An intriguing Sunday night and Monday here in Canoa, on the Pacific coast of Manabi province in Ecuador. Canoa sits at the northern end of a 18km beach that runs south to San Vincent. There are dozens of hotels/hostals, beach bars, cafes, and restaurants here, half of which seem to be closed and the rest half-empty at present….so its pretty chilled.
Our hostal has hot/cold showers & tiled bathrooms with each bedroom, a great Wi-Fi connection, electric fans, a modern clean communal kitchen, and costs us $30/£20 per night. A decent breakfast costs $3/£2 each. The family homes, little more than shacks really, house at least 6 people in each, and have none of the above. Their floors are concrete and/or dirt, furniture is minimal, decoration nonexistent, and they have chickens/dogs running loose in their dirt yards. Our privilege eh! Or is it?
Mind you, the cacophony of night long animal noise is equal for all of us – a braying donkey just down the road, roosters in competition at all hours, and the barking dogs…well once one starts they all join in. The local pig & its 3 piglets snoozes through it, we don’t at all, but we suspect our neighbours do!
There are some interesting economics at play in Canoa. The guy who owns/runs our hostel tells us he brought the land 10 years ago for $8,000, after a bit he spent 18months building the place, which has now been open for 15months, and he is just covering his outgoings whilst living on site. The plot of land behind us, that includes the 2 homes shown and 2 more, is presently valued at $50,000 (if they’d sell it). Next to us both is an empty plot measuring about 75 x 50m worth a reputed $200,000, and owned by ‘someone’ in Quito. Similar prices apply to plots nearby, with similar absentee owners.
We are told most of the seafront land/property is owned by Americans, with new buildings going up regularly. Some people clearly anticipate making a lot of money in Canoa in the very near future. Few, if any, of them will be locals of the town. Those locals remaining near the seafront are being slowly bought out, and then have no choice but to move further inland – where land is much cheaper and less desirable. You may call this ‘regeneration’, or you may call it ‘social cleansing’, to create a temporary paradise for ‘privileged’ tourists. But one thing it doesn’t seem to be doing is creating a sustainable future for those who have lived here for generations. That seems to be one of Ecuador’s ongoing contradictions.