Becoming Cuenca

More Than Opinions and Reflections About Cuenca Are Needed

Jun 1, 2023

“Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.” ~Plato

And that view or judgment formed about something falls short of absolute conviction, certainty, or positive knowledge.

A Canadian woman, who is well-traveled, posted on a Facebook group page in Cuenca her feelings about Cuenca. Not surprising, there was a lot of reaction to what the Canadian’s opinions and thoughts.

Part of the reaction was due to her only being in Cuenca for three months.

Now, three months is certainly better than a person who only spent a week at three degrees south, but it pales to someone who has been living in Cuenca for years.

That would include yours truly.

Thus, the rebuttal.

Please note this is not to call out this Canadian blogger, but to give a better picture of reality. The facts, so to speak.

What she talked about will be of interest to many who are considering Cuenca as their future home, but more information is needed.

The Canadian stated, “If I were looking to live here year-round, the rainy season might be less of an issue. Although looking at the precipitation charts, even during the non-rainy season it still rains a lot.”

I love quoting the Turkish playwright Mehmet Murat Ildan. His views on life and our world are so enlightening and positive. Mehmet Murat Ildan said, “Every time it rains, the soil counts every drop to know exactly how many times to thank to God!”

That is Cuenca!

Because of the rain, it is always green here. The plants thrive. Everything is so happy that we have 365 days a year of vibrant colors.

But!

It truly does not rain “a lot.” Of course, that depends on where you currently live.  If you live in Las Vegas, Nevada (4.2 inches / 106 mm. of rain per year), Cuenca is going to feel like a rain forest. If you live in Miami, Florida (67.4 inches / 1,712 mm. of rain per year), you’ll be thrilled at how dry it is.

Perspective.

That is why I think the Canadian, who I think hails from Edmonton, Alberta, thinks it rains a lot in Cuenca (Edmonton gets 18.8 inches / 477 mm. of rain per year). But not everyone from northern Alberta feels that way. Our next-door neighbors hail from Edmonton and have lived in Cuenca for about a decade. They love Cuenca’s weather.

I cannot find any definitive source, but the one I use is pretty close to what I have experienced in my 40 months in Cuenca. It says rain falls throughout the year in Cuenca (very true). The month with the most rain in Cuenca is March, with an average rainfall of 3.7 inches / 94 mm. Many Cuencanos claim that April is the month for a high amount of rain. This past April confirms their belief.

According to my source, the month with the least rain in Cuenca is August, with an average rainfall of 6/10 of an inch / 15 mm. That is certainly not “a lot.”

This same source says Cuenca gets three to four more inches of rain than Edmonton every year. To clarify that, there are a good number of days it rains in Cuenca. That is why you see weather forecasts like the one above.

Those forecasts have many prospective residents exclaiming, “It looks like it rains all of the time in Cuenca!” It certainly looks that way online if you have never lived here.

Those predictions of rain do not mean a rainy day. The weather website may predict rain for a certain day, but most likely, it will be in the afternoon, with great weather in the morning. On top of that, the rain in the afternoon will probably last only 15 to 20 minutes.

Oh!

By the way, at 5:25 p.m., it rained that Monday that is at the top of the weather forecast.

And it lasted only a few minutes.

Flying in and out of Cuenca seemed to be a major concern to the Canadian blogger: “Cuenca doesn’t have an international airport. Getting to Cuenca isn’t easy.” She added, “To get to Cuenca from Edmonton involves a minimum 4 flights and 2 days of travel. That’s a lot of time, money and hassle, especially for friends who don’t have as much leisure time as we do.”

As of today, Cuenca does not have any international flights. Technically, it is an international airport: Aeropuerto Internacional Mariscal Lamar. That is the official name of Cuenca’s airport.

Last month, Chilean airline JetSmart, requested permission from the aeronautical authorities of Peru to make international flights from Trujillo, Piura, and Talara. Two of the four requested routes involve Cuenca:  Piura – Cuenca – Piura, and Talara – Cuenca – Talara. If this happens, Cuenca will have non-stop flights to Peru.

That said, Cuenca’s runway is only 6,234 feet / 1,900 meters long.  The general rule for international runways is that it has to be a minimum of 10,000 feet / 3,048 meters. Cuenca cannot lengthen its runway for a variety of reasons.

When I talked to the Mayor of Cuenca about a new airport, he said the city is looking at a location about 25 minutes south Cuenca. From my experiences here and four decades in the news business, that is not happening anytime soon.

For those wondering about the potential flights to Peru and the short runway here, LATAM is using an Airbus A319 for its flights to and from Quito. I am guessing a plane like that (or even smaller) would be used for the short flights to Peru.

The Canadian blogger stated, “For those of us who want to come for shorter visits and/or want family to be able to do so, it’s not ideal.”  It may not be “ideal” for those only visiting, but to the expats in Cuenca, it is no big deal.

Yes, we have to use Quito or Guayaquil as our port of departure to the rest of the world. To us, it is part of the adventure. Most of us are retired, so making one more stop is not that big of a deal. For those in a hurry, one can always take LATAM airlines to Quito, with a 90-minute layover, connecting to a flight to Miami, Florida. In 6½ hours, you can depart Cuenca and be in the United States.

Who doesn’t like to eat? Because many are retired, expats eat out quite a bit. My wife and I know several couples that eat out every day of the week. Others do it the majority of the week.

Because so many people like to eat out, the Canadian blogger stated, “We only managed to find two high-quality restaurants: La Guarida and Dos Sucres (which was truly outstanding). If you are a foodie, you should try both. There were others with a lovely ambiance, nice views and friendly staff, but mediocre food.”

This may have been the part of her post that got the most responses. I was one of the ones to respond, and she thanked me for what I suggested for her next visit to Cuenca.

Most expats will tell you that Ecuadorian food is bland. It is not a slam, but a fact that most Ecuadorians do not like spicy food. That had limited one’s choices for stimulating and interesting foods.

The restaurant landscape has changed greatly since I visited Cuenca in 2011. Flavorful food abounds today.

And in the last two years, our choices of good ethnic food have greatly increased. It is too bad the Canadian blogger did not get to eat at:

Cooking With Rey, Calle Coronel Talbot, and near Parque San Sebastian, 099-544-3977

Rey is a native of Cambodia and the Cambodian food she serves in her El Centro is some of the best Asian food I have ever had. You order your meal a couple of days in advance and spend a few hours enjoying everything.

Barbecue Palace Indian Restaurant, Paucarbamba 4-114, 099-579-0392

This is good Indian food, but it is not the best I have ever had as it is difficult to beat what I have eaten in London and Vancouver, BC. Many expats keep coming back here for delicious Indian food.

Quo Vadis Gourmet Italia Tienda Restaurant, Juan Bautista Quizhpe 3-07, 096-888-0756

This is the real deal! This romantic and quaint El Centro Italian restaurant is owned by two men from Roma. Their food is absolutely delicious, and the ambiance and service cannot be beaten.

Le Petit Jardin, Calle, De las Brevas, 096-819-1518

Here’s where it pays off to be a resident. The Canadian blogger did not know about this excellent French restaurant that is on the outskirts of the city.  The chef and owner is very creative and he has created a very interesting dining atmosphere.

El Jardín Restaurante, Calle Larga 6-93, 099-309-9131

This is an upscale restaurant that is located in a restored historic hotel. Every detail to fine dining is observed, including the white gloves worn by the waiter. It is a great place for a romantic meal or to celebrate a special day.

I did not mention La Guarida as the Canadian blogger said it was one of her two favorite restaurants. My friend, Andrés Zambrano (in the photo above), who owns La Guarida, probably has the best restaurant in Cuenca.

He has become an accomplished chef. La Guarida has all sorts of events, be it Wednesday movies with dinner, Saturday morning jazz or food tastings paired with wines. Andrés has something for everyone. By the way, Joanna and I made the monthly jazz brunches a tradition with some of our best friends.

By now, you have read something about the political turmoil in Ecuador. It started when Guillermo Lasso was surprisingly elected President of Ecuador two years ago.

There were no cries of “voter fraud.” All of the presidential candidates accepted his victory. The problem was that Lasso’s party was a small minority party in the National Assembly (the unicameral legislature of Ecuador).

Without his political party controlling the National Assembly, Lasso could do little to forward his agenda (Think of President Barack Obama’s last two years with a GOP-controlled Congress).

Like Capitol Hill, games were being played at the National Assembly as the controlling political parties were in the process of impeaching Lasso. Having none of that, Lasso invoked a 15-year-old law to dissolve the National Assembly and to have national elections within six months. He told the Washington Post that he would not run for re-election.

Unfortunately, the Canadian blogger called what was happening, “Political Disasters.” She stated that before Lasso dissolved the National Assembly.

The Canadian blogger went on to state, “Ecuador has been more stable than many Latin American countries since it adopted the US dollar as its currency. But it does have political outbursts and protests fairly often, and they can turn violent. Several Ecuadorians we have spoken to are expecting an outburst in the coming months.”

This is dangerous talk.

One cannot grasp what is happening in the country in a three-month stay.

This journalist, who has been in Cuenca for 40 months, has a better idea. Because of my profession, I know who to follow on social media.

In Ecuador, there are two political groups capable of mobilizing mass protest against Lasso. One is La Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE), Ecuador’s largest indigenous rights organization. CONAIE is often cited as the best-organized and most influential Indigenous movement in Latin America.

They were the ones behind the Paro (national strike and protests) that lasted 18 days in June 2022. It shut the country down. CONAIE is not talking about a Paro nor are they talking about violence.

The other is former leftist President Rafael Correa’s Correísmo movement. I follow Correa on Twitter, and he is mainly retweeting (reposting) what others have said on Twitter.

Andrés Arauz, who ran against Lasso two years ago and was backed by Correa, has been more vocal on Twitter. But he is not talking about protests and violence.

My Cuencano friends have not expressed any fears over violence to me and on social media. To me, it appears that “an outburst in the coming months” is an opinion, and not based on fact.

So, for the next six months, Lasso has constitutional authority to issue executive orders related to the economy. Ecuador’s top court must approve them if they are to take effect. Lasso issued one executive order immediately after dissolving the National Assembly: Cutting taxes for households and increasing them for the sports betting sector.

All is calm in Cuenca.

Life is normal.

And wonderful.

That’s a fact.

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.

Salud, mi amigos.

 

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.