What impact do expat retirees have on Latin American colonial cities and how do those cities affect expats? Study seeks answers

Jun 20, 2018

Although a great deal has been reported about the growing number of North American and European retirees relocating to Latin America, relatively little has been said about the impact those expats have on their adopted communities. Also largely unreported are the changes that living in foreign cities has on expats.

What is the attraction to expats of colonial cities like Cuenca?

Learning more about the relationship between expat retirees and the Latin American communities they chose to live in is the focus of a National Geographic study being conducted by researchers from the University of North Carolina. In particular, the study focuses on colonial cities such as Cuenca, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and Antigua, Guatemala.

“Colonial cities have a special appeal for expat retirees for a number of reasons,” says Dr. Philip Sloane, project director. “They have developed infrastructure, picturesque environments, and offer cultural opportunities not found in other communities.”

University of North Carolina research team in Cuenca.

He adds that the attractiveness of colonial cities to foreigners can be a mixed blessing. “The expat phenomenon, and the expat retiree phenomenon in particular, can stimulate economic development, create new jobs and increase the income of national and local governments who are a part of it,” Sloane says. “On the other hand, social and cultural problems have the potential to arise. Because of this, colonial cities that want to attract North American and European retirees must plan on both how to attract the migration but also how to guide it.”

Sloane and his research team are spending three weeks in Cuenca collecting information for the study, interviewing Cuencanos as well as expats. A major tool for obtaining feedback is a survey developed by the research team. “We really need the input of a large cross-section of the Cuenca expat community to make the study successful so please help us out by participating.” The survey can be found online at www.cuencasurvey.org

According to Sloane, participants should be over 55, retired, a native of the U.S., Canada, or Europe, and live in Cuenca for at least four months a year. The survey takes about 20 minutes to complete.

“The goals of our project are to investigate expat retiree impact on colonial cities, learn about the experience of the retirees, understand the role of government in hosting them, and develop recommendations for cities on how to attract retirees in a manner that maximizes quality of life for everyone,” Sloane says.

Those who would like to contact Dr. Sloane directly with information or observations relevant to the project can write him at philip_sloane@med.unc.edu

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