This is Ecuador turns 50 and as the editor and granddaughter of the great man behind This is Ecuador, this anniversary is immensely sentimental. A few weeks ago, I sat down with my grandfather and asked him to tell me the story of the guide, which printed its first edition in September, 1968.
Our Beginnings.. the story of a dreamer
It all started with 18 year old Gustavo Vallejo (my grandfather) who had just graduated from high school. At the time he was working with a tourism company taking passengers from Quito to Guayaquil by train.
Mountaineer and adventurer, he had travelled all around the country to find that there was almost no information for English-speaking tourists. One day in his office he found a copy of This Week in Miami and realized that there was no such thing for Ecuador.
As the dreamer he was, and still is, he decided he would be the first to print an English guide to Ecuador. For him it was essential that this guide was free for its users.
He named it This is Ecuador.
Gustavo asked his friends and acquaintances for help, for he would need people who believed in the project to give him a hand.
The next step was collecting information. There was a printed guide for Quito but there was nothing for Guayaquil and Cuenca. Gustavo knew then, that he had an on-site quest ahead: he would have to visit these places to write about them.
One day in Quito’s historic downtown, as he was touring the museums, he met a man who had read a guide by Jose Joaquin Navarro and offered to be his tour guide. Since that day on, he went to the historic downtown everyday for 2 hours, to visit every church, every painting, every saint, and every cloister, learning the stories behind them. But the problem was that these churches weren’t open to public so there began a long process of talking them into opening their doors, hiring guides, establishing visiting hours, etc.
“I have seen through my own eyes how a country has completely evolved (in the tourism sector) in 50 years!”
Take Galápagos for example, it wasn’t always a part of the guide. At the time, there were no regular flights to the archipelago.
Now Galápagos has 90 vessels. Cuenca has plenty of museums and even cloisters that open their doors to the tourists. And there is a bridge to get to Guayaquil where we used to take a barge.
In 1968 the first regular cruise by Metropolitan Touring sailed across the waters of the Galápagos. “Metropolitan was one of my loyal clients from the beginning!” They had faith in the magazine when it was only an idea and have been part of the This is Ecuador community since the first edition.
The concept of the free guide
This is Ecuador was also a process of education. At first, when Gustavo handed the guide to hotels they were keeping it for themselves. He had to teach the staff to give them away and share his vision; which flourished from his passion for tourism and his confidence in the power of giving out a printed guide, “for it to be taken across the country, and then other places farther away, spreading the word of the wonders of Ecuador.”
The journey is never easy
He kept stumbling.
There were cities like Cuenca, full of culture and history, or Baños, one of the top adventure destinations, where he found no clients who wanted to advertise. Gustavo couldn’t find people who worked on graphic design, most businesses didn’t have a logo for their company, and it was almost impossible to find texts in English.
His first clients, as mentioned before, were friends who believed in the project. “The first edition was completely financed, I went to the bank and asked for a loan. With 6,000 sucres for the investment (paying the printing press), and 7,000 sold in ads, the guide was completely financed by advertising from day 1.”
Then he got the hotels. This is Ecuador became allies with 4 and 5 star hotels who would hand out the guide to their guests. On the bottom of every magazine it said “Courtesy of … hotel,” these customized guides provided their visitors with 120 pages of information in English, for a low cost.
This was a distribution peak.
“But it was still hard, since I didn’t know English and I had to keep hiring translators. I wrote the articles, looked for a translator, took the pictures, and then took everything to the printing press. It was this multitasking and a will to turn this project into a reality what made me learn about every stage in the process.”
At one point the printing press even caught fire! You can imagine how this slowed the process.
This is Ecuador est. 1968
“It took me one more year than expected but after 2 years, at the age of 20, I started printing the first editions of This is Ecuador magazine. Since then on, we haven’t stopped printing it.”
Read about the legacy and the future of the guide: Our Future