Pacific Beach, Panama hats and Ugly Americans

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August 2nd 2013
Published: August 4th 2013
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Last week found us lounging on lovely Pacific beach in Manta...well sorta. We were both still down with awful and long lasting head and chest congestion. Lowering elevation did not help, nor did antibiotics, nor rest..juices..chicken soup etc.

The good.

The guest house is very nice, with a comfortable layout, good furniture and fixtures and a splendid view of a long , quiet sandy beach. Views of breaking humpbacks, fishing fleets, kite sailors and families enjoying the water were a daily treat. Breakfast at the palapa restaurant was very good with excellent crepes, eggs, fruit, juice and coffee. We slept or read most of the time. We walked the beach a bit but our colds would act up every time we did. The young Managers fro The Netherlands and Canada were lovely people, taking time from traveling to earn some money and stop for awhile.

On the last full day, still not feeling up to par, we went to a small city called Montecristi, home of the Panama Hat. For those who d not know, Ecuador is the origin of the Panama Hat. ALl real Panamas are hand made from a plant grown only here..."paja toquilla". It is a fine fibrous straw and very flexible and strong. You can buy them in super fine, fine and medium fine from many shops here, all owned by the hat maker. Mike spent over an hour looking choosin and bargaining for a fine one. He got it. It will have to be blocked when we get back and there is a hattier in Tucson who will do it. It was a lot of fun and it even looks good...he says. He can now pretend to be Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando in The Godfather or Bob Hope in "on the Road". Just by changing the shape of the brim.

The Bad

One of our travel objectives was to learn how expats live here. Quito was difficult because meeting anyone in this bustling city was a matter of chance or living in a condo where they live. Most expats we found were young travellers rather than folks planning to stay here. Same in El Oriente. We figured that Manta would be our first chance to have a conversation with expats, learn how they see life in Ecuador and explore their reasons for staying or not. Why Manta. Because our guest house
Vincenta's HatsVincenta's HatsVincenta's Hats

Yeah he bought it.
owner and host is a gringo and has been here 8 years and there is an active and organized group.

Katy was invited to join our host and about 20 women expats for a lunch just after we arrived. She decided to go even though she did not feel 100%. When she got back, she was angry, astounded and disappointed. The group, all Americans do not speak any Spanish (almost wear that as a badge of honor), live in gated communities with other expats resoundingly dislike and distrust all Ecuadorans.

They see locals as dumb, wanting to either overcharge or steal from them and lazy. Over the next couple days, we realized this attitude, bordering on racism, was a central topic of conversation. It seemed as though the expats needed this to be both true and supported by others in order to validate their stereotype. Once our host even said she would prefer not to hire any locals, and said it in front of the women who cook and clean for her guests. When asked why, she said "all they do is steal what they can. These two probably steal a little every day". When we gently countered this she said "you just don't understand. Wait till you live here".

On our way back from dinner at a Palapa restaurant, we were accosted not locals...a small group of expats who had come to say hello. They were absurdly drunk and obnoxious. Our host saw them as just having fun. Mike came close to actually hitting one guy who would not stop being in his face. We decided that this was certainly not the place for us and said so. As we talked with other guests...mostly Europeans...we realized that the US expats were the kind of ignorant, judgemental people we met at home who led disarrayed and often dysfunctional lives there and simply carried on the same stuff here. The only reason they are here is because they cannot afford to live in the USA.They constantly rail against the IRS and Obama, blaming both for stealing their money and way of life. So they come here cause they can hire housekeepers who steal or cheat and are too dumb to learn English. They easily fulfill their own prophecy and with lots of support.

The Ugly

Yes the "Ugly American" is still alive and well.

Additional photos below
Photos: 11, Displayed: 11


Famous local Panama Hat MakerFamous local Panama Hat Maker
Famous local Panama Hat Maker

This is where he bought it.

4th August 2013

Ugly Americans
So, it seems that you are having difficulty finding the perfect community to live in, that is too bad. BUT, better to find out now than to uproot and move everything. I hope you find "smoother sailing".
5th August 2013

Pacific Beach, etc
Well, there is no perfect community but there are hell holes and tranquil places. This one could be the latter if you removed the expats.
4th August 2013

So sorry. Any idea from where in the US these people came? My limited experience would suggest the sunbelt, but maybe this idiocy is nationwide.
5th August 2013

Pacific Beach etc
Lo siento amigo. They are from everywhere, midwest, Florida and North Carolina and AZ. Real racism has no boundaries.
5th August 2013

Re: Manta
Oh dear! I hope you haven't let your Manta experience put you off Ecuador? It seems to be a sad fact that whenever you get expats of any nationality congregating in numbers then it all goes a bit pear shaped... usually a pear pickled in alcohol... Anyway, hope you are both feeling better? Your Amazon trip sounds amazing, we are very envious. We didn't get much further than Misahualli on the Napo River, but even that was pretty special. Enjoy Cuenca, I hope there are not too many 'Ugly Americans'. If you really want to get away from it all, keep heading south to Vilcabamba and the Peruvian border at San Ignacio... the border guards would be very surprised to see you there... we had to wake them up! Take care, Lesley & John xx
5th August 2013

Pacific beach etc.
We are getting better slowly so we are not doing much. Will stick with museums and city stuff. Weather has turned cold and windy...apparently not unusual for August. Yeah, Manta expats are really nauseating. Our host in Cuenca is not. She speaks passable Spanish, has been here a long time and shows a lot of respect. Hope there are more like her. By the way. We are finding that every message you send (email and blog) comes in duplicate. Not sure why. And one more thing...please let us know if you get this message directly or you have to go to the blog site to get it. Ciao...
5th August 2013

Sadly, ugly Americans are everywhere! I only met Canadian expats in Mexico's Lake Chapala so can't say how that area would compare. My 2 American friends who spend 6 months there love and respect the Mexican people with whom they have a variety of dealings. All the Canadians I met were of that same ilk. Perhaps that is because they were all liberals who have befriended each other! Get well. Love Mary
6th August 2013

Blog, email...
Hi there, Got your message as an email... Sorry about the duplicates - I have no idea why? Not operating from my home computer, but that shouldn't make any difference. Hope you continue to feel better and the cold spell doesn't last too long. Lesley x
1st September 2013

Sorry about your experience
I live in Salinas and am very sorry you had sch a bad experience. I am a North American and have lived here in Cuador for 14 years. I don't allow that ugly american attitude here in Salinas. We have some of those idiots here but for the most part we have people who enjoy interacting with locals. Come see me in Salinas.
3rd September 2013

Ugly Americans
Nice to hear it. There are many other folks in Ec who are not as we described. But we must admit that there are many more than our 45 years of international travel and 7 years of living in other cultures would have suggested. We think it is due in part to underlying racism but probably more to folks being financial refugees instead of willing partners with an interest in living abroad as part of another culture.
1st September 2013

Hi, Sorry your experience in Manta was not the best. We are destined there later this month. The picture at the top of the page looks like the Donkey Den Hostel. Is it? Godspeed on your search for a new home.
3rd September 2013

Ugly Americans
Yes that is the name of the B&B we stayed at and the owner is Linda. If you don't want to be part of that kind of negative environment, stay somewhere else. There is a nice place next door (Ecuadoran owned and a bane of Lindas existence), that is quiet...even on weekends, has a pool and a restaurant. Not sure of the cost. Called Windsurfer ???. We wrote Linda directly about our concerns and sent her a recommendation about how to begin to change. Rebuffed would be a nice way to put it. We have lived for extended periods out of the country so we know a bad one when we see one. You could also try a number of places south of Mantanita Beach or north in Salinas. Best of luck...

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