By Alice Chaummers
It’s been almost two years since my last post. My husband and I decamped Cuenca for Medellin a while back for what we thought would be greener pastures. Well, it turned out they weren’t so green and we decided to come back. There’s a lot of reasons why –think crossfire — and I’ll explain more in a future post. Needless-to-say, I’m happy to be home.
Historic District Supermaxi / Gran Aki supermarket is on the rise
Construction of the hybrid Supermaxi-Gran Aki at the north edge of the historic district is on schedule according to its owners, Favorita Corporation. They say it will open in December but, considering the “Ecuador effect,” I’d predict February or March of next year. Favorita says the store, which is at the corner of Rafael María Arízaga and Tarqui and will go by the name Super Aki, will be a “boutique supermarket” like the ones in residential neighborhoods in Europe and the U.S. — whatever that means. For full details, click here.
San Francisco Plaza scuttlebutt
Nobody seems happy with the new San Francisco Plaza. The vendors complain that they’re too spread out and that the city has allowed food carts on the plaza after promising it wouldn’t. The public’s verdict, from both Cuencanos and gringos, is that the place is a “barren wasteland” and needs visual enhancements, like serious greenery (the pathetic little planters along the edges with their pathetic little plants don’t get it!). And why isn’t the fountain working?
One city councilman (I forget his name) says he will push for design changes to spruce up the place. The good thing, he says, is that the plaza is empty so upgrades won’t be too expensive.
Were any of you around a few years ago for the flower market fiasco? I was visiting town for the first time when they unveiled the new market and everybody hated it, especially the stupid little plastic huts the vendors were supposed to work out of. There was such an uproar the city replaced the huts with umbrellas, which was what was there in the first place. My point? I’m expecting changes at Platz San Francisco.
What about all the Venezuelan beggars?
If you think there’s a lot of Venezuelans in Cuenca, you should visit Medellin or Bogota. At last count, the estimate was 150,000 refugees in Medellin while I understand there are about 4,000 in Cuenca (about 10 times more per capita). On some downtown Medellin streets I would count seven or eight families on a single block selling candy and Bolivars.
It is a tragic situation and my heart goes out to all those families who are on the road; I can’t imagine what they are going through. And my hat goes off to the charities, like the expat soup kitchen, that do their best to help.
Although the situation is not as bad as in Medellin, there’s growing anger at the refugees among Cuencanos. One story circulating on social media is that some Venezuelans rent children to lie beside them on the sidewalk.
Don’t worry, I won’t get into the politics of it. I notice that the mere mention of a political angle sets off hysteria in the CHL comments section (Any of you ever lived around guinea hens?).
The differences I see in Cuenca
Although I was gone for less than two years, I see a lot of changes since we returned. The good ones: There are more and better restaurants, most liquor prices have dropped by a half and sometimes more, and there are fewer dogs on the streets. The bad ones: The traffic is worse than ever in El Centro and they still haven’t fixed the sidewalks in my neighborhood.
I also notice more young expats than two years ago, a lot of them with kids. And then there are more backpackers but some of them may be language students — I can’t tell.
The big change, of course, is the tram. I’ll cover that in my next edition.
Wanna hear a couple of Ecuadorian jokes?
A traffic cop pulls over a man on a motorcycle.
Cop to man: “Do you realize you have four children on the back of your moto?”
Man to cop: “Only four?” he shouts as he looks behind him. “Where’s Jorge?”
What do women in Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca say after sex?
The lady from Quito says nothing, just lights up a cigarette.
The lady from Guayaquil asks, “What’s your name again?”
The lady from Cuenca says, “Please, please, don’t tell anyone.”