What is right about Ecuador – Gentleness

Pierre Volter


(Gringo al SUR – Nov 2016) This is the first write-up of what I hope will be many. Please do read my introduction first HERE to understand where I am coming from.

Since I am a positive kind of guy, let’s start with the positive. There is so much positive about this country that a book could be written on the positive alone. This is not my goal. I wish to give a few pointers and I hope that people will comment in the section below to share their own views and experience.

For those who want a high quality in-depth article about all aspects of the Ecuadorian culture I recommend to read this one from the web site everyculture.com using the link below. It is the best analysis that I have found so far. For Spanish speaking people a Google translation is also provided.


Instead of writing a lengthy list of all that I believe is right and another list of what I believe is wrong, I will proceed incrementally and break it down in parts. In each part I will restrict myself to one and only one topic.

Today we talk about gentleness and non-aggressiveness.

something in the genes

My conclusion after years of being exposed to the Ecuadorian culture is that there is something deeply genetic that makes the Ecuadorian people who they are.

Most people here are “mestizos”, meaning (in Latin America) people of mixed race, especially the offspring of a Spaniard and an American Indian. I am no expert but I guess this would be true about the Colombians and the Peruvians as well. However, there must be something about the specific Ecuadorian mix that makes the people so nice.

What I mean by “nice” is that they are a gentle, non-confrontational, non-aggressive and fundamentally happy race. Of course the culture plays an equally important role. It is beyond my skills to make a relevant and accurate analysis of how centuries of culture might have lead the people of Ecuador to be who they are today. I am only a humble observant, living here today and my scope is only to share some of my observations with others who might consider living here and also with the Ecuadorians themselves who often are not aware of these traits of their own culture.

Of course, one will find this natural kindness more easily in the villages than in the cities. Cities being cities all over the world, one should not expect the same kindness from a stressed out taxi driver in the middle of Quito or even Loja than from a tranquil campesino in the middle of his banana plantation. The photo below was taken recently in Mercadillo (Canton Alamor – Provincia de Loja). As a side note the lady never ever wears shoes.

Gentle people from Alamor Loja
Gentle people from Alamor Loja

To bring things more into scope, I would say in comparison that the North Americans people are essentially the opposite and for the same reasons, a combination of genetics and culture. They are confrontational, aggressive and generally unhappy. I speak in general, I don’t speak about you in particular. One only has to look at the world situation to see who the aggressors are. Again it is beyond my skills and my scope to analyses the historical reasons for this. And before people get at my throat, let me say that Europeans and Australasians (Oz and NZ) are not any better, just slightly different. In fact, there is something about the white man in general that makes him fundamentally aggressive. Must be something to do with the ego.

Ecuador is a great human behavior observation laboratory and Vilcabamba (or Cuenca) in particular due to the high presence of white people expats. I cannot count the number of stories that I have been exposed to where expats can simply not get along. They don’t tend to fight in the streets. They fight by emails. Once upon a time, I was a reader of this yahoo group called “ecuador_expats”. Conversations would invariably turn into beside topic rude and some times very rude exchanges. It is still the case today although this once very active group appears to be now on its last breath, most people having moved to Facebook.

Facebook is the same. We have the Vilcabamba boletin and the Vilcabamba community. 99% of the time things are quiet and polite but from time to time they explode and the natural aggressiveness of the people comes to full light. Nothing is different.

Ecuadorians are different.

They have a verbal rather than written culture. Even lawyers don’t communicate well at all through emails. The best and only effective way to communicate with people is face to face and verbally. Trust me I know what I am talking about.

Face to face, you will find this kindness, non aggressiveness that I am talking about. Of course they are Latinos, meaning hot. They can talk a lot, they can look angry, they can yell. However, this does not generally mean much. Things can most often be sorted out after the Latin blood has settled a bit.

I personally prefer this to a bottled up cold blooded rancor that people from different cultures can exhibit. It is naturally healthier to let the steam out and then move on.

Even the police

Maybe nothing reveals more about a people that the attitude of its law enforcement authorities, in particular, the police. We could write many things about the police, some negative I am sure. People who read this might have had some not too good experience.

My experience after years of living here, and again sticking to my main topic which is the non-aggressiveness of the Ecuadorian people, is that I have yet to see a confrontational policeman. The other day, we had the opportunity to chat about that very topic with two sergeants and the San Pedro teniente politico  while enjoying a natural jugo de maracuya on our front porch.

GAS - What is right about Ecuador - Gentleness
GAS – What is right about Ecuador – Gentleness

All three of them were at all time extremely courteous, calm and genuinely trying to help. It seems that their slogan “proteger y servir” is not just empty words. They explained to me that they do bear arms but are not even allowed to pull them let alone use them unless in extreme cases. Compare this with what we read about the north American police: shoot first – talk last.

I asked them to give me an interview and they seemed happy about being given the opportunity to explain how they operate. This will come soon on todoloja.com.

When they left, we walked them out to our gate and spontaneously without anyone saying anything our 4 year old daughter grabbed one of the officer’s hand. Kids feel and kids don’t lie.

Kids feel and don't lie
Kids feel and kids don’t lie
Even on the road

How do Ecuadorian drive? They drive fast, they don’t take the rules very seriously, they pass on the solid yellow line, they pass the car passing the car passing the car, they create the third lane when there are only two etc…

However, despite of that, they are not aggressive drivers.

I have seen plenty of aggressive drivers, in Europe where I am from and also in peaceful New Zealand. People drive slowly because of the speed restrictions and the zillion cameras. However given the opportunity, they will become aggressive.

I used to drive a 150cc motorcycle in NZ and each red traffic light was a stress because as a motorcyclist, I was doing what all motorcyclists do which is to move to the front. Almost always, as soon as the light turned green, the first car took off as fast it could to not allow me to go first. This attitude was widespread. I solved the problem by swapping my 150cc for a Kawasaki 900cc and they left me alone from then on 😉

In Ecuador, I drive a 250 cc bike, not fast by any mean and this has never and I mean never happened to me once. People always let me pass. It is much safer for a motorbike to be in front of the cars or alternatively behind the cars but never in the middle of the cars.

With regard to accidents, I am not in a position to provide statistics but I can say that I have not seen more accidents in Ecuador that in “speed limit obsessed” New Zealand. I believe the inherent non aggressiveness of the Ecuadorian people is an important factor. Driving fast is one thing, driving angry and aggressively is another.

Not everything is perfect

There is aggression in the Ecuadorian society though. Most of it is petty crime, robberies. Vilcabamba has had its fare share. We are all aware of some pretty brutal assaults that occurred here.

See http://www.todoloja.com/ecuador/en/press?p=44101 for more on this topic

However this is no reflection on the general culture. They are isolated events. Again one needs to keep things in perspective and compare with the number deadly assaults in their own respective countries.

Bottom line, people are people. Humans have always been an aggressive species. Ecuadorian just seem to be on the lower part of the scale. I have never been to our northern neighbor country Colombia but I was told that they tend to react more aggressively to the same stimuli. I have been to Peru twice and have observed the same tendency.


As always, my conclusion is that there is no conclusion and no need for one. I just love living among gentle non aggressive people. If you are like me and hate any form of aggressiveness, Ecuador may be your place of choice. This is the one Ecuadorian trait that I would say I love the most. There are other positive traits that I will review in the next parts of this collection of articles.

Ecuador - Sweet and gentle people
Ecuador – Sweet and gentle people

Stay tuned.

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Gringo al SUR - Living at the boundary between two worlds
Gringo al SUR – Living at the boundary between two worlds

Tags: Ecuador Loja Vilcabamba Culture Expat Gringo

Ecuador – Reinventing the Third World


This essay, which may or may not be followed by others, has no real direction nor intention. I changed its main topic 3 times while writing it not to mention how many times I changed the title. It is kind of loosely related to Vilcabamba in the Loja province of Ecuador where I live but certainly not limited to it.  Some may find it funny some may not, it has different layers. It might even be thought provoking I am not sure. I enjoyed writing it. Life is good. Have fun.

It all started with one simple question: Do I live in the third world? Of course, Ecuador is part of the third world. This led me to the question: “How many worlds are there and where is the second world anyway, and what about the 4th world?” and so on…

Below are my findings.

1 .. 2 .. 3

We all know what “first world” means and where the so-called “first world” is on the map. A conglomerate of rich countries where civilized people live and where freedom and democracy abound in their native, raw, pristine and uncompromising states, something to do with “a way of life” they say, something that cannot be taken away from them no matter what. In fact, people are so free in the first world that they can choose between diet coke and diet pepsi knowing exactly what the difference is and why they choose one over the other. That is a kind of freedom that the other worlds simply neither have nor could comprehend.

The rest of the world is called the “third world” or “developing world“, the latter seeming to indicate that the countries belonging to the third world are in a process called “development” and it is just a matter of time for them to also find the holy grail of civilization and diet coke choosing, just be patient. To help these poor bastards become “developed”, there is the generous help from the World Bank and the IMF and similar entities that no doubt speed up the process. All good then.

One question remains: what and where is the “second world” ? I have asked that question to many people but I do not get a straight answer other than that look on the face seeming to say either “what a silly question” or “I never thought of it that way” or whatever. The answer is simple though. Plain and simply stated, the second world are the communists, stupid. But I am ahead of myself.

Before saying anything too assertive, let’s ask Mr. Google. The answer is shown below:

where and what is the second world

The good news is that there is such a thing as “the second world” after all. The bad news is that I don’t live in it.  I live in the red bits (really bad) , not in the green bits (really good) and not in the yellow bits (more or less good, it depends).

Here is a closer look at the map

As you can see on the map, we in Ecuador share our fate with the rest of South America, Central America, Africa, the Middle East, Southern Asia and believe it or not : Greenland !! Russia is better off because it is only “second” and  not “third”.

It is worth mentioning here that, had the above map not been grossly distorted to make the northern hemisphere much bigger than it really is compared to the southern hemisphere, the green color would virtually disappear and the world would appear almost entirely red !

Also, for those wondering, the “axis of evil” is a different boundary line and is located in the red bits but with a tendency today of stretching towards the yellow bits because of all the bad things that the Russians do.

The green parts are the good guys, that is why they are green. There is no evil there. There in these green bits of the map, lie the birthplaces of ecology, nature protection laws, recycling, solar panels and electric cars and generally speaking places like the USA that aim at reversing centuries of out of control pollution by the Aztecs and the native North Americans, shame on them. More reasons to paint these countries in green.

On the same page, one line below the Goggle official answer, Wikipedia, this other bastion of truth, tells us  that, I quote:

“The three-world theory has been criticized as crude and relatively outdated for its nominal ordering (1; 2; 3) and sociologists have instead used the words “developed”, “developing”, and “underdeveloped” as replacement terms for global stratification (which in turn have been criticized as displaying a colonialist mindset) [2] —nevertheless, the three-world theory is still popular in contemporary literature and media. This might also cause semantic variation of the term between describing a region’s political entities and its people.[3]”

Crude? Outdated? Maybe a little. A colonialist mindset? No kidding !

Anyway, I was hoping, starting this article, that I could make a case to explain that I live in something better than the third world but I don’t, not even the second world, sighs.

Why is it then that I feel somehow that my life in Ecuador is richer than any life I could experience in the first world? Maybe there is a fourth world somewhere that transcend these old fashioned definitions and ignores the political boundary lines.


Maybe I live in the 4th world then. What would that mean? How would we define what the 4th world is? Before we get carried away with our own definitions of things, let’s once again ask Mr. Google, answer below:

According to Google topmost answer to this essential question we see that the 4th world would be an “extension” of the 3 world model (no kidding !) and, I quote, “a sub-population socially excluded from global society“.  That sounds closer to what I feel.

Did you know that there is a site called “Investopedia“? This is what they have to say about the 4th world:

I did open their link and read that:

Fourth world nations can consist of those excluded from mainstream society. For example, the Aborginal tribes in South America or Australia are entirely self sufficient, but they do not participate in the global economy. From a global standpoint, these tribes are considered to be fourth world nations, but they are able to function free from any assistance from others. Fourth world nations do not contribute or consume anything on the global scale, and are unaffected by any global events.” [Emphasis is mine].

Not sure that they are “unaffected by global events” when someone kicks them out of their land and dumps them into reserves as happened to the Aborigines of Australia but the rest of the sentence is about right and could be read in a positive way, as in, these people are an example that we would actually like to follow, as oppose to let’s exterminate them. However.

The 4th world is the the most underdeveloped regions in the world, worse than the 3rd world. Is this where we are heading in Ecuador? Some believe so.

While I was in the world of “pedias’ I looked up stupidpedia.com (English) and estupidopedia.com (Spanish) and am happy to report here that these domains are available for purchase. Maybe someone could start a encyclopedia of all the stupid things humans have done and said and do and say? Or is that already done in the Guiness book?

5 and 6

Let’s take a quantum leap and look beyond these petty categories created along the lines of wealth and poverty or political systems. Let’s look at what could possibly be the 5th the 6th and why not the 7th world, shall we?

With the 5th world we definitely enter the realm of fiction and mythology although the definition below seem to apply to the daily reality of a place like Vilcabamba with its “bizarre life forms” today in 2018 .

According to http://worldproblems.wikia.com/wiki/Sixth_World

The Sixth World is beyond all mortal comprehension. Mortals say that the Fifth World is where The Metaverse starts getting freaky, but eventually the 5th can make sense to a mortal, so they more accurately say that it begins with the 6th world. There is no translation for their language, because it predates actual language and is impossible to actually make sense, unless you’re one1 of them.

You may wish to read the text a few more times to fully absorb its richness but the picture below may also help you.

If one looks at the picture above with attention, it may very well look to one like Vilcabamba especially during a San Pedro or Ayahuaska ceremony or after spending too much time at Charlito’s restaurant.

This my friends is the 6th world like no language could ever describe it.

This is where I live or maybe not. It’s complicated.

Welcome to Vilcabamba.

To be continued…. maybe

Simple Living in rural Ecuador

Our house in the middle of our street our house ..

Adobe House Vilcabamba Ecuador

Except that there is no public street as such, just our private driveway with comfortable car access

Our house in Vilcabamba

Not even the sight of a street

Our house in Vilcabamba

All natural, made out of earth blocks (adobe) and with a thatched roof

Our Adobe house in Vilcabamba

Made with our homemade Adobe blocks

Adobe House - Rio Uchima - Vilcabamba Loja Ecuador

The painting is a mixture of natural minerals with water and a touch of white glue

Our Adobe house in Vilcabamba

For the roof we use sugar cane leaves

Sugarcane leaves thatched roof

and bamboo that we cut in the fields nearby

Great place for a “Thatched Meditation”

Thatched Meditation

It is a world of colors and pure air. Sunsets are beautiful almost every day.

Awinima sunset

Vilcabamba a world of colors and pure air

We are surrounded by beautiful forests

There is a lot of beauty for those who can appreciate small things

Or bigger things

We enjoy doing simple things

We enjoy doing simple things

We don’t need to go to the gym and run on a machine while watching TV

Simple living in Vilcabamba

Healthy exercice

Our transport is extremely basic

Our daughter grows happy and healthy

Our daughter grows happy and healthy

Developing a sense of sharing

Well fed

We enjoy fresh food

We enjoy fresh food

From the vege garden whenever possible

From the verge garden whenever possible

Round is always better, these are our plans duly approved by the City Council of course 🙂

House Cutanapamba plans

This is how our 10 year old painted it

Our house in the mddile of our street

On a sunny day, this is paradise

On a sunny day

Our house in Vilcabamba Ecuador

It never gets too hot inside because the Adobe insulates you and it never gets too cold either

Adobe house freshness inside

On the boundary flows the pristine Uchima river

Uchima River

Water is cold but after a while one gets used to it and can relax totally

Water is cold but after a while one gets used to it and can relax totally

We don’t mind a little bit of risk

Lily machette

We build to the highest standards

We DIY build to the highest standards

Using advanced state of the art techniques…

The finished house extension

It is good to spend time in the hummocks

We have a spring and enjoy pure water “on tap”, we don’t shower in chlorine

We care for the future

But sometime we forget our keys inside the house

We want to grow to be better and wiser people

We want to connect and reconnect with nature

We know that one has to earn things

But the reward often exceeds the expectations

We don’t need electronic gadgets to keep us entertained

We always work with a smile

And we take the time to take the time

Being here and simply being is all that matters

Being together is an important thing

We like to see and feel and touch

In essence, people are happy here in Ecuador

Ecuadorians are happy people

They work hard and they are strong

And I am definitely happy to be with them


Read more about life in Ecuador here