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Americans said they hoped their impact on Cuenca was a good one, and they participated in charities and provided extra help to their domestic employees — which they could afford because of the lower cost of living.
But they also participated in gentrification processes, raising prices of rent and real estate.
“We knew that we were getting up in age, [and] that if we wanted to do something adventurous, we had to do it then.” Cuenca is not the only community in Latin America to receive “lifestyle” and retirement migrants from Canada and the United States.
In recent years, international lifestyle marketers have drawn attention to low-income communities in Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama as well.
He mentioned Vilcabamba, a vacation town four hours south, which he had heard a lot about but had never been to.
But the city removed his stall, along with those of 133 other vendors, to make way for renovations that would reduce vending space, and open the plaza for cultural events and craft fairs.
For him, El Centro was his community, the place that he worked.
While Jorge’s colleagues try to work their way back into the heart of the city they have fostered for generations, lifestyle migrants like Ana Jane and Elise are “discovering” Vilcabamba and other rural areas near Cuenca — with help from internet search engines and international lifestyle marketers.
North Americans have bought land and built luxury retirement houses for what, to them, are affordable prices. There, as in Cuenca, they have increasingly pushed people off the land, and into lives where they must work more, longer and often at lower pay to make ends meet.