Expat Life

The power of the Ecuadorian family: A photo album

“Love is all you need”.
— John Lennon

Photos and text by Robert Bradley

A bedrock of Ecuadorian culture is devoted to family.  I see it daily. On almost every occasion when I ask if I may take a child’s photo, or ask a family to group together for a portrait, their willingness to share their affection for one another with me is humbling and deeply rewarding.

Robert Bradley

Robert Bradley

Robert Bradley is a former restaurateur and Manager of multiple Meals on Wheels sites in Portland, OR. He has long experience in public service and community relations. He moved to Cuenca in February ’17.

  • LadyMoon

    Lovely sentiments, Robert. Beautiful photos. But behind that facade is a 70% domestic violence rate, and a high incidence of incest. And, as in the rest of the world, the traditions have and will continue to change. The demands of the family are sometimes resented and rebelled against. Young women will bow to the expectations and deands of the family to get married and have a child. So they do it. Then they divorce, telling the family “I did what you wanted!”

    • Ken

      Thank you Robert for sharing. Speaking of 70%, my Ecuadorian friend told me that he read in one Ecuadorian publication that the divorce rate in Ecuador is 70%. If this figure or anywhere near is accurate, domestic violence, incest, and marrying or having children so young would contribute to the extremely high divorce rate. From my non scientific observation working in some volunteer capacity, working/living/traveling in Ecuador and many other Latin Nations, I observed the same problem as LadyMoon posted here. Ecuador is a beautiful country, its rural people are so genuine. I often compare Ecuador to other former developing countries made to the top -fair or not. It has to change dramatically to move beyond the Banana Republic state. Begin by making the country right for all people and create/implement long term progressive plan. Yes, many advanced nations have faults as well. The banana export is not strong as prior years by the way. I wish Ecuador the best. I enjoyed my stay in Ecuador.

    • StillWatching

      Thanks for having the courage to speak out against what we both know is an abomination in Ecuador. Robert’s pictures are so moving and beautiful and they never fail to bring a smile to my face, but having lived in this culture for so long I have become acutely aware of the part of the culture you allude to.

      Robert, you know how I feel about your photos and your words because I express those feelings often. They feed me viscerally, but they don’t remove the underlying knowledge I have about child and spouse abuse. Moonie has nailed it in her simple explanation of how these things develop. It is all a manifestation of the underlying culture of machismo that sadly, seems to be invisible to new expats. In general, machistas love their kids and spouses in the way they have been taught over centuries of this culture. Change comes slowly but every time I see a strong woman that refuses to accept abuse of herself or her children, I know another victory has been won in this battle.

      When you see abuse, speak out against it. Never presume your voice won’t make a difference.

      “The failure to condemn an activity is indeed, an offer of tacit approval. All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

      • RJB

        Thank you, SW. I appreciate your input and greatly value your opinion.
        Yur pal, Bob

      • Karen Lynn Kennedy

        I agree also with Lady Moon ansd Still Watching. My husband came from a dysfunctional family, and we have worked very hard to overcome the results of his difficult childhood. We now counsel many people who have been victims of abuse (incest, alcoholism, violence and even dealing with people who commited murder to be rid of the abuser). It is a serious social problem, that needs both strong women and empathetic men to overcome. As long as one gender shrugs its shoulders and says, “that’s just the way it is”, there will never be true change away from “machismo” and all it allows. The photos are beautiful, tho’!!

        • StillWatching

          Dear Karen,

          Not until more people of both genders find the courage to speak out publicly about this problem will it ever begin to take on more than the evolutionary momentum that has slowly dragged Ecuador into the 20th Century. Yes, I’m aware that much of the rest of the world is already in the 21st Century in this regard, but instead of decrying where we should be, I prefer to encourage any and all progress by applauding it whenever I see it, no matter where that leaves us on the scale of relativity.

          I applaud the participation of you and LadyMoon in this regard and hope that it will encourage others to also speak out. I also hope it will shorten the time it takes new expats to see this reality and join the chorus of those that speak out against this aspect of Ecuadorian culture. This is not the time for the “it’s their country” crowd to be providing cover for people’s failure to condemn this abuse.

          StillWatching and Still Speaking Out

  • Rodney

    Love your photographs! So honest and natural.

  • edgeof 2

    ….is that because here in Ecuador lack strong social systems traditionally. They need to stick together for protection. Anecdotally I now a number of Ecuadorian families that stick together with terrible abuse, conflict and in fighting. In the States you could be out on your own at 18 in my day and you could be pretty safe and secure on your own across the country from your biological family. After 18 which is better…..nuclear family can be a very good institution for upbringing, then it can, also be a constraint on individuality and initiative. Ideal to project the welcoming world as your extended family.

  • Wonderful photos, Robert. While visiting in Otavalo a couple of years ago, I loved my photo of a working mother who had her son at the restaurant. I made a copy the next day at a friendly photo shop in town. Brought it by and gave her the picture. Favorite spot where I hope we see her again.