After forty-eight hours in a city, you usually have an idea about whether you enjoy it, or if you just want to leave. This time frame may allow for a walk through the city’s center and, perhaps a visit to a few well-known attractions or landmarks. On a visit to Ecuador’s commercial center and principal port Guayaquil, you may find this initial forty eight hours is likely to convince you to extend your stay. However, twenty-years ago you may already have left by this time. It was not until the early 1990’s that the local government decided to shake the city’s reputation as dangerous and degraded, and instead try to validate the city’s ambitious claim as the "The Pearl of The Pacific."
Improving the physical fabric of the city was seen as an essential part of the city's renewal. Significant projects included:
- Malecon 2000: The redevelopment of the boardwalk area along the Guayas river that provided a range of bars, cafes, gardens, restaurants, and theaters;
- Metrovia: The 2007 United Nations sustainable and award-winning bus priority transport system that linked the outer barrios to the city center, as well as tackled previous air pollution and congestion issues;
- Santa Ana Hill Redevelopment: The contemporary redevelopment of the city’s most historic district that neighbors the business district, and was the city’s founding suburb in 1534.
However, Guayaquil still has work to do in regards to dealing with the economic and social issues that plague the day-to-day life of residents. Issues such as crime, illiteracy, juvenile drug use, and urban poverty are major problems that still lie within the city’s sprawling barrios. Projects such as the creation of new anti-crime and security programs have failed to stem the trends in the city's crime rates.
Whilst poverty reduction projects have had some effect on lowering the number of urban poor, a visit outside the downtown proves that revitalizing the living conditions for the one in five "Guyaquilenos" that still live below the poverty line is potentially the city’s biggest challenge.
Should sustainable crime and poverty levels be prioritized over such major urban redevelopments? Do you know of other cities that have similarly succeeded in re-inventing their urban centres?
Credits: Images by Steven Petsinis. Data linked to sources.