Becoming Cuenca

Gleaning Credible Information for You and Being Optimistic

Jan 13, 2024

You see, you can’t please everyone.

So you got to please yourself.

These two lines from Rick Nelson’s 1972 hit, “Garden Party,” are very appropriate for my blog and for this post.

One is always going to get negative criticism, be it for a news story or concerning my blog. There’s no way around it.

I always tell people about my two decades on the assignment desk. Being on the desk meant answering the phone and replying to emails.

During one election year, my station ran a well-balanced story about a statewide race. As soon as the story had aired, the phone began to ring.

The first caller stated we were biased in favor of the Democratic Party candidate. Right after that, I took a second call about the story, where the caller complained about it being biased in favor of the GOP candidate.

Same story.

Different negative reactions.

You see, you can’t please everyone. So you got to please yourself.

Why do I bring all of this up?

Apparently, my post about the insane day of January 9th struck a chord with many people.  I received more comments for that one post than the other 58 posts combined.

Almost all of them were positive.

Only two were negative.

The worst was a man (His wording indicates he lives in the U.S.). He said in vile terms that the post was horse manure. Most likely this man was never part of the news media, but he claimed that reading Twitter and Facebook doesn’t make me a journalist.

He went on to say my post was telling everyone that everything is fine, which is “irresponsible at best.” To top it off, he claimed my post would likely get people injured and/or killed because people were getting murdered on January 9th.

The other comment was from an expat in Cuenca, who told me my methods are questionable, and that everyone has different perspectives on what’s true and false.

I am passing along these comments, not for sympathy.

Four decades in the news business has given me a lot worse.

I have stared down a gun barrel at the home of the leader of the North Carolina Ku Klux Klan to nearly being blown off the Bonner Bridge into the Oregon Inlet because of a raging hurricane to all sorts of abusive verbal threats from angry crowds.

What I would like to do because of those uninformed, negative comments about my last blog post is to restate my qualifications.

You need to have trusted sources. Wherever you glean your information, it has to be reliable and unbiased.

My goal is to be one of your trusted, unbiased sources.

But I should not be your only source.

In 2010, International Living proclaimed Cuenca was the place in the world to be. Being a journalist, I did massive research.

I found bloggers in Cuenca (One who I am very good friends with today). Any mainstream media article was read, especially CuencaHighLife. And I communicated via email to expats in Cuenca, who had made Facebook posts.

So, who am I?

Why can you trust me?

I went to the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, at Washington State University. At the time, it was the best university for television news west of Columbia, Missouri. Yes, it was better than UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.

My goal was to be like Murrow, who went to W.S.U. and was a pioneering journalist and broadcaster. Most consider Murrow to be one of the most influential figures in the history of broadcast journalism. He is best known for his reporting from London during World War II and for his outspoken criticism of Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Red Scare, with his political repression and persecution of left-wing individuals in the 1950s.

For 19 years, I was a photojournalist in South Dakota, Arkansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina. During my years in North Carolina, I was sent on assignment three times to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield, Kuwait, London for the death of Princess Diana, Québec, and on two U.S. Navy ships during NATO Operation Allied Force.

After covering my last of many hurricanes in North Carolina, I moved to the assignment desk for nearly two decades, where I was the Senior Assignment Editor. I have always described the position as a librarian and air traffic controller all wrapped into one job.

It involved massive amounts of research, which included the use of social media. Facebook came online in 2004 and Twitter (Now “X”) followed two years later.

The job required reading information posted online, especially for the accounts of governmental agencies, political leaders, and educational institutions.

Both Facebook and Twitter are used heavily by the government and schools. So many times, these entities would post news releases and vital information on Facebook and Twitter before they would ever send out a news release to the media.

I had to monitor them during my daily nine hours on the desk. To see numerous accounts at once, I used TweetDeck (renamed XPro as part of Twitter’s rebrand to X). TweetDeck could be tweaked for my preferences, for the accounts I wanted to see as much as possible.

Between my prioritization of Twitter accounts in TweetDeck and because I knew who to follow, I was constantly beating the other television stations in our market and many times was out in front of the News and Observer.

My station was disseminating news before anyone else because of what I had gleaned on social media.

Please note there are journalistic standards that are used before a tweet is considered news. If it was from an official source (such as the North Carolina Department of Transportation), we could run with it immediately.

If it were another source (such as AIRLIVE), I would take that information and find an official source for verification.

For example, AIRLIVE tweeted on January 12th, “Multiple Bird Strikes on Takeoff | Emergency Return to San Francisco.” If I had been at my sister station, KGO, I would have immediately called San Francisco International Airport to get what information I could, and I would have quickly launched our helicopter to get video of the plane returning to SFO.

Finding breaking news on social media (such as the insanity on January 9th in Ecuador), I always go to X. It is by far the best source on social media for anything that is happening at the moment.

Facebook tends to be mainly individuals. And because Facebook has half of the social media market, most people are getting their information there.

Unfortunately, on January 9th, what was being posted on Facebook was from individuals, not any governmental agency or educational institution. The massive amount of bad information and conjecture created hysteria in Cuenca (Please read my last post for a full explanation).

This journalist saw all of those Facebook posts, and it just did not add up to what was being claimed.

Clicking between Facebook and Twitter, I was able to rebut an expat’s claim via Facebook that three people had been shot dead at a university. My source? X. The university tweeted what really happened.

I had that information seconds after the university put it online. As a matter of fact, I was so quick to post this information on Facebook that I think I beat the Ecuadorian media in disseminating the correct information.

Using Ecuadorian X accounts, I was able to reassure my wife that all was good in Cuenca. Our very good friend, who was at our place at the time, was relieved to hear what I had found at X. She trusted this journalist’s information.

What reliable sources am I using at X? Here are some of the official X accounts I am following for the latest information:

  • Presidencia Ecuador
  • Daniel Noboa Azin (President of Ecuador)
  • Consejo Nacional Electoral del Ecuador
  • Comunicación Ecuador
  • Policía Ecuador
  • Ministerio de Transporte y Obras Públicas
  • Comisión de Tránsito
  • DGAC Ecuador
  • Leonidas Iza Salazar Oficial (President of CONAIE)
  • Instituto Geofísico
  • INAMHI Ecuador
  • PRENSA Virtual
  • Consejo de Seguridad Ciudadana de Cuenca
  • Seguro Social Campesino del IESS
  • SaludCZ6Oficial
  • ECU 911
  • Bomberos Cuenca
  • Cristian Zamora (Mayor of Cuenca)
  • El Nuevo Tiempo Cuenca
  • Cuenca Ciudad Eterna
  • Dirección de Gestión de Riesgos
  • RED Informativa
  • Dirección de Gestión de Movilidad
  • Cuenca Comunica
  • Universidad de Cuenca
  • Universidad del Azuay
  • Dirección de Cultura de Cuenca
  • Fundación Municipal Turismo para Cuenca
  • Dirección de la Unidad Ejecutora de Proyectos
  • Tranvía Cuenca
  • Centrosur
  • La Tri
  • El Canal del Fútbol

Those are not all of the official accounts I am following in my new homeland. And the last two were listed because I am a diehard fútbol (soccer) fan.

Journalists tweet all of the time. One reason is that their employer puts pressure on them to do it. The other big reason is that journalists want to inform the public.

When I was in the U.S., I followed numerous journalists and news outlets for my job. Now, as a retiree (sort of), some of the media accounts I follow are:

  • Eduardo Menoni
  • Fabián Campoverde
  • Mauricio Osorio
  • Andrés Muñoz Araneda
  • Arlyssa Becenti
  • Xavier Bonilla (BONIL)
  • Mónica Velásquez
  • La Voz del Tomebamba
  • Diario El Tiempo
  • Cómplice FM
  • El Azuayo
  • El Universo
  • La Defensa
  • Ecuadorinmediato
  • Pichincha Communications

I still follow Ex-President Guillermo Lasso, though he is not tweeting much. And, I have to follow Ex-President Rafael Correa (in exile in Belgium) as he still holds a lot of power in Ecuador.

The negative response from the expat in Cuenca included that I state everything is rosy here and that I am claiming to have no fear of living in Cuenca. He added that my portrayal of Cuenca was preposterous.

To be fair, there are other expats on social media claiming people posting about Cuenca and Ecuador are portraying things through rose tinted glasses.

Every day, I try to look at what Cuenca and my new homeland offer me.

Margaret Trudeau said, “We can choose to wake up and grumble all day and be bitter and angry and judge others and find satisfaction in others doing bad instead of good. Or we can we wake up with optimism and love and say, ‘Just what is this beautiful day going to bring me?'”

Cuenca is not perfect.

And Ecuador is in a fight for its life.

My attitude about life is that it’s not the absence of fear I have. It’s that I have overcome the fear of what life can bring. No amount of planning or actions can bring a certain future.

Because of that, I am optimistic with President Daniel Noboa leading the charge for a wonderful life for all of us.

I say that without rose tinted glasses.

For those who don’t know, Noboa earned a Master of Business Administration from the highly respected Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management in 2019. The following year, he studied at Harvard University.

And in 2022, Noboa obtained a master’s degree in Political Communication and Strategic Governance from George Washington University. In College Factual’s most recent rankings for the best schools for political science majors, GWU came in at #24. This puts it in the top five percent of the country in this field of study.

The 36-year-old president is very smart and is determined to jettison the bad past and ways for a bright future for this country. He is not playing games with the narco gangs that have been terrorizing the country, especially in Guayaquil and at the coast.

Wanting the country to know what he was doing, Noboa went to Radio Canela, which has stations throughout the country and can be heard online.

Noboa is very blunt and determined to clean things up to make it El Nuevo Ecuador (The New Ecuador):

“We cannot fight this from only one side, and it is not only with bullets. It is also in the judicial function. We will consider judges and prosecutors who support identified leaders of these terrorist groups, also as part of the terrorist group. Let’s see if this is the way they want to make absurd rulings. It is absurd that Colón Pico (gang leader of the Los Lobos group, who has been accused of trying to murder one of the nation’s lead prosecutors) had a judge who had taken him out of jail six times. Same Judge! All these people are going to be considered also as part of terrorism and this government is taking the necessary actions that in the last years nobody wanted to take and for that you need big ostrich balls, not cardboard balls.”

The president’s attitude about the narco gangs is tough and refreshing:

“They had to be broken and now that we have decreed a state of non-international armed conflict… They are crazy scared. So, I tell them this: I will give you a pardon. To those gang leaders, go out to the streets. Confront the military. Of course, they don’t want to go out now. Not even with a pardon do they want to go out. That has never happened before. It has never happened before because they were used to frightening the government, frightening the citizens. Now that fear has to be put in them!”

To accelerate and intensify the fight against the terrorist groups, senior U.S. officials will visit Ecuador in the coming weeks to explore ways the two countries “can work together more effectively to confront the threat posed by transnational criminal organizations.”

It is my understanding Correa got rid of any U.S. help. Many Ecuadorians think he did that for his personal benefit.

American help includes Commander of U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) General Laura Richardson, who will be in Ecuador very soon. In April 2021, USSOUTHCOM increased its counter-narcotics presence in the western hemisphere. Since then, drug seizures in Latin America have greatly increased.

By far, I am not the only optimistic expat.

A Canadian, who has been in Cuenca for quite a while said on Facebook that it seems that the new government is serious about ridding the country of the narco terrorist groups.

Cuencanos have expressed their delight with what Noboa is doing. A Cuencano friend of ours told Joanna and me yesterday that despite the increase in crime in our city, she feels safe, and that she is optimistic about the future of Ecuador.

Despite the negativity from a small group of expats, I remain hopeful and positive. My very good friend Jan does too. She has lived in Cuenca longer than Joanna and me.

“I cannot count the times I have been attacked by people for always being kind and positive about Ecuador,” said Jan. “I have been called an ostrich, Pollyanna, blind, and even stupid. It never bothers me because I am content being happy… Our contentment far outweighs their misery. I feel sorry for the nay-sayers as they are in pain and wallowing.”

With that, I say that I look forward to what this beautiful day is going to bring Joanna and me in Cuenca.

And it’s all right now, yeah.

I learned my lesson well.

A lot more information on life in Cuenca can be found in my book, “Una Nueva Vida – A New Life.” Some say it is the most thorough book out there concerning moving to and living in this beautiful city.

You may want to sign up to be notified when I post new information and photos. By doing this, you will get the latest as soon as it goes online.

And please! Have several reliable sources of information before making any decision about moving to Cuenca. I consider myself a trusted source, but you definitely need more than me for your big resettlement.

Salud, mi amigo.

Una Nueva Vida – A New Life

- by Stephen Vargha

There are over 80 professional-quality photos shot by me to give you a clear ‘picture’ about life in this historic mountain city.