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Who’s first, second or third?

“It’s not a third-world country!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told that to my mother and some of my friends back in the US when they question how I could live in Ecuador.

My mother has no excuse, she’s been here.  But to her, there was poverty everywhere and the living conditions were not what she is used to.  My friends have no excuse because while many of them have been to third world countries, none have been here yet!

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Actually, the most ridiculous thing about it all is that they all are fed up with the shenanigans going on in the US.  They question what is happening to the country they grew up in and wonder if there might be somewhere better to go to.  And yet, they haven’t considered Ecuador (except for my mother…who made it clear that this was not the place for her!).

Well, this is my shout out to them and all of the people you know who ask you the same questions.  This is NOT a “third-world” country.  I know, I’ve been to many.

Let me ask you [them] this, “What is a “third-world country?  How do you define it?”  According to Wikipedia, the term actually arose during the Cold War to mean countries that “remained non-aligned with either NATO or the Communist Bloc.”

However, history and the changing political alliances have altered the context of that meaning (and will continue to do so).  Rather than being a political identifier, the term has more recently come to define countries that are economically depressed and/or have no industry.  But to the average person, it means countries that have none of the conveniences, cleanliness and comfort of countries of the US and most of Europe.

The control room of a new hydro electric project near Cuenca.

Now, without getting into the updated meaning of “first-world and second-world,” I challenge everyone to ask themselves these questions.  What do you call a country that:

• Is giving its people the right to approve a referendum placing term-limits on the President and other politicians?

• Has top-level medical services that rival those found in the US (albeit a bit delayed in adoption of some newer procedures) at a fraction of the cost?

• Still allows open immigration with a relatively easy application process?

• Has strong workers rights that protect most of its citizens from abuse by their employers?

• Has embraced alternative energy options and has invested heavily in hydroelectric power?

• Is a Democracy that requires  its citizens to vote?

• Is one of the 17 “megadiverse” countries in the World?

• In its Constitution recognizes the “Rights of Nature?

Now, is that a first, second or third-world country?  Except for Ecuador, what other countries can live up to all of that?  I propose that there are not too many.

Look, I’m not trying to say that Ecuador is the best country in the world, or that it is better than the US, or Canada, or wherever you [or your friends] are from.  I’m just saying, it’s time for some of my friends [and yours] to get off the “third-world” bandwagon and come to their senses.

This is a country rich with opportunity, as safe as many other first-world countries, possesses what looks like a solid democracy where each person’s vote actually counts, and to say the least, is one of the most beautiful places on earth!

I for one am glad that that Ecuador allowed me to immigrate here.  Sadly, my home country now wants nothing to do with letting people from Ecuador immigrate there (we know three Ecuadorians who were recently denied travel visasto the US, with no reason given for their rejection).

And I’m really looking forward to seeing how term-limits affect a democracy (I personally believe it would solve a LOT of problems in the US).  It’s kind of like having a front-row seat to what originally happened in the US in the late 1700’s.

I’m going to close with an anecdote that brings all of this down to a personal level.  Last week, at our restaurant The Vegetable Bar, there was a massive power surge that blew through the entire Puertas del Sol neighborhood.  It wiped out a lot of our electrical appliances in the restaurant.  We fretted over this for an hour or so, and then our employees said, “It’s okay, the electric company will fix it.”  Well, I knew the electrical company would get the power surge problem settled.  But what they meant was that the electric company would pay for the damages.

Well, that’s a ludicrous thing to assume.  Yes it isn’t.  Because they did.  The very next day, Empressa Electica sent someone to see and record what was damaged from the power surge.  He arrived at 10 a.m., and by 3 p.m. had sent us an email letting us know they agreed with our clam and were going to repair everything we reported as damaged! [Unfortunately we missed two items, and there is not a mechanism to add them to a claim already approved.  But they are still covering 75%+ of the damage!]

Now, would a third-world company do that?  Or, would my electric company back in Denver have done that?

Ecuador is NOT a third-world country!

I’m just sayin.’

66 thoughts on “Who’s first, second or third?

  1. It is certainly a developing country… And it is certainly a poor country… Good story but I don’t think anyone would say it’s a first world country. Is there any such thing as a second world country?

    I like calling it a developing country. Ecuador is moving in the right direction, and that is a good thing.

    1. Spot on…Ecuador is a country in transition. for example, most of Ecuador’s economy is based on cash tranasctions, major roadways are often in disrepair, there’s no efficient parcel service. But we do love Ecuador!

      1. The entire planet is transition. The West has already fallen to a large extent. Happily, the lifting of its exploitation is now allowing formerly vassal markets to bloom. And they have the advantage of a new infrastructure… like Japan and Germany got after WW2. So the climb upwards in these countries is even faster than the decline in the West.

        I don’t think any intelligent person can any longer believe that capitalism holds any promise. Amassing wealth and income, without limit or need, has to lead to a handful of people owning everything, including “their” governments.

        Hopefully, there is a better system. Something that works and keeps far more people health and happy. Until then, let’s brace ourselves. Collapses are not pretty.

        1. Re: “I have not had to carry a MACHETE at my SIDE here in Ecuador like I had to in Guatemala…”
          That’s wonderful, that YOU are safe and secure. So I guess it depends on what part of Ecuador you live, doesn’t it? You see, I have a MACHETE on the side of my bed, and wear a weapons belt (no gun) whenever I leave my apartment, located in the northeast of Ecuador.
          So, if you want anyone to give your evaluation any credibility, you need to get out more and experience the places in Ecuador where you may need to carry a MACHETE. Your comments are that of a “travel agent”, in bringing only sunlight, and never admitting to the darkness.

          1. Whenever Acbig1 leaves his apartment in northeast Ecuador, he wears a weapons belt without a weapon. What’s that all about, Acbig?

        2. We already know socialism and communism doesn’t work. Venzuela and Cuba are great examples.

  2. Agree 100% Michael. I send my friends back in the USA pictures from the Mall del Pacifico in Manta near where I live, and then some pics of the vegetable displays in the Central Market and the spectacular assortment of fresh fish at the fish market. Is there poverty here? For sure. But even the poor smile and give you a friendly greeting. I think the 3rd world designation might come from the lack of potable drinking water throughout the country, but to me that is a small price to pay for the everyday beauty and peace that Ecuador gives ………and ….well,,,,,,Ecuador is on an uphill path and the old USA is heading downhill pretty fast The racism I thought was on the decline for 50 years has reared its ugly head stronger than ever before in my lifetime and I am simply glad to be away from it. Yo! Ecuador!

    1. These designations no longer have any meaning. They are used only by those in denial, (a distressingly common condition these days. 🙁 If you examine today’s demographics and compare them with mid-19th century USA, nothing has changed when it comes to racism and the elite. It was hopeful for a period in the 60s and 70s, the height of deeply monitored capitalism, when everyone was prospering and the Middle Class ballooned..but Reagan/Thatcher ended that and began the present decline. (shrug)

      Most of us here have been very lucky in when we were born. Smartest thing to do now is find a ringside seat and watch it all unfold. It will be very interesting!

      1. No thanks, I’d rather be an active participant in promoting human rights then a passive observer of the progress of a global tyranny.

      1. Spoken like a true Trump acolyte. Why didn’t you also use the phrases Deep State, Crooked FBI, lying CIA, Shithole countries?

  3. Most well-read people don’t use the term “third-world” anymore and instead use the term “developing”. It has more do with things like infrastructure, education levels and sanitation of a country rather than some of those liberal tendencies you may wish to project upon us in the news section of this website..

  4. I’ve lived in Quito since July, 2001 (16+ years) and I agree with author of the article. Ecuador has its flaws but things are definitely improving here.

  5. In the upcoming Referendum (OK, first of all, do 1st World countries typically allow the governed to yea/nay key policies?) voters will choose whether Ecuador will forego profits from logging and mining, increase the area and protection of mega-diverse reserves, limit extent and disturbance of oil drilling, and increase the control of indigenous citizens over their legacy lands. I expect voters will protect rather than profit from natural treasure, a decision crucial to limiting greenhouse gas-driven disrupted climate – a problem impacting every nation.
    Does governance in Ecuador offer ways to re-define how status is conferred on a country?

  6. In spite of its many positives, I’m pretty sure Ecuador is still considered a third world country by most.

    1. Not by anyone who’s done much traveling. Ecuador ranks 6th among the 33 Latin America and Caribbean countries in IMF quality of living ratings. If you want to see third world, visit El Salvador, Honduras and Guyana. The difference is amazing.

  7. For purposes of obtaining grants, we are no longer a third world country, but a developing country. That has resulted in the availability of grants, but it is good news.

  8. For purposes of obtaining grants Ecuador is no longer considered a third world country, but a developing country. That is great news, but does reduce the availability of grants.

  9. Nice article. Thank you for sharing those thoughts as we are on our way to Ecuador very soon for our first visit and scouting mission

  10. What I notice when I travel is not governance or infrastructure. I notice tribalism. Family first, friends second, nothing third. The world literally stops at the front door step for 90% of the population. This is glaringly apparent with drivers and pedestrians (in other words, people who do not know you personally as family or friend). You are not a valuable human being worthy of common courtesy, much less respect. This tribalism is also responsible for Ecuador’s “siege mentality.” Everyone outside my tribe will rob me, kill me, or rape me, so I need high walls with barbed wire and broken glass surrounding my home. If I can afford it, I have an armed guard at the entrance. This is a big reason that many people consider the entire southern hemisphere to be “third-world.” Many of these countries have made great strides, but all are just one election away from being failed states (Venezuela) because there can be no nation when the tribe ends at your front door.

  11. Great article Michael! Having lived in Ecuador for almost seven years, I don’t feel the “Third World” concept many people living in the USA and Canada recognize. Here’s a link to the concept:

    In passing, I understand that advertising brings in $$, but I wish I could read, and scroll through comments, without ladies boob hanging out in the advertising..Just sayin’.

  12. You say Ecuador is not “Third World,” but you don’t claim it is First World, either. If you can’t drink the tap water, the police and various bureaucrats demand bribes, the electricity is not dependable, there is no reliable postal system, and the internet is spotty, then you are not First World.

    1. Still likely cannot drink the water in Michigan. Plenty of police in the U.S. are on the take. Electricity is just as dependable here as it is in some rural parts of the U.S. I’ve lost plenty of mail in the U.S. Let’s not forget that much of the rural U.S. still does not have good internet. Give me a break….

  13. RE: “Or, would my electric company back in Denver have done that?”
    Answer: They don’t have blackouts in Denver. You need to get out more.

    1. He’s writing about an electrical surge, not a blackout. And, they have them everywhere for all sorts of reasons. Had a bunch of equipment destroyed by a surge in Dallas, the power company definitely did not replace any of it. So, of course, I went to their competitor–oh wait, it was a monopoly.

  14. There is a lot of ignorance out there, specially if you have never traveled out of USA. I’m retiring to Cuenca in July. I have done a lot of research that supported my choice. USA can have a lot of good things, but there is no more “American Dream”, its a nightmare. No wonder why there are 8.5 million of US expat living abroad. I hate when I see comments without supporting facts about any country in the world. Loved your article, shows your sensibility and respect to Ecuadorians’, way to go. Maybe we meet soon in Cuenca. Victor

  15. This is a wonderful country and I am planning on becoming a citizen actually. .There are a few ignorant comments and to those I say this: I have not had to carry a MACHETE at my SIDE here in Ecuador like I had to in Guatemala and parts of Mexico as a way of keeping my life and the lives of my kids. I have live in 6 countries now including the USA and I have to say that life here in Ecuador is a hell of a lot better than what I saw in California and Michigan. I am not dodging bullets like I did in those states and I am not being threatened by pollution in air, water and food here like in the states. I am not being price gouged for healthy, clean, organic, NON Monsanto food here. In fact, it is extremely reasonable. I get the highest quality roses, coffee, organic cacao here for a teeny tiny fraction of the cost you see in the USA. I also have restaurants from all over the world here. I can order Indian, Chinese, Taiwanese, Arabic, Mexican, Japanese Sushi, Ecuadorian, Peruvian, Venezuelan, Colombian food and even hot dogs with an APP in under 5 minutes! From the same app (MegaByte on Android!) I can even order whatever Alcohol I want delivered, including high quality Patron Tequila, Champagne or red wine if I like. I can also have many items from the grocery store delivered as well. sure does not sound “3rd world” to me! (Try ordering all THAT from the Minnesota countryside where I grew up! LOL! I wonder if the ONE Mexican restaurant 15 miles away STILL even exists there! ha ha. ) I am really grateful that I am no longer paying 500 dollar per month for electric and 300 for water in Detroit. And I am grateful I will not get LEGIONAIRES Disease for drinking the TAP WATER! I am sorry but the USA is on an ENORMOUS decline.. Every day I hear news of the flu pandemic that has taken many lives, the freezing cold temperatures that people are suffering through right now, the social wars and riots, the ever-looming threat of nuclear war and all of it being led by the orange Clown in Chief!

    Ecuador has some problems, as all countries on Earth do. But at least they CARE about the ENVIRONMENT and the PEOPLE. I honestly cannot say the same about my home country.

    It is not for everyone but I don’t even want to know the people that Ecuador isn’t for, to be quite frank. This country has a hell of a lot more to offer me and my children and I am grateful to be making this my home country.

    🙂 God Bless the USA… it surely needs it right now. But also, God Bless Ecuador and the Whole World! 🙂

    I am happy to live in a country that has a PEACE Division in the Army that PRAYS for world peace for 1 hour per day and that sings to its rivers every April to keep harmony with the environment and that offers an amazing Expressive arts Therapy session for the whole country every New Years celebration and helps people get rid of emotional baggage…

    3rd world… ha ha… hardly!

  16. I grew up in Pakistan and am visiting there right now. I left in ’72. spent 8 years in Germany, 35+ in the US and now 4+ in Ecuador.

    I still travel to all these places but I will take Ecuador, especially Cuenca, over all the others for completely different reasons.

    The “third-world” concept is a bit outdated. Its use was abandoned when many of the “third-world” countries objected to its use during international meetings and International reports by the UN, World Bank, IMF and other international agencies. We now talk about a development continuum; some countries are further behind or ahead than others on the development scale

  17. Fact is…Ecuador (and all other developing nations that have not yet achieved a robust industrial capitalist economy) ARE 3rd World Countries. By every definition of First, Second, and Third World, Ecuador is a Third World country. The classification has everything to do with the economic base and nothing to do with whether or not they are “nice” places. Third World is not necessarily a derogatory term. Third World countries include most countries around the globe and the most sought after vacation spots. So being Third World does not mean that Ecuador is not beautiful, or that the people are not wonderful, or that it is not a great place to live. I know because I live here. I have also lived in Third World countries for the last 30 years and certainly know what they are. You’d be better off to grow some thicker skin and recognize that Ecuador IS a Third World country and at the same time a very progressive one and a great place to live.

  18. A “nightmare” is a personal experience, hence there really cannot be facts to support it, Galileo. What’s more, this may not apply to what your vision/experience is of the U.S. You also have expressed your opinions without supportable facts (“the USA has allowed a few left wing nuts to screw things up……”).

  19. Sadly and unshakably, it is part of every Americans’ heritage. If we look at Germany after WW2, it takes three generations of intensive re-education to (hopefully) make a decent dent on racism. It is very difficult to escape one’s roots.

  20. “it will always be considered a third world country…”
    I get it, you are Nostradamus, not Galileo. 😉
    I do hope you are not still here, your experience of ecuador seems so negative. 🙁

  21. Well said. The terms have become meaningless..more akin to xenophobia than anything else. Expats have been trained to a different culture, one that has based its value system on visible wealth and income for centuries…along with a them-and-us attitude. The fact that it has caused much suffering and is now collapsing passes right over us. But escaping one’s culture is analogous to stepping out of one’s skin.

    I have seen gated communities all over the world..even in places known to be utterly safe. The guards, the gates, the alarms, the electrified fences and the 24/7 surveillance are jarring. The locals soon move away, removing much of the reason the locale was once attractive. After a few years, you can’t get a decent croissant or coffee!

  22. lorenzo, funny you should say that. Just yesterday afternoon our water ceased being a reality. Yep, this perfect place of peace and tranquility shut down the water and there I stood in the shower, all soaped up when drip drip drip it all came to a screeching halt. So, I did what most people in third world countries do, I sent my wife over to the Tomebamba with two jugs on her head to get me water to rinse off with. Wouldn’t you know it, she took two blue jugs but when she filled the first and sat it down to fill the next one, some little beggar stole it and ran down 3 de November before she could climb back out of the river and stop him/her. She stopped a policemen in a new white cruiser and attempted to file a complaint and was asked by them “what’s the problem, you have two?” Welcome to third world…..

  23. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight you are correct Linda. However, prior to the election of the first black president it was no accepted in civil society to openly display and promote racism. The rise of the tea party faketriots, the trump led Birthers, the election of an openly racist president , and the supposed “Christian Right” supporting him has sadly disappointed my fantasy that US society was progressing into a place that the propaganda (all men are created equal) speaks of.

    1. Trump is not a racist, he just used rhetoric that he knew would excite white racists to tip the election in his favor. It also was edgy enough that it triggered bleeding heart liberals who could not help but reward Trump with the media attention he was seeking all along.As an American who is part black I can assure you that there is plenty of racism among blacks. Of course people like you always give blacks a pass when it comes to racism don’t you. Obama has deported more people than any other U.S. president but people like you won’t call him on it cause he’s black.

  24. The writer must have been under duress when writing this article. Granted, there have been an exodus of people from th US, but not because of recent events. After 8 years of an idiot President. we now have one who is doing something positive for the US. The country is back on the right track. I have experienced Ecuador and lived there.
    While not necessarily a third world nation, it certainly does not compare to the US or Canada. Issues with your friends immigrating to the US, could have been caused for a number of reasons. We are trying to alleviate open borders to protect the US from its enemys. If you like ecuador, stay there, but don’t write about issues you don’t have full knowledge about. You are contributing to Fake News!

  25. Galileo was a very wise person, the original well known one! An anecdote : after eating at Chill and Grill next to the El Vergel Supermaxi, I paid my cuenta and left. Halfway across the street, I heard someone yelling : ‘Señor, Señor’, turned around and saw the young man who had just taken my bill’s payment running after me. I has had a serious senior moment and left my wallet on the counter. He was running after me to return it and its $300. This is only one of many such eperiences I have had with Ecuadorians, seemingly quite different from Galileo’s . Perhaps our attitude towards them is reflected in their attitude and treatment of us? I don’t know, but I have lived overseas in a half dozen countries over twenty years and have yet to find a friendlier people than the citizens of this, my adopted country. As Michael likes to say : Just saying!

  26. My opinion was posted 3 days ago and removed instantly by Disqus as “suspected SPAM.” It gave me the opportunity to object which I did by selecting its button “this is not SPAM.” Its auto response was thanks we will investigate. That was 3 days ago. There was nothing in the way of profanity or prejudice, abuse, or classlessness. It is either inept or prevents opinions to be published by manner of its own choice or guidelines provided to it by the publisher which in this instance is CuencaHighLife. This presents itself as a wall to objective facts unfavorable to the publisher and/or Disqus, and represses such contributions from readers. (It can skirt this scurrilous practice by publishing it a week from now when no one will see the post.)

    I supported the author, but then I explained what he overlooked with a list of facts of significant substance what can only be described as characteristics why in the aggregate Ecuador is indeed third world. They included growing indebtedness with a dim future of being able to stop with explanation as to why this is true. Also, in few words to explain than my original, pulled post, the following is the essence of it and I will be monitoring how long this stays posted:

    Lack of good quality of education through the social classes, shallowness in the application of rule of law, endemic and deeply rooted corruption, and the lack of addressing or even acknowledging a culture of excessive physical abuse of women
    are repressive and huge anchors to economic progress. Not uncommon in many countries , the economic elitist class suppresses the upward mobility of the low, socio-economic class in order to maintain its empowerment that it fosters laws and methods to maintain its empowerment; there is so much brightness and intelligence going to tragic waste.

    Ecuador’s recent and substantial allocation of money toward improvement of infrastructure made noticeably visible to foreign visitors to attract foreign capital investment into the residential arena and substantial deposits in its banks is excellent. But ignoring the wider scope of is serious issues is a losing proposition for growth out of 3rd world status.

  27. There is irony here.

    Ecuador with its tragically poor quality of education for the economic lower class where much brightness and intelligence gets wasted (its citizens are its most important resource), its shallowness in the application of rule of law, its endemic and deeply rooted corruption (including the courts), all weighing down on its growth (I could go on) hugely suppresses growth out of its 3rd world status. (I otherwise support the author.)

    So the irony develops:
    In the U.S. in not many decades, based on the rate of development in cellular bio-technology, all chronic, old age diseases will be eliminated. For one born in the U.S. after 2005, the experience will be living to the average age of death of 105. The work life will extend into the 80’s. This can be the most productive boost to productivity to the U.S. since the computer revolution of the 1990’s. Question: Can these positive developments occur in time before the U.S. becomes anarchy and a 3rd world country ? Within 15 years, the U.S. government service to interest on its indebtedness will only have sufficient cash revenue to pay that interest and national defense (quality of defense ?). In 10 years, retirement pensions at the state and municipal level will have wide scale crisis not being able to deliver. Soc Sec ? Millennials are not having babies, and the music in that Ponzi scheme begins to get very weak.

    If Ecuador can improve on the many facets of socio-economics needed to emerge from 3rd world status during the next, not so many decades, then like two ships in opposite directions during the night going by each other, you and/or your loved ones had better be on the one with enough fuel remaining to get to port.

  28. Patricia, have you considered “why” (if) World Bank would classify Ecuador in that manner? Maybe they want to loan the country some money that they will never be able to pay back.

  29. Israel is ruled by the religion of Zionism not the religion of Judaism (which is a peaceful and respectable religion).

  30. Everyone has mis-quoted the term “third world country”. Originally in the 60’s, First world countries were countries allied with the West and the US. Second world countries were allied with the USSR. Third world countries were not allied with either. Somewhere Third World came to mean developing countries – WRONG!

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