More than 43,000 Cuencanos live overseas but many have returned; U.S. citizens are the city’s largest immigrant group

Jun 2, 2016 | 2 comments

A survey on international migration patterns shows that Cuenca has more citizens living outside of the country than any city in southern Ecuador, and proportionally, more than the country’s other large cities, including Quito and Guayaquil.

The survey, conducted by Andina Sobre Migración Internacional y Remesas and Grupo Reiss Argentina, reported that 43,300 former residents of Cuenca live overseas, followed by 26,585 for Loja and 22,670 for Machala.

Expats meet U.S. Embassy officials in 2011

Expats meet U.S. Embassy officials in 2012

The figure for Cuenca is down from a high of about 95,000 in the 1990s.

The Colombian research group William Mejia and Associates, which helped compile the numbers, reported that large numbers of migrants from Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Bolivia are returning home because of poor economies in their adopted countries. South American migrants to Spain, where the unemployment rate is 23%, represent the largest number of returnees. The vast majority of Latin American migrants left home to find better paying employment.

The report notes that immigration is a two-way street and that Cuenca is adding thousands of foreign immigrants to its population.

A February estimate of foreigners living in Cuenca by Ecuador’s Ministry of the Exterior showed that U.S. citizens comprise the largest group. It also showed that there are about 2,200 official refugees from Colombia living in the city, here to escape the civil war in that country. The estimated totals for immigrants living in Cuenca are:

U.S. citizens: 4,600; Colombians: 3,500; Peruvians: 2,150; Venezuelans: 1,625; Spanish: 950; Canadians: 875; Cubans: 825; Argentinians: 625; French: 490; British: 390; Italians: 250; and Germans: 225.

A survey compiled by the University of Texas (U.S.) and released in April reports that Cuenca is the most popular destination in Ecuador for U.S. and Canadian citizens. The study, based on interviews with North Americans who had recently arrived in the country and who intend to become residents, reports that 37% intended to, or are strongly considering, living in Cuenca. Other popular destinations were Quito, 19%, Guayaquil, 14%, Manta, 8%, Vilcabamba, 6%, and Cotacachi, 5%.

 

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