Advice for the Extranjero in Guayaquil: Harrassment

How to deal with being incessantly harassed on the streets.

  • Do not be a woman.
     If that is not a viable option for you…

  • Do not be white.
     Note: This will not terminate the occurrences. It may however reduce the level of intensity from a 10 to a 9.5)

    If that is not an viable option for you…
  • Procure a burkha.
     If you are not interested in living your public life as a fundamentalist Muslim…
  • Get a tan and pretend you’re Columbian or something.
    Note: This is the strategy that I have prescribed to, and it has yielded varying results. I have succeeded in being mistaken for an Ecuadorian, Colombian, and Argentinean on different occasions, which minimizes harassment aimed specifically at gringos. (Getting charged more in stores, getting harassed by street kids for money, being a target for muggings, etc.) This has however, had only a minimal impact on the cat-calling, whistling, commentaries, stalkings, and creepy eyeballings.

If the tan advised above does not give the desired results (you are blond or blued eyed for example), and even if they do, prepare for being subjected to daily and unrelenting harassment by acting in accordance to the following…

  • Walk in the company of a man.
    Note: This is remarkable effective, though admittedly not always practical.
  • Do not acknowledge the existence of the source of the harassment.
    Note: You must imagine that you have been inexplicable struck both deaf and blind. It seems to be an unwritten law in Guayaquil that once the harass-ee acknowledges the harasser, the harasser is given free reign to not only continue the offending activity, but to increase the intensity.
    Example: Car honks at April who is walking down the street; April turns head, no more than 10 degree, to ensure she is not blocking someone; This slight turn of the head is taken as an acknowledgement of the honk. Driver of said vehicle slows to the speed of April’s walking (on a road with ~40mph traffic) and spends the next 10 blocks driving alongside her, begging/demanding/imploring her, to enter the aforementioned vehicle.For reasons described in the notes of the last point…
  • Always walk against traffic.
  • Relax.
    Note:  As frustrating, and sometimes alarming as all this harassment can be, please remember that you do not need to be constantly fearful. It’s bad for you health, and it is unwarranted. Men here don’t harass women because they are hateful or because they want to hurt you, and usually they don’t actually expect you to acknowledge them. Rich or poor, young or old, they all participate in this strange demonstration without the same cultural connotations that we Americans have come to associate  with it. They never had a women’s liberation movement after women gained suffrage. No Maidenforms have been burned in front of T.V. cameras. Jenson v. Eveleth Mines was never handed down from their Supreme Court. I have met many sweet, down-to-earth, and (in every other way) respectful men here, who don’t think there is anything strange about “expressing their appreciation” for a strangers beauty. Yes it’s bullshit, but I can only argue so much in Spanish right now.

In short:

  • You can’t avoid it, so just be careful and don’t take it too personally.

Original published March 31, 2011, on tumblr as “Consejo Para el Extranjero en Ecuador”.


3 thoughts on “Advice for the Extranjero in Guayaquil: Harrassment

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed your perspective and humor… quite a few chuckles! However, I find it quite amazing that honks and whistles have many more uses here in Ecuador than the connotations we US Americans interpret. For example, honks can mean anything from “watch out, I”m right behind you so get out of the way” (this includes warnings to animals) to ” you need a lift?” and of course, “hey beautiful!” Then whistles seem more often to purposely get one’s attention such as the consumer whistling to the man riding his bike through narrow dirt roads at 6am to sell bread or the other fish or the other water or gas tanks, or the men pedaling their large cargo tricycles of wares and such… one hears whistles all the time to get one’s attention. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all about the gringo beauty but don’t discount me, I hear what you are saying. I just wanted to share observations I’ve made while living in this country of beautifully, simple people who live in the moment and therefor not stressing about money, they seem to live one day at a time. I’m thanking God for the simplicity and balance I’m finding in my life here. So yes, gringos, be prepared for honks and whistles, but also keep in mind that these two forms of sound are also a means of communicating many different things here. Cheers and Bienvenidos a Ecuador!

    • Of course! I’m actually in the process about writing a post about driving etiquette. People here honk to indicate just about everything other than anger, while in the States, I only ever touch my horn as an aural version of flipping the bird. It took a while to get used to, but now that I have, I actually think it’s a much safer way to drive. Now that I’m no longer living in Guayaquil and am in a small coastal village, I am seeing much more of what you describe and less of the cat calling. Thanks so much for your insight!

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