My first conscious exposure to Ecuador came in August of 2012, when the small South American country granted asylum to Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. I thought at the time how brave of this small nation to stand up against the larger and more powerful nations of the world including England and the United States. Ecuador denied their demands for extradition “to protect Assange’s rights,” their Foreign Minister Patiño stated.
It was another two years before Ecuador again became a part of my conscious thought. As much as I loved my living situation in Savusavu on the island of Vanua Levu in Fiji, it had become too expensive to continue to live there due to having to leave the island every four months to meet immigration requirements. My attempts to acquire residency all failed and my bank account was not large enough to remain. After an immigration official told me I would not be able to stay on my tourist visa much longer and with the coming election of Commodore Frank Bainimarama, I knew residency on the island would become more difficult to obtain. It was time to consider leaving.
I sought a country where my retirement would be enough for me to live on without having to return to work. I also wanted someplace warm but not tropical. After considering the available options, my choice was Ecuador. I consumed as much information about the country as I could. My primary concern was if at my age I could learn the language well enough to engage in meaningful conversation. So in November of 2014, I enrolled in the Simon Bolivar Spanish School in Cuenca. Ten days to explore the language and country which would soon become my home. It was through this program that I had correspondence with Sofia Valdivieso, the program director for Simon Bolivar. Her positive encouragement and abundant love of her country was infectious. It was through her influence that I first fell in love with Ecuador even before I arrived.
Ecuador has its problems like any developing nation. The economy here has suffered with the drop in oil prices. It neighbors are also suffering with the economic crises as well as political dictatorships. Ecuador’s former president Rafael Correa was planning to run for a third term in defiance of the Constitution he has sworn to protect which limits the office to two terms. The economic divide between the rich and poor is widening, and the basic freedoms of the populous are being reduced or taken away entirely in some cases by a president who seeks greater, unchallenged power. “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” There were recent acts of civil disobedience when the current president, Moreno, threatened the end of gas subsidies.
So, why am I still here? Why Ecuador? I am here because Ecuador is the only country I have lived in (United States, Canada, Fiji, and Switzerland) or visited (too many to name) which is concerned with promoting “the principle of universal citizenship and free movement.” Those are huge ideals for such a small country. Another reason for my being here is that as a Black man who has lived for sixty plus years in America, I am 99.9% positive I will not be shot, beaten, or accosted while walking the streets of Ecuador simple for being Black. I can not say the same for any city in America in which I previously lived.
To Be Continued…