Words of Wisdom for Current and Future Expats in Ecuador

Posted on November 10, 2014 • Filed under: Culture, Ecuador, Ecuador Travel, Latin America Travel

Advice to current and future expats according to Coronel Borja told to Walker Lowry from the U.S. in the 1940’s.


Nicholas Crowder

I first heard about Ecuador when I was 12 years old. My mother and father had given me a GE shortwave radio so I could listen to broadcasts from around the world. The first station I tuned in was playing haunting guitar melodies. And there it was in Spanish “Radio HCBJ Voz de los Andes – Quito Ecuador”. I was enthralled and started reading as much as I could about Ecuador and dreamed of small hamlets dotting the Andean landscape. As I grew up I would think about Ecuador from time to time and then things started happening in my life that for whatever reason provided me a deep spiritual connection the what I call the “ Jewel of the Andes”.

A coincidental meeting of an Ecuadorian banana tycoon while I was in graduate school. Then it was having a Spanish professor from Loja. Finally after I finished my studies I got the job of a lifetime albeit it low pay to travel to Latin America. Making my way via plane to Mexico through Central America and then on to Quito, Ecuador where I found myself in utter awe of the beauty and the culture. I also met my wife of 34 years my first day in Guayaquil.

I started to learn more about the country and read everything possible in both English and Spanish of this remarkable tiny country high atop the Andes. I finally made the move there in the early 1980’s just prior to the worst El Niño in recorded history. Along with that experience I pretty much hit the wall of life and had myself kicked in the butt more than a couple of times. It was a lot I thought to have gone through at the age of 25. I picked myself up and kept going. My wife and our young family headed back to the states. I thought to myself, “If I am going to be poor, Ecuador is not the place to be poor.”

My life continued back in the states but I kept finding myself going back to Ecuador on a regular time frame, which my wife loved. Some trips were short and some long and we always thought we would be back permanently but life sometimes takes you down a different path. However, I continued in deep study of the culture and politics of Ecuador and trying to get a really good grasp of this complicated and intricate culture. Then one day it happened, something that changed my life forever.

Many of us have had that special moment in our lives when things seem to make sense and you have a better grasp of life and its complexities. Well it was the spring of 1999. I was working on the first edition of “Culture Shock! Ecuador” I flew over to the library at UCLA, which has an Excellent Latin American collection. The most fun for me in research is digging through the card catalog and seeing what you might find of interest without any specific goal.

I pulled the drawer out of the catalog case, set on the floor and started thumbing under Ecuador. And before my eyes on a single index card one title really caught my eye. Tumult at dusk: “Being an account of Ecuador, its Indians, its conquerors, its colonists, its rebels, its dictators, its politicians, its landowners, and its priests, with a prologue and an epilogue”. It was not on the shelf and listed as being in special collections. Of course I was intrigued with the title and I went over to their office and produced numerous id’s to have a chance to look at the book. I also looked at my watch and only had 4-5 hours left in Los Angeles in which to take a look ay this book.
The librarian required that I sit at a special table and wear gloves of this handsome volume published by an old publisher out of San Francisco of which only 100 copies were made as a private publication in 1963. I felt as though I was about to open something very special and began to read. Author Walker Lowry certainly new how to write and he seemed to be able to cut to the core of the culture and history of Ecuador.

Reading through the prologue determining whether this book was worth spending time on for my research, I was about to find some words that would change my perception of Ecuador forever and provide me an immediate deeper and respectful understanding of Ecuador. Right there on page 17, there it was in black and white. I thought I had found the keys to the Holy Grail. At last, I found the key to having a better understanding of a culture that I loved and at the same time hated at times in the same breath.

Mr. Lowry in the 1940’s went to Ecuador to secure rubber sources for a U.S. concern. He was with a group near Pedernales, Manta and Esmeraldas. He along with a team was trying to locate groups of men to assist in locating what he had heard were large plantations of rubber trees. During part of the trip they heard and met a man named Don Simón who was known to control much of this area and lived outside the law.
Mr. Lowry had been informed that of of the areas they were searching end was a bit chaotic and under siege to some degree because there had been a murder of someone on Don Simón’s hacienda that ended up being the manager of the hacienda Ila. Many rumors spread that Don Simón was responsible for the murder. Carabeneros had been sent in from the government to locate the murderers of this man. Mr. Lowry and his group were told as long as the caribeneros were present all the workers in the area would disappear and more or less forget finding rubber trees.

Lowry inquired as to why not just turn in the murderers and then carry on with their work. The respondent replied that no one knew who they were but that everyone was hidden deep in the bush and no work was getting done. The informant also stated that Don Simón did not know who committed the murder. He also explained that we need the caribeneros out of the area.

Lowry went to Quito and met with an infamous colonel by the name Borja. The conversation started like this.

”What should be done Coronel?”
“Nada Señores.”
“Will the murderers be caught?”
“It is unlikely.”
“Yet nothing is to be done?”
Then in my opinion one of the finest most eloquent dialogues I have ever read about Ecuador hit me almost like the first time I fell in love. I then believed I started to have a much deeper understanding of life in general and specifically about Ecuador and how to approach it as a foreigner. No matter what one did, Ecuador is different and the earlier you accept that fact and follow the advice from Coronel Borja, your time in Ecuador will in most cases be more acceptable and joyous . NC – please read on.
Coronel Borja continued by stating the following:
“That is right Señores. Whatever you do you will only make things worse. Forgive me for saying it, but you do not understand this country. You do not understand its people. You think that because we have houses, cars, and clothes like yours; because we talk of democracy and freedom; because we read your books, borrow your money, and buy your goods, we are like you.

“But we are not. We look like you, and sometimes we talk like you, but we do not think like you. The difference, Señores, is not great, but it is important. If you do not see it, the things you do in this country will be wrong. You will only make trouble. Your motives will be good but you will always be misunderstood. You will try to make friends and find only enemies. You will be disappointed. You will condemn this country. Or you will make fun of it. You will go home and say this country is ridiculous, that everything is hopeless. But who are you to say, you who have never understood us? Señores, try to understand. Look at this country with open eyes. Look at our people. Look at our history. Look at our land. Do this, Señores. Do not worry about Ila. Ila is not your affair. Adiós Señores.”

Mr. Lowry’s book was published in 1963 with only 100 copies printed. There are about 45 libraries throughout the U.S. that have a copy which can be located through Worldcat.org .

Nicholas Crowder has studied Ecuador for over 34 years and written five books about the country. If you would like to read further about Ecuador with substantial cultural information you may purchase his book “100 Points to Consider Before Moving or Retiring in Ecuador”.
This book is available for Kindle. Amazon has a number of free apps that will allow you to read the book on almost any device.

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