Category Archives: Guayaquil

Guayaquil Malecon 2000

Guayas River water hyacinths

Most mornings, I take a brisk walk along the Malecon 2000. This lovely riverfront promenade, flanking the western side of the Guayas River, is the crown jewel of Guayaquil. It begins at the Crystal Palace, the former southern Guayaquil marketplace turned exhibit hall, and ends up at the MAAC (Museo Antropológico y de Arte Contemporáneo), located at the foot of the northern hillside neighborhood of Las Peñas. This recent waterfront restoration project transformed what was once one of the seediest areas of Guayaquil into the safest outdoor public area in the city. On any given day joggers, couples, friends and families enjoy the calm, relaxing riverside environment bordering the busy downtown area.

Water hyacinth foliage

Certain times of the year, tiny islands of water hyacinths float up or down the river, depending on the tide. As you walk along the promenade, there are numerous gardens with lush tropical plants and brightly colored flowers shaded by majestic trees. During the rainy season (January-May) the tree canopies offer a dry place to wait as the occasional downpour passes overhead.

red cannaDeli juice cart orange and yellow canna

On weekends, the malecón, which means sea front promenade, is bustling with families walking, sitting, playing and exercising. There is a fitness circuit, a playground and a variety of open areas, where tai chi regulars meet. Vendors sell water, juices and soda from their brightly colored carts, while young ladies stand inside the big round red and white Pinguino stands selling ice cream. There is an outdoor food court at the southern end of the malecón and an indoor one at the northern end. The typical international and national fast food chains are represented, including the nicest McDonald’s I have ever seen. Actually, it looks more like a bistro with its sleek contemporary wood and metal tables and chairs and large glass windows overlooking the river.

Guayas Learning Ship

The Guayas Ship School (Buque Escuela “Guayas“) is docked at the Navy Yacht Club on the malecón . Guayas is the name of the province where Guayaquil is located. Built in 1977, in Bilbao, Spain, the “Guayas” sailboat acts as the Ecuadorian Navy’s world ambassador, having visited 60 ports in 25 countries and traveled the equivalent of 16 times around the world (340,000 nautical miles). The ship’s many voyages have often included outstanding students and foreign officials.

Little observer Guayas River rower Walking along the malecon

The Henry Morgan, also docked at the malecón, is a pirate ship replica that offers 50-minute tours up and down the Guayas River. This sailboat was built specifically as part of the Malecon 2000 project and was named after the infamous pirate, Captain Henry Morgan. Though Morgan never made it to Guayaquil, he represents the many pirates that plied the Ecuadorian waters throughout history.

Malecon sky
I grew up on an island connected to the mainland and another island by three bridges. One bridge, in particular, always had workers suspended from it, painting and doing maintenance. We called them the bridge people. Here, there are the malecón people. There is a reason why the esplanade is immaculate and the gardens always lush and beautiful.

Everyday, the maintenance workers are fixing, staining or sanding the wooden planks and railings, sweeping up any litter, emptying the trash bins, power washing the brick and stone and feeding and watering the plants. There are even recycling stations with clearly marked barrels and interpretive posters explaining the benefits of recycling.

Palacio de Cristal

Designed by French engineer/architect Gustave Eiffel and constructed in 1907, the Crystal Palace was once known as Guayaquil’s busy southern marketplace where vendors sold vegetables, fruit and fish, among other things. Today, it is used for expositions, flower shows and a variety of public or private events. Early mornings, usually Saturdays or Sundays, the workers are seen cleaning up from the previous night’s festivities.

rose petals
The lovely state of the art MAAC (Museo Antropológico y de Arte Contemporáneo) has an ongoing detailed exhibit of the rich Pre-Colombian coastal Ecuadorian history. Another exhibit hall presents varied works of Ecuadorian artists and the MAAC theater regularly shows films and documentaries.
MAACMAAC fountain
The Fundacion Malecon 2000 was established in 1997 to oversee the development and maintenance of the malecón. The Guayaquil waterfront revitalization project began in 1996 and was completed in October 2003 with the construction of the Teatro IMAX, located next to the MAAC on the northern end of the Malecon 2000.
Malecon 2000

Back in Guayaquil

Departing Miami

It is a grey overcast, but warm and bright Saturday. A few days ago, I returned from a very enjoyable month-long trip visiting family and friends. My return flights were pleasant and I arrived to a warm welcome (people and weather) in Guayaquil. It is nice to be back in Ecuador.

Tostadas con Jamon y Queso

I am sitting at the dark green tiled countertop of Las 3 Canastas (The 3 Baskets) at the corner of Chile and Velez in Guayaquil. Fresh cheese and ham sandwiches piled on small plates sit on top of one of the stainless steel shelves in the glass case in front of me. The rest of the shelves and countertop are lined with small silver platters or white plates stacked with bolón de verdes (balls of mashed plantains mixed with cheese), humitas (corn tamales), papas rellenas (balls of fried mashed potatoes stuffed with meat or chicken), tortillas de verde (mashed plantains filled with cheese), pastel de pollo or chorizo (puff pastry with chicken or pork sausage), quippe (could not find a translation, but am curious to know what it is) and torta de camote (sweet potato cake). Another glass case protects and displays a rich assortment of colorful fruits (cantaloupe, pineapple, peaches, papaya, strawberries, raspberries, watermelon and bananas). There are more fruits (apples, grapefruits, persimmons and tomato de arbol) stacked on layers of black shelves behind the register.

Tortillas, Papas Rellenas, Etc.

There are also fruits hidden from view, because I just ordered my favorite shake, guanabana, and don’t see the guanabanas. Once ripe, guanabanas deteriorate quickly, so they are probably stored in the refrigerator. Although guanabana is my favorite, I have tried many other fruit shakes, including mamey, naranjilla and mango. All are delicious.

Las 3 Canastas Fruit

Guanabanas (Annona muricata) are large pocked green fruits, typical characteristics of the cherimoya species and custard apple family to which they belong. Inside they contain black pea-sized seeds and a white custard-like cream. In other parts of the world they are also known as guyabano or soursop. Mamey (Pouteria sapota) is especially common in Mexico, Central America and the northern part of South America. It has a smooth beige brown skin and is a deep orangish red inside. Mamey’s taste reminds me of raspberries. The first time I tried it was six and a half years ago at a small roadside stand in Acapulco. It was my first trip to Latin America.

The naranjilla (Solanum quitoense) has a reddish orange skin and resembles a greenish yellow tomato on the inside. It is a member of the tomato family. Quitoense refers to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Though not one of my favorites, tomate de arbol juice is also quite popular in Ecuador. The egg-shaped tomate de arbol (Solanum betaceum) is also a member of the tomato family and comes in yellow and red.

Guanabana shake and fruit

Accompanying my guanabana shake is a small bowl of mixed fruit (cantaloupe, pineapple, watermelon, banana, papaya and peaches)) with yogurt and granola topped with a little brown sugar. In some parts, honey is used instead. This is my breakfast. It is absolutely delicious and all for $3.90.

Earlier, the line at Las 3 Canastas was especially long. The streets of Guayaquil are filled with thousands of people, including many out-of-towners. All ages and ethnic backgrounds from various regions of Ecuador are represented. They are gathering to demonstrate their allegiance to the president, Rafael Correa. More specifically, they are rallying and drumming up support for their president in the city of Guayaquil. This industrial port is Ecuador’s largest city with approximately 2,200,000 inhabitants. Guayaquil’s mayor is Jaime Nebot, a prominent Ecuadorian affiliated with one of the president’s opposing parties.

Voted into office on 6 December, 2006, Rafael Correa is the 56th Ecuadorian president and the seventh president Ecuador has seen in the past eleven years. The president belongs to the left-wing Christian party, Aliaza PAIS. PAIS means country and is also the acronym for Patria Altiva I Soberana, which translates to Proud and Sovereign Fatherland. Jaime Nebot has been mayor of Guayaquil since 2000 and is a member of the Partido Social Cristiano, the center-right Social Christian Party.

My hotel is in the center of town on one of the main streets, 9 de Octubre. This morning, I awoke at 7am to lively music and people sporadically raising their voices. When I looked out the window I was surprised to see only a few people on the street. Stages were setup alongside the road with enormous speakers reverberating a series of lively tunes. It was not long before the amount of people matched the noise level. Soon, speeches, parades and performances were in full swing. There was also a parade on Victor Manuel Rendon, the street parallel to 9 de Octubre.

By 9am, the downtown was teeming with people in lime green t-shirts reading, “35 PAIS, Patria Altiva I Soberana, Asamblea es Pais!” The number thirty-five represents Alianza PAIS, the president’s party. Other popular t-shirts are white with light blue writing, “Guayaquil apoya Correa, La Revolución Ciudadana Cumple un Año,” (Guayaquil supports Correa, the revolutionary citizens have one year behind them) and yellow t-shirts with black lettering emphatically stating, “Todos contra La Corrupción!,” which translates to “Everyone against Corruption!” Of course, on any given day, there are people sporting the Guayaquil Barcelona soccer team’s bright yellow t-shirts listing the team’s sponsors Banco Pichincha and Pilsener.

The indigenous Andean women wear long bright pink, green or blue skirts and neatly pressed white blouses. Countless strands of gold necklaces adorn their necks. The women wear brown or black loafers or black cloth sandals. Most indigenous men and women wear a dark felt hat. Men, women and children mill around eating plates of choclo (large-grained corn), pork and/or fruit. I walk by a large pile of small plastic bags filled with All Natural water, available free of charge for passersby. Almost every block is lined with a combination of uniformed members of the civil defense, military and national police. In some areas, there is a greater concentration of the latter two. It is a lively crowd and people are enjoying the opportunity to congregate and be entertained.