What Cuencanos say about expats: They’re good for business and the culture but should learn Spanish

Mar 4, 2022 | 55 comments

Editor’s note: The following is a sample of Cuencano opinions about English-speaking expats living in Cuenca. They were compiled by University of Cuenca graduate student Silvia Lara for a research project about immigration. The comments were translated into English by Carlos Fernando Flores.

“I lived in the U.S. for 27 years and appreciate the way of life there. Now that I am back home, I am happy to have so many North American friends. It’s good for the city.” –Juan C.

Most Cuencanos say that expats and tourists have enriched the city.

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“When I lived in New Jersey, the locals would tell Hispanic people that they needed to learn English if we wanted to live in the U.S. I agreed and learned their language. It seems that many of the expats here do not agree and don’t make much effort to learn Spanish.” –Moises C.

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“The foreigners are much better about following the pandemic health rules than the Ecuadorians.” –Gustavo C

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“What I notice about the old gringos who live in Cuenca is that their most important activity is eating and drinking. I think this explains why so many of them are fat. They should go to the mercado, buy some healthy food and eat at home instead of eating the unhealthy food at restaurants.” –Helena B.

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“I believe the foreigners are very good for our culture. I see them at concerts and art exhibits and sometimes there are as many expats there as Cuencanos. I think this is fantastic. It will enrich our culture and bring more events to Cuenca.” –Ximena R.

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“When I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, most men in Cuenca wore (Panama) hats. Today, it’s only the gringos who wear them.” —Lenin B

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“There is a couple from the United States who go to my church and they are great people. They are learning Spanish and work with our youth group and have become part of my family.” –Silvia N.

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“Because I speak English, I have several friends who are North American and have come to understand their point of view on many things. They expect things to be more efficient here because of how they lived back home and I agree with them on most things. There are many improvements that we should make to improve our lives. However, I have a problem with a few of them who complain about everything and I wonder why they live here if they are so unhappy. It is true that many things don’t work as they should but there are many great things about Cuenca and Ecuador.” –Rodrigo D.

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Many Cuencanos complain that expats don’t try hard enough to learn Spanish.

“I love everything about the U.S. – the culture, the food, the women, the roads. I think it’s good for Cuenca that more North Americans and Europeans are living here. I think they will bring good things to our way of life.” –Wilson M.

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“The French and Germans are very rude.” –Carlos N.

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“I like that most of the foreigners who live in Cuenca don’t have cars. They walk and take buses, the tram and taxis. More Cuencanos should do this.” –Marcelo T.

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“One thing that bothers me about some of the foreigners is that they think they know everything. They don’t know Spanish or the history of Ecuador and they have all the answers to our problems. I wonder why they didn’t fix things in the countries they came from.” –Diana A.


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“During the pandemic, most of the foreigners seemed scared to death. My neighbor from California never came out of her apartment and ran away whenever I got near her.” –Sara N.

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“About a quarter of the customers in my restaurant are foreigners and they appreciate good service more than Cuencanos.” –Fernando C.

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“I wish more young gringos were living here. Most of the ones I see are old. In the U.S. I think they call them ‘old farts.’” –Carlos V.

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“I am glad they are here and I have made several foreign friends. It gives me a chance to practice my English and makes Cuenca more of an international city.” –Freddy M.

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“I saw a picture in the newspaper of several old foreigners walking down the sidewalk. They all looked unhealthy and fat. I think they should walk to the gym.”  –Juan E.

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Do expats eat and drink too much?

“I volunteer in a program to stop violence against women and the North American and European volunteers I have met are fabulous people. They care very much about the work they are doing.” –Gaby D.

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“I have two North American friends who teach at the university with me. This is good for students who get to hear English as it is spoken in North America. It is also good for the other professors too. It is a great benefit to share cultural ideas.” –Alexandra W.

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“I read in National Geographic that Cuenca is the best place in the world to live and that is why so many foreigners are moving here. I believe it is good they are coming. But I hope there are not too many of them. I visit my brother in Vilcabamba and he tells me that gringos have made it impossible for local people to buy real estate there. They have made the prices higher. That has not happened yet in Cuenca and I hope it does not.” –Jeferson N.

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“I saw a gringa at Supermaxi a few weeks ago and she was wearing three facemasks and a plastic helmet with a visor. I wanted to ask her when she was going to the moon.” –Alex M.

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“Two large gringas got in my taxi last week and each one of them must have weighed 100 kilos. I thought, ‘aye, aye, aye, my poor shock absorbers.’ Between the potholes in El Centro and the heavy foreigners I know I will pay more to repair my suspension. I am only half serious because I like foreigners and appreciate their business. I get angry when I hear of taxi drivers who try to charge them higher fares. We should be happy that they are here.” –Jose M.

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“I notice that the old expats go to the bars and restaurants early in the evening. I think they all go home by 9. Then, the young gringos come out and start partying with the Cuencanos. You don’t see the old and young gringos together very often.” –Maria F.

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“I lived for three years in the mountains in Panama and the gringos there acted superior to the local people because they had more money. Most of the gringos seemed to be alcoholics and there were bad relations with the local people. This is not the case in Cuenca and the gringos get involved in the local life.” –Juan T.




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