Two months in Puerto Lopez fit me just right. I taught English to rowdy and awesome students at the public school, fought off swarms of bees at the restaurant I helped at, and met some great travel friends. It also gave me the chance to settle into a place for a bit and get to know people and places over time. Then I got an idea.
Without getting too deep into Ecuadorian politics, you just need to know there are changes happening. Especially in Puerto Lopez. It was semi-recently
declared a zone of focused tourism development and a master plan was released to redevelop everything from water to markets to the beachfront. Ecuadorian president, Rafael Correa, even came to town to give a speech when the new pier opened.
The community developer in me wanted to know what people thought. What should change? What should be saved? Where are the important places? Where can the kids hang out? I also was curious about sharing ideas in general, specifically, what are ideas worth? Does it matter who’s giving them?
Roughly translated, my stand said “Ideas are bought here” Anyone who walked by was offered the chance to sell their ideas, stories, and thoughts about Puerto Lopez for cookies, paintings, or cash en efectivo. Here’s what I got.
36 years old
lived in Puerto Lopez all his life
Julio was a friend of friend and we hung out mostly talking about his business, life, girls, and messing up tattoos (he’s never done it, but told me it happens to other people). We never got down to business, but it was nice time in the plaza.
Price: 1 art card
2 guys (name/age unknown)
lived in Puerto Lopez all their life
They were stoked at my stand and wanted to come back after they ate. [between laughs] “We need time to think man. This city has some stories. Bastante.” We talked about how much had already changed. Before, the power plant could only produce enough energy to light the streets for 2 hours from 7-9 at night.
price: free, they didn’t come back
Lived in Puerto Lopez his whole life
The main beach street is his favorite part. He’s heard about the changes and feels good. As a kid he loved a play park that was removed for a new street. “Nowdays” he says, “the kids play on the beach.”
price: 2 cookies for his girlfriend
Family from Quito
Visiting Puerto Lopez
We chatted as they ate their corn on a stick “I don’t like the food of Puerto Lopez.” Later, “The hand of God created the scale and magnitude of the oceans. It’s incomprehensible. You can walk across land but you’ll never be able to swim across the ocean.”
price: they refused to take any payment and offered me some corn as they left.
Paola and her friends came to see the whales. Her favorite spot was also the main beach street. An idea to improve the city? An aquarium
price: painting on a shell
When it was all said and done, I at very least made the night a little weirder. Most people were reluctant to take any payment for their ideas, especially
cash. But, I think ideas, from common people as much as from politicians and policy makers, have value. It seems the only thing people want in exchange for their thoughts is a listening ear. And sometimes cookies.