro “experts” in for some more advice on how to REALLY run (and ruin) an economy.

  • Lorenzo Savvy

    I hope Ecuador does not follow the lead of Venezuela. http://www.cnn.com/2015/02/28/americas/venezuela-us-pilot/index.html

  • Karolina Klassinger

    It is a shame that we can find orthographic mistakes in this article. Please, stop the sensationalism and read very well before upload your news.

  • Over one million Ecuadorians in Eastern United States, there are areound 4000 here in Cuenca. Interesting who has more tolerance and intolerance.

  • walter burke

    Good points of view. A few more ideas.

    1. Ecuador is fomenting tourism. Even advertised in the world bowl ( not perceived ). What a wonderful recommendation and for free having expats in Ecuador and they keep coming and bring millions of dollars which the country needs.
    2. Ask the Ecuadorians in the states if they would like to have an equation of equal citizen proportions. not 1000 to 1.
    3. What are Cuencan citizens saying?. Do they know that they are creating a global melting pot and with legal people that improve their city and not wetbacks .
    4 Expats. Come to Riobamba. You would be very welcome. No politics.

    t

    a

  • Antonio Fiorentino

    I first visited Cuenca end of 2012. Lived here 4 months in 2013. I just returned after spending two years in Vilcabamba. The changes are astounding to me. The concentration of gringos in the historical center is many times more than what I remember in 2012-2103. I noted that some seems to be younger probably tourists. It seems one cannot walk past a block of the historical center without seeing a gringo. The economic impact is felt when you try to get accomodations of a single person in the center. In 2012 I could choose from a number of hostels at $10 some including kitchen privileges. This time around I was told by one of the hostel managers that it is very difficult to have single accomodations.in the historical center. Hostal Orquidea that charged me $17 per night now has nothing below $25 per night – the clientele largely foreign. The Foreign Office study makes special reference to the historical center where the concentration is happening. The accomodation to greater demand from a public able to pay higher prices inevitably means that Ecuadorian with less resources are excluded from the area. I also noticed that US style fast food places that in 2012 were only found at Mall Del Rio now are spreading across the historical center. The prices at Subway are what I was paying at Subway in the San Francisco Bay Area. The miinimum hourly wage in California is $9; in Ecuador it is $2.48.Yet Subway is charging both the same sandwich price at $6 and above. This tells me that the spread of Subway and similar fast food business is in response to the presence of sufficient gringo market that will pay the prices. I noted McDonald ‘s lowered their combo prices from those that mirrored prices in a Metro areas in the US. Perhaps McDonald’s has realized that its price structure does not reflect the present declining purchasing power of the Ecuadorian people. Ecuador is facing an economic crisis with its primary cash product: oil, falling from $100 to below $50. Of concerrn to the gringo community should also be the recent report to the Ecuadorian government that the government run health system is near collapse. I am told that many Ecuadorians are worried about the direction of the economy. More taxes and more fees are being charged to make up for the fall in oil income. Incomes of Ecuadoriain are being cut. In this difficult environment I believe the present government is responding to valid complaints of its own citizens as it looks at the gringo factor in the Cuenca historical center. It will be difficult to convince the growing influx of gringos to move away from the center when they are neither likely to drive or to walk long distances to find the amenities that make life bearable here. Other parts of Cuenca would need to be developed to be equally attractive. I hope a solution will be found that is fair to all.

    • Dave Edwards

      Thanks but please note that only US citizens are ‘gringos’. Don’t group all foreigners under that term. Also, it is the North Americans who tend to be the weathiest and not other expats. Minimum wages in Spain, my home country, is only about $3.3 per hour.

    • DJones

      Great points Antonio. But remember, after reading many comments here and elsewhere, US Expats only think of US Expats, not locals. And this applies all over the world. It is the American way (not all, but most). I’ve lived 10 years overseas in two different countries and never hung around Americans because of their attitude towards the locals, local traditions, etc. (well, except one in Australia… she was really cute 🙂 I hope to immigrate to EC in two years when I can retire (I’ve already started learning Spanish). I will also be looking for a place to live away from most US Expats (not all but most). It is interesting Antonio, most Americans will bitch and complain about the local price of a Big Mac, then buy it. But there is a minority of US Expats that don’t even want to go to American establishments, care about their neighbors and those are the ones I would like to associate with. Thank you again for your opinion Antonia. Have a great year.

      And Dave Edwards – Very true, I looked it up in the dictionary. 🙂