Mass murders and violence in the U.S. could prompt some to look for a new home overseas; A new book about Cuenca offers one option

May 28, 2022 | 19 comments

A peaceful evening at Cuenca’s Parque Calderon. Stephen Vargha’s new book “Una Nueva Vida – A New Life” includes 80 photos by the author.

By Stephen Vargha

As the people of Uvalde, Texas mourned, there was little agreement on the root cause of the tragedy or the solution to the staggering average of 321 gun deaths per day in the United States.

Dr. Roxane Gay wrote in the New York Times, “Time and again we are told, both implicitly and explicitly, that all we can do is endure this constancy of violence. All we can do is hope these bullets don’t hit our children or us. Or our families. Or our friends and neighbors.”

The recent mass shootings have spurred more calls for gun regulations, but most experts said the exact opposite is coming. Since the 2012 slaughter at Sandy Hook, the U.S. Congress hasn’t addressed the gun violence epidemic.

Reaction on social media exploded. The posts were predictable, but a new approach to the violent environment in the U.S. has appeared online: “Move to Another Country.”

Stephen Vargha’s new book is available in digital and paperback formats from Amazon.

A father in San Antonio posted, “One of my biggest fears is that my family and I will have to leave Texas as refugees. Every day, it feels like we inch closer to that reality.” His Facebook friend in Oregon replied, “I’ve had same thought!”

Meanwhile a Facebook meme from a documentary producer and diver in North Carolina said, “I want to live in a country that loves its children more than it loves guns.” That brought the response, “Canada.” Moving up north was followed by, “I truly think Americans will have to look elsewhere.”

The day after the school killings in Texas, a friend sent me a direct message on Facebook. The friend, who lives in Washington state, asked, “Could you tell me how difficult it is to acquire a Retirement Visa for Ecuador? Can it be done from here?” She added, “Do you feel generally safe there, as an expat?”

Her questions were prompted by Uvalde, and she is by far not the only American looking to a better life outside of the United States.

It is difficult to know how many Americans have already moved overseas to flee the violence. What is known is 10 million Americans are living outside the U.S., and that number keeps growing.

Tending the crops in Cuenca’s fertile landscape.

InterNations is a forum, an expats marketplace to exchange ideas and thoughts. Its 2015 survey of expats from around the world found 38 percent to “have thoughts about the cost of living” before moving abroad. The survey added, “Personal safety and crime (32%) were at the top of the list of many expatriates. Nearly three in 10 expats (29%) say they considered the weather in their future host country.”

That survey was taken before the mass shootings in Las Vegas (60 deaths), Orlando (49 deaths), Sutherland Springs, Texas (26 deaths), El Paso (23 deaths), and Uvalde (22 deaths).

In my just-released book, “Una Nueva Vida – A New Life,” I wrote, “Believe it or not, the murder rate in Ecuador is higher than the United States. Ecuador is in the middle of the road compared to other South American countries, including Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela.”

I went on to say, “You cannot paint with a broad brush when talking about specifics, such as violent crime in Cuenca. This is especially true as Guayaquil is by far Ecuador’s most dangerous city. Because Ecuador has a rather small population, and because Guayaquil’s population is 17 percent of the country’s total number, it skews the national statistics a lot more than the three most dangerous cities in the United States combined. In 2021, Detroit, St. Louis, and Memphis had the highest crime rates. Together those three cities only represent a half of one percent of the U.S. population.”

“Una Nueva Vida – A New Life” is illuminating with its photographs and detailed information.

The other way to look at violent crime statistics is it is not fair to lump Virginia Beach and San Diego in with the U.S. violent crime rates. These two large cities are considered the safest in the United States. Cuenca is like these two American cities.

This journalist of four decades believes in having at least two sources for his information. It is a key facet of journalism.

That is why I said in my book, “The globally respected Instituto de Seguridad, Justicia y Paz (Institute for Security, Justice, and Peace) has a yearly study on the 50 most violent cities in the world. The Mexican institution is fair with its rankings as seven of the eight worst in its 2020 rankings are Mexican cities. The only other city in the worst eight is St. Louis.”

I emphasized in the book no Ecuador cities appear on its dubious list while the United States had five.  Despite its dubious reputation, Guayaquil is not considered one of the fifty most dangerous cities.

To help you get a better idea of the crime rate in Ecuador compared to the United States, I pointed out some of the highlights from 2020 statistics:

-Assaults: The U.S. is 3 times more than Ecuador.
-Assaults, Serious: The U.S. is 10 times more than Ecuador.
-Auto Theft: The U.S. is 7 times more than Ecuador.
-Burglaries: Ecuador is 3 times more than the U.S.
-Rape: The U.S. is 16 times more than Ecuador.

Taking in the cafe scene at San Sebastian Plaza.

Many expats will concur that Cuenca is safe. It is why I wrote, “Being pickpocketed is by far the most reported crime by expats on social media, but you never hear about Cuenca being a place for visitors to fear having something lifted from their pockets or handbags. The same holds true for Barcelona, Spain. In 2021, Barcelona had become the Pickpocket Capital of Europe with over 300 thefts being reported every single day. Despite that notoriety, discouraging words about Barcelona are far and few between.”

“Una Nueva Vida – A New Life” helps clear the air about crime rates and types of crime, but there is a lot more than just crime and gun violence.

With over 80 professional-quality photos shot by this author, “Una Nueva Vida – A New Life, A Rejuvenated Enthusiasm in Cuenca, Ecuador” gives you a clear ‘picture’ about life in this historic mountain city.

It is about moving overseas and addresses every issue and concern for the Baby Boomer, who are rapidly approaching or reached the age of retirement.

A growing number of American Baby Boomers are hitting 65 years of age without enough money stashed away to maintain their standard of living. They will need an alternative to living in poverty or fear of bankruptcy in their current hometown. Tied into that is the cost of healthcare in the U.S., which often wipes out families.

The author presents the city in ways that have not been seen before, including this view of the old and new cathedrals.

This book’s focus is on people at or near retirement age, though it applies to all ages. Digital nomads are greatly increasing in numbers and Ecuador is now welcoming people with jobs to a highly affordable and beautiful country.

The second part of this series about “Una Nueva Vida – A New Life” will address life in Cuenca and what it entails. There is a special and unique chapter of the book that is enlightening to all, including many expats already living in the city.

Adam Truslow, the coiner of “The American Dream,” stated, “Life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”

Many are looking outside of the U.S. to make this happen.

And a high percentage have made their way to Cuenca for a rejuvenated life.

Stephen Vargha is a journalist of 41 years. He is currently a contributor to CuencaHighLife as well as the Asistente de Información Pública for the Cuenca Symphony Orchestra.

“Una Nueva Vida – A New Life” is available at Amazon in digital and paperback formats.


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