Is it safe to visit or live in Loja Ecuador?

Let's start with the basics. Loja is one of the safest cities in Ecuador. Does that mean you can walk around flashing an expensive cellphone or a wad of money? No. Just like any other world city you still need to exercise your own common sense to be aware of your surroundings, and of how you move through them. Yes, it is possible to get pickpocketed in a crowd, but such a thing is rare in Loja. For daily living, Loja ranks highly in safety.

But, you say, what about the October uprising? In October of 2019, Ecuador experienced a national strike. The country's and world news media focused in on the dramatic images of angry protests and viewers everywhere reacted in fear. Many canceled plans to visit Ecuador, and others who were preparing to immigrate had second thoughts. Let me explain a little about what happened, and more specifically, what it was like in Loja.

The strike was in reaction to a Presidential decree that immediately inflicted hardships on the population at large by causing a dramatic increase in transportation costs. This decree was especially onerous for those who continue to struggle daily to make ends meet. Ecuadorians have been bearing a lot of hardships for several years but this one was the straw that broke the camel's back.

People took to the streets to protest, and the government's initial response was to declare a state of emergency which gave extra powers to the police and military. Rather than back down, this incensed the protestors even more, and demonstrations grew in size and, yes, there was some violence.

Loja protest, by Nathaly Poma Photography
Even now it is not entirely clear who "threw the first punch" as they say. But it does seem clear that the military and/or police officers used excessive force and people were hurt and killed. In the end, the President agreed to meet with representatives of the demonstrators and he rescinded the decree. All of this happened within the time span of less than two weeks.

The places that witnessed the greatest violence were the two largest cities of Ecuador - Guayaquil, and especially, Quito, the capital. In Loja, there were demonstrations nearly every day, but they were mostly peaceful. And for a city with a population of 200,000, perhaps only a couple thousand were actively protesting.

Since most government buildings ring Parque Central, that square was fenced off each day as a preventive measure, starting at about 1 pm, to keep demonstrators from causing damage to any of those buildings. Yes, some paint was thrown, and some tear gas was used, but for most Lojanos the days of protest were more of an inconvenience than anything else - especially on those days when it was impossible to get a taxi or take a bus.

The primary point is simply this - Loja is a safe place to visit and to live, even in times of strife the people continue to exercise a level of calm and courtesy that is the hallmark of being Lojano. The secondary point is a reminder that the news will always highlight the worst imagery it can find and thereby give a false impression of what the experience is like for the average person.

Come to Loja, and enjoy the good life we have to offer.


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