How bad is it?

Put it this way: Mirador San Jose has something of a reputation in the Ecuador expat community. Whether or not it’s deserved, at this point, is immaterial. The damage is done. It is no longer the dream retirement community HolaEcuador promised. Not even close.

A few years ago, some homes started to sink. (Sink. Not “collapse.” Got that, CuencaHighLife?) A good percentage of those homes are located on the same square patch of silty terrain. Whatever that means is up to engineers to decide.

Who’s at fault? Responsibility for the deteriorating houses will soon be decided in courts of law.

As for our beloved urbanization’s standing, blame can be equally and generously shared among the site developers (Inmobiliaria Mirador San Jose S.A., AKA Inmirsan), HolaEcuador – and a few of our more, shall we say, easily-excited community members, who thought it might be helpful to air their grievances in the media.

Meanwhile, the rest of us get to participate in humiliating exchanges like the one I had last week.

Chantal and I met a couple from Gatineau, Quebec while whale-watching out of San Mateo. Buddy, whose name escapes me, asked where we lived. I said Mirador San Jose. He and his wife gave each other knowing looks and clucked their tongues reprovingly.

“Well, let’s hope that works out for you,” he muttered. Which is not the first time I’ve heard something along those lines, thank you very much.

So, for all of you who wonder what we got ourselves into, let’s address the proverbial elephant in the room. What’s really happening at MSJ?

I will report on what I know to be true and what I have directly observed. Everything else, including whatever you’ve read or seen on TV, is the product of sloppy journalism, gossip, and some pissed-off dude’s agenda. (Got that, Radio-Canada?)

War of the Joses

At some point after we bought our lot and committed to our build, HolaEcuador and Inmirsan had a parting of the ways. I don’t know why. But it happened roughly around the time we were planning to build a pergola on our rooftop terrace.

HolaEcuador tried to discourage us from asking Mirador San Jose for a construction permit. We asked anyway, because we’re dutiful “peace, order, and good government” Canadians. Mirador San Jose flatly rejected our request, the moment I revealed HolaEcuador would do the work. When HolaEcuador found out, it walked away from the project without a single comment. We were left with architectural designs we hadn’t paid for, and no pergola.

That was our personal experience. Every other story I’ve heard – about warring shareholders, lawsuits and countersuits – is pure conjecture. Folks here love their conjecture. Sometimes, this place is a lot like a Seinfeld episode.

Since then, HolaEcuador has dramatically scaled back its Gatineau operation and no longer promotes Mirador San Jose by name on its website. Hola still offers to build houses here, but it refers to MSJ only as “the famous Playa San Jose.” Playa San Jose is a twenty-minute walk to the north. It isn’t famous.

For its part, Mirador San Jose has not updated its website since 2017 and no longer communicates with homeowners, except through the company’s lawyer. Those odd missives are curiously mistranslated and strangely emotional. They are almost always prompted by a Facebook conspiracy about the company’s solvency. Conspiracies abound in this place.

New development has altogether stopped. Maintenance of community infrastructure and common areas is haphazard, at best. Parks are being maintained, but fountains and light standards are left to rot. Vast, undeveloped sectors of the urbanization have gone to seed. Some developed areas, like the Malecon, are in a state of pathetic decline. New home construction has slowed to a crawl. We have frequent power failures, and there are days without water.

Rise of the Factions

As my French-Canadian whale-watching buddy told me: “French Canadians don’t get along with anybody, including each other.” He could say that because, you know, he’s French Canadian. I’m not, so I’m expecting death threats for even writing that sentence.

In the void left by a vacating HolaEcuador and a clearly struggling Inmirsan, two groups have emerged to save us from the purgatory that is our retirement dream.

The first is a self-proclaimed homeowners’ association. Basically, a handful of our community’s most imaginative conspiracy theorists voted themselves into the executive of a fantasy HOA, for which they have since received, under highly dubious terms, official standing from the Canton of Montecristi. The executive immediately issued a magisterial decree, to Inmirsan, that it is to “forthwith” hand over all assets of the urbanization to the HOA.

Shockingly, Inmirsan ignored them. So, the executive is now advising homeowners to “henceforth” pay all maintenance fees to the HOA. Even though we are, all of us, contractually bound to pay those fees to Inmirsan.

A second, counter-revolutionary uprising has lately occurred, in the name of the Groupe des dix (Group of 10). They even have a logo.

Groupe representatives recently visited the Montecristi official who signed our new association into law. They learned that Montecristi hadn’t conferred status for a homeowners’ association, per se; it’s more like a social club. A social club that has no authority to demand maintenance or membership fees. But if it wants to organize a dance, Montecristi says fill yer boots.

The two factions are now at war, on Facebook and in the streets of Mirador San Jose. On Facebook, they fling invective at each other like primates fling their poo. On the streets, there is a lot of middle-finger flashing and nose-in-the-air, we-don’t-talk-to-them behaviour.

What’s Our Plan?

We didn’t sign up for any of this, and we can’t sell our house. There’s simply no market for it. So, our plan is as follows:

First, I would like to offer a hearty get-bent to Inmirsan and HolaEcuador. (I know. That isn’t much of a plan. But it sure feels good to say it.) Take a look around, Gordon Poole, Yves Cormier, et al. Is this really the “tropical luxury living” you promised? Because it’s nothing like your Travelodge presentation. One of you needs to nut up and make it right.

Second, Chantal and I have our house and courtyard and pool and gardens. Most days, we have electricity, running water, and Internet service. The sunsets are extraordinary. We can watch humpback whales from our rooftop terrace. It’s a lovely little enclave.

We have good friends, here in the community, and good neighbours. We are making friends in the surrounding villages. We are learning Spanish.

The food is excellent and healthy. The culture is sublime. Our Ecuatoriano compatriots are a welcoming and life-loving people. This is the grand adventure we hoped it would be.

As for the rest, we let it wash over us. It is of no effect. It simply isn’t there. Which, at the end of every day, means I get to open a frosty beer, sit by my pool, turn up a little light jazz, and live in the moment.

Stewing’s for prunes. We don’t have prunes in these parts.