(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.
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.
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.
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.
© 2016 todoloja.com
All rights reserved
Tags: Ecuador Loja Vilcabamba Culture Expat Gringo