The slums of Guyaquil: the power of makeover

I haven’t blogged for a very long time and not because nothing has happened. Quite the opposite, but since most of it was rather personal I chose not to write about it.
Now, that I have left Bolivia (finally after two months!) and am back on the road, things are happening. They are happening alright! But first things first. Let’s keep some chronological order here and start with a pleasant visit to the local (refurbished) slums.
Here I am in Guayaquil, Ecuador, with two days to kill before my flight to Costa Rica. I was wondering what I was going to do since I thought there is hardly anything to see here. It might be the biggest city in the country but certainly not the most gifted in tourist attractions sense. To my (pleasant) surprise it turned out that they had a historical center as well as a nice park spread for 2.5 miles along the river.
I headed to the Old Town, thinking it would be a series of colonial houses, only to find out it was part of a slum, that has been beautifully restored. Cardboard constructions have been transformed into houses, painted in cheerful colors, lovely paved walkways now replacing the muddy passages. Charming cafes, flowers, fountains, and gift shops on every corner.
I climbed the 400+ stairs to the top of the hill, where a lighthouse and a small church were situated. From there you could see the whole city spread in the valley, its ends lost in the mist. You could also see the neighboring hill covered in ‘houses’ made of cardboard and metal sheets. The real slums that were so far from the glamour of their restored counterparts. I could also see the remainder of the slums on my hill. same sad story once the metal gates indicated the end of the painted quarters. Rubbish, laundry, old furniture, and dirty people leaning on openings in the wooden walls.
Despite the charming facade police officers patrolled every corner of the area (literally!). Don’t be fooled by looks, it is still the slums! I could see interiors far from glamorous or charming walking past open doors.
Still, the area made for a very nice afternoon walk. I couldn’t stop thinking about the power of makeovers. It is amazing what a little bit of paint and a few bricks can do for a neighborhood and its inhabitants.
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