February 4, 2008

Ecuadorian Hobbits and Peruvian Dwarfs
Vilcabamba, Ecuador

There's a big difference in the culture between Peru and the highlands of Ecuador. The best way I can briefly describe it is by using The Lord of The Rings to compare them.

It feels like Ecuadorians in the highlands are most similar to hobbits, and the Peruvians are more like dwarfs. Peruvians can be a rough bunch; their border post at MacarĂ¡ (full of an excessive garrison of troopers, compared with Ecuador's single guard) is example enough.

Ecuadorians seem to have a more ecologically friendly demeanor towards their living environment; the entire population gives off a vibe as if they belong to an agricultural co-op. They're generally a peaceful, land-laboring bunch, and are simply the most impressive farmers I've seen on the planet.

I ♥ Ecuador

I think Ecuador is fast becoming one of my top Latin American countries, and really deserves more time than I'm going to give it on this excursion from Lima. A third visit will certainly be in order.

The diversity of micro-climates in the country rewards visitors with tremendous variety. From the Galapagos; to the desert coast; to the dense jungle; to the green highlands; to the snow and ice-peaked Andes—there's a lot here for such as small country.

And if you love corn as much as I do, Ecuador is the place to be in South America. These people love their corn, and you can find it for sale in one form or another on most any street.

Jen, a regular reader and contributor from Canada, had this to say in an e-mail:

I spent about 7 months there quite a few years back—the people in the mountains are about the kindest, most generous people I have ever met. And it seems to me that the people at the coast would just as soon slit your pack as look at you… but, as I said it's been a while…

Seven months is quite a bit of time for little Ecuador. I believe you 100%, Jen.

Ecuador and Peru passport stamps

I see only two quirks that somewhat bother me about Ecuador. The first is their passport stamp—or lack thereof. Ecuador and Colombia both use the same electronic "stamp", which I find exceptionally ugly and utilitarian. The only thing I find worse are faded stamps without enough ink, or stamps placed on top of existing stamps—personal pet peeves.

I really don't mind flamboyant passport stamps and visas. Lord only knows that these things are a dying breed, which will eventually be phased out with technologies that are more sophisticated and reputable. Give it a few decades and passports probably won't even have paper in them anymore.

The other gripe I have is with the Old World attachment to coins. Lord, the Spaniards loved their bullion, and Latin America loves its coins. I broke a small bill and got enough coins in return to drop me to the ocean floor.

What's worse is that I'm forced to perpetually look at the failed Sacagawea golden dollar. Wondering where all those ended ill-fated coins ended up? Ecuador.

But it's incredibly comfortable to deal with money here, because it's my native currency. Ecuador using the U.S. dollar, but for reasons above my comprehension, they opt to mint their own coins. These coins are the same size, shape, weight, and value as the U.S. variety (which are also used right alongside the Ecuadorian coins). I've even spent excess Ecuadorian coins in the United States. To me, it's sort of like Ecuadorian government is trying to say, "We might not have our own currency, but at least we can have our own coins!"



February 12th, 2008

nice comparison - I wasn't aware of differences between Peru and Equador…

Greg Wesson

February 13th, 2008

Panama does the same thing with it's money. It uses the "Balboa," which is fixed 1:1 with the US dollar. They don't print any Balboa bills, using US paper money. However, they do have Balboa coins which they have minted - the exact same demoninations, sizes and weights as the US coins.

Very strange.


February 14th, 2008

Mr. Craig, Have I become a groupie? I thought I made a friend in Puerto Rico. I comment to "show I care", but you, my dear, don't ask about the trivial pursuits of my daily life, (while remaining completely envious of yours, of course). FYI, ask. I hope all is well, Brook.


February 14th, 2008

Odd to see that electronic stamp.

I passed through Ecuador twice in 2005, once in 2006, receiving the standard rubber pressing.

Glad to see that you're traveling again, but what's with the apple-hatin'? ;)


September 3rd, 2008

I thought the coin thing was kind of weird too, so I asked a friend from Ecuador. She didn't know for certain, but always thought it was due to shipping weight, which makes sense to me.

Shipping US dollars down to fill the treasury isn't that costly, but coins are far heavier with less value. So it's cheaper to make their own coins, yet only the US can create valid US currency. As long as Ecuador's going to be making their own stuff, why not get a little patriotic with it, eh?

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