After being awoken by massive shaking last night, today seems as a good a day as any to let the world know what is going on in «post» earthquake Ecuador. Last night’s 6.7 earthquake was close enough to the epicenter of last month’s 7.8 that it might be considered an aftershock. And though last night’s earthquake was shocking after days of calm, headlines like this one one at CBS News, «Ecuadorians Panic as New Quake Hits Devastated Coast» are not helpful for a couple of reasons.

First, last night’s earthquake did not cause wide scale panic. Yes, some folks ended up in the streets afraid that the swaying apartment buildings might fall. People still suffering from the affects of multiple aftershocks of the 7.8 earthquake are understandably scared. But many people slept right through last night’s earthquake. Those closest to the epicenter lost power but there are few reports of serious damage. This latest earthquake was scary but it was nothing like the earthquake of one month ago.

Earthquake in the Esmereldas

Second, the headline uses the words «devastated coast» as if the entire coastline of Ecuador is in ruins. It is not. In fact, many towns are begging for tourists to return, particularly those south of Manta. These beaches are some of the most beautiful in the country and are practically empty as tourists have cancelled trips and even local Ecuadorians are afraid to return to their beautiful Pacific Coast.

The Beach at San Lorenzo

Economic Earthquake Relief

Ecuador is bracing for a different kind of devastation – an economic one. The country’s economy was already under stress from low oil prices. After the earthquake, the federal government raised taxes in order to help pay for the repairs to many communities along the coast. Places like Puerto Viejo and Pedernales were destroyed almost completely by the 7.8 quake.

Washington Modesto of MontecristiBut so much of the country is open for tourism, including everything on the coast from Manta all the way south past Guayaquil. While places like Montecristi are repairing damage to buildings, the plaza remains full of vendors selling their famous Panama hats (yes, they are handmade here in Ecuador!). Beaches immediately south of Manta, like San Lorenzo with its wide sandy expanse, and Santa Marianita, with its great windsurfing, our open for business. But unless people start showing up, many small business will fail. This in turn will hurt the local economy even further.

The Beach at Santa MarianitaWe do not want to encourage disaster tourism. There are obviously places that cannot be true vacation destinations. But they are actually few and far between. Far more of the coast is open for business than is closed. If you work with a local travel agency or take the time to directly call a few of the local hotels, they will know exactly where you can safely stay. Major destinations like Salinas, Montañita, Olon, Puerto Lopez, and beaches in between, all along the famous Ruta de Espondylus, are ready and waiting for your reservations. Even places nearer the epicenter of the earthquake are open – this list from the Ecuadorian government is four pages of hotels in the Manabí Province waiting for visitors.

Sunset at Chirije

In fact, the government of Ecuador is working on a campaign to bring tourists back while they are also helping communities ruined by the earthquake. It is a double edged sword. On the one hand, they still would like donations to come into the country and, on the other, they want tourists to come and enjoy the beauty that is every where along the coast. When they advertise the devastation, it makes it seem like the country is closed to tourism. When they advertise the beautiful beaches, it seems callous towards the thousands of people impacted the damage.

How to Help

For those coming to this blog looking for information on how to help, the Ecuadorian Government is still accepting volunteers. Register on this page if you want to help post earthquake. The form includes an extensive list of specialities from veterinarians to construction workers, health care providers to teachers, nurses to drivers.

If you are looking for missing people, this list continues to be updated. And although the government is still locally accepting donations of food and goods, the best kind of donation is cash in the hands of organizations on the ground:

We know there are many worthy organizations working here that we have not listed. Please feel free to add any to the comments below!

If you have a trip planned to Ecuador, please do not cancel! And consider suggesting Ecuador to your friends and family for their next vacation. There are pages and pages on this blog of great places to visit – all with friendly faces and open arms waiting to greet you.