By Liam Higgins
A few years back, a couple from the U.S. checked into a motel near Riobamba. They had flown into Quito early in the afternoon, rented a car and were on their way to Cuenca when they decided to call it a day.
A week later, they mentioned their overnight experience to an expat they met in Parque Calderon. “We had a great night’s sleep,” the traveler said. “But we couldn’t figure out why they charged us by the hour.”
As most expats come to find out, motels in Ecuador are not for sleeping. Or, if they are, it’s a secondary function. Think No-Tell Motel. Think Cupid Motel, Aphrodite Motel or La Esquina del Amor. You find them on the outskirts of all larger towns and cities in Ecuador, usually on a major highway.
In keeping with their no-tell culture, motels put parking lots behind the buildings so lovers’ cars are out of sight from passing traffic. Many motels have large front gates to keep out the curious. “Maintaining privacy is one of our most important services,” says Jorge Galindo, manager of the Cupid’s Quiver Motel on a highway outside of Cuenca. “We don’t ask why people rent our rooms. We only want them to have an enjoyable time and know that are safe from peeping eyes.”
Although it has no exact figures, the ministry of tourism estimates that there are more an 1,000 motels in the country, all dedicated to keeping trysts confidential.
Galindo says that the motel business in Cuenca is generally lucrative. “This is a stable business since the need is constant,” he says. “We are especially busy on holidays with the time around around Valentine’s Day being the busiest time of year. We are beginning preparations for that now, making sure we have plenty of liquor, rose petals and romantic music.”
So why are the roadside love nests so popular in Ecuador? Given that this is a strict Catholic country they can seem out of place to many visitors.
It turns out that there’s a logical explanation. The vast majority of young Ecuadorians live with their parents until they get married. Given the fact that most parents have conservative values, sexual activity is usually prohibited within the household for the unmarried. This also explains why you see so much smooching and kanoodling going on among young people on the streets and in the parks of Cuenca. Read more about it here.
According to Galindo, motels provide the amorous with a safe, comfortable trysting place. “Mom and dad aren’t allowed here,” she says.
He adds: “Of course, there are other couples who come here who are not living with their parents. We don’t ask questions.”