Note from Editor Linda McFarlin:
Ecuador Real Estate--Jorge Quilumbaqui, an indigenous Ecuadorian developer, is transforming bare Ecuador property into a holistic living experience in the pastoral village of Cotacachi. I was smitten the first time I saw his classically-designed condominiums set in lush gardens on the edge of a wild and wonderful green space.
I was immediately drawn to sit amid the bright flowers and shrubs in Jorge’s gardens. Later, gazing from the penthouse over the green slopes, eucalyptus grove and meandering stream that surround the site, I felt a deep sense of peace and of coming home. Paradise restored--right in the heart of Cotacachi.
Others were smitten as well! The entire first 8-unit condominium building quickly sold out to North Americans in less than a month.
Now, Primavera II, the second phase of his condominium project, is sold out as well. Occasionally we have resales but as of June, 2012, there are no properties available in Primavera II.
The following is Jorge’s story, as told to Gary and me as we sat with him in the gardens of Primavera I, his first condominium project in Cotacachi. We were fascinated by his story and think you will be, too. He has transformed himself from a poor sharecropper’s son to a successful businessman who is dramatically influencing Ecuador real estate and Cotacachi’s physical landscape.
by Jorge Quilumbaqui
When I was young, I only finished sixth grade. My parents were very poor. My father was a farmer with no land of his own, no Ecuador real estate, a sharecropper.
He planted on others’ lands and got half of the crop. My brother Mecias also only finished the sixth grade and then he went to work as a mechanic. I decided to stay at home after the sixth grade and help my father in agriculture, tending the crops and animals until I was sixteen.
Since the family had no land, we grazed our cows, sheep and pigs on the sides of roadsnear Cotacachi. Friends kept telling me I should go to work, so when I was seventeen, I went to Quito and my brother Mecias helped me find a job in construction.
I wanted to learn fast so I worked hard, learning to read blueprints, build walls. After about six months, I started a three-year construction course in night school in Quito through an extension school called the Popular University, a part of Universidad Central. I went to classes from 6-10 p.m.
Next I got a job constructing 15- to 20-story buildings and became foreman for a section of the buildings. When I was 21, one of the bosses asked me if I wanted to continue helping them or if I was more interested in building on my own.
I wanted to buy Ecuador real estate and develop and build on my own Ecuador property and over the next few years I constructed mostly private Ecuador homes, many with two and three stories. Then in Latacunga for two years I built Ecuador homes, offices, reservoirs and bridges.
In 1985 Ecuador real estate soared when the flower plantation boom hit and I built one of the very first ones. It was located on 15 hectares near a river that overflowed its banks, so we had to design and build dikes, irrigation and walking bridges over the river.
After Latacunga, I met my wife, married and moved back to Cotacachi for the birth of our first child. We didn’t want to raise our children in Quito. So at 4 a.m. on Monday I would leave Cotacachi, go to work in Latacunga and then leave there at 4 p.m. on Fridays to return to Cotacachi by about 11 p.m.
On Sundays I still took care of the pigs. The family still had no land, so we would go to neighboring farms and cut their hay and weeds to make into feed. My wife then had enough fodder for the animals all week until I came back to cut more.
We were able to build up our herd of pigs to as many as 28. We would sell ten pigs at a time and then take the money to build on our house. By 1989 our house was mostly finished and I was tired. I was finally the owner of Ecuador real estate, but it was too much for me. I decided to stop working in Quito and stay at home. Even if I only made enough money for food and clothes, that would be okay.
1987 was the year a volcano erupted in the Oriente and an earthquake shook the Cotacachi area. Lots of Ecuador real estate was destroyed. Very old churches that had stood for centuries either fell down or were badly damaged. I was able to get work reconstructing the churches in 1988.
A church near my house was being rebuilt but the roof was put on before the walls were secure and it started caving in. Many of the reconstruction projects were not being completed right, so in 1990 the Catholic dioceses got involved in an effort to do a better job.
There was a community meeting and the question was asked, “Who can do it right?” I volunteered and I got the job. I created a process to get the work done fast and so I had lots of work. The engineers had confidence in me.
After repairing 2 churches and 2 convents in Intag, a rural area near Cotacachi, I was contacted by the architect of a convent in Quito and asked to work on a church on Lago San Pablo. Up until then I had been a day laborer but now I had a contract.
With the money I made building and selling Ecuador real estate, I was able to buy some land. I bought a small lot in the center of Cotacachi. It was only 6 meters by 10 meters, but I built a 3-story house with a tienda (small shop) on the first level and a rental apartment on the next two floors.
It was around this time that Michel Duer and Jorge Espinoza, the owners of La Mirage and two tiendas on leather street, asked me to work for them, around 1991 or ‘92. I didn’t have my degree in construction because I had not written my thesis, but they didn’t care. They were more interested in the quality of the work I did. So I started building their 10,000 square foot Ecuador home in Cotacachi.
Michel gave me all the resources I needed—a radio for communication and a 35-man crew. I could get on the radio, order materials and have them delivered right away. We finished the house in 8 months! Jorge Moncayo, the architect, only came three times to check on the construction because he had lots of confidence in me.
Moncayo also designed Michel and Jorge's spa and retreat, La Mirage. The work there was slower, organic, poco y poco (little by little) and I helped built parts of it. La Mirage has become one of the most beautiful pieces of Ecuador real estate in the country!
Then I went to work for Phyllis Cooper on Lueva, her healing center. I built all of Lueva except the tile installation.
My next Ecuador real estate project was building Huayra Huasy, a large hosteria, for Mario Hansen, the German owner.
With money earned from La Mirage plus a bonus of $l million sucres from Michel after completing his house, I was able to finish building my Ecuador property on the small lot in Cotacachi and rent it out. After a short time I sold it and built a hotel of my own on the site of an old ramshackle house. The owner wanted $11 million sucres for the property and the bank would only lend me $3 million. So I had to wait until I finished construction on the project for Mario Hansen.
We built a main house, bodegas (storage buildings) and kitchen. At the end I had a profit of $15 million sucres and was able to build my hotel,Sumac Huasi, on the land, paying the price of $11 million sucres with $4 million left over for materials.
My first idea for the hotel was to build the first floor with shops, a second floor apartment and make the hotel on the third floor. With permission from the city to build it that way, I constructed the first two floors. Then a new public director (director of public works) was appointed when the new mayor was elected.
He didn’t agree that the approval I got from the former director was any good. He said my work so far was not legal and I could only build two stories, so I had to remove the rebar I had installed for the third floor and make a roof. Fifteen days later a member of the municipality wrote me a letter asking me to come by his office. He told me that just for me they were changing the rules and I could build two more floors! These are the challenges in dealing with Ecuador real estate.
I said, “No. You told me no and I’m not going to do any more.”
After I built Opera Design, Jorge and Michel’s shop on leather street in Cotacachi, Jorge Espinoza told me I needed to buy a car and sold me his brother’s car, a ’78 model, for $6 million sucres.
I never dreamed that I would ever have my own car, my own hotel, and my own Ecuador real estate. It seemed impossible. My wife, too, never thought she’d see that dream come true!
A friend of mine, a taxi driver, took me to the stadium in Cotacachi and gave me a 2-hour driving lesson. That was in 1996 and I was 33 years old. Then I practiced a lot on back-country roads.
My next vehicle was a Ford F-150 pickup truck. I traded my car for it and it’s the pick-up I still drive.
With profits from an apartment building that I built across from the electric company I wondered what to do with the money. I called a phone number on a sign that was on a door and was shown a run-down house on Diez de Agosto priced at $18,000. I bought it in 2004 and began with the idea of building one condominium building with gardens.
Working on Ecuador real estate for Michel and Jorge had inspired me. They built wonderful gardens with beautiful views at La Mirage. I wanted to do the same.
The first condo in the building I built was sold to an Ecuadorian who lives in Spain. His father and two of his brothers had bought two apartments in my last building.
Then in August, a local guy brought a man from Miami to see my condo. He wanted to buy the whole building and said he would send me the money in 15 days.
From the first minute I saw this piece of Ecuador real estate, I started seeing my vision for it. Poco a poco, organically, a little bit at a time, I will build--- the condos, the green spaces and the gardens.
I like to look at magazines--decorating, gardening and architectural magazines. I studied them for four years. After seeing the best houses and gardens in the world, I wanted to create something like that in Cotacachi. What I am doing is different from anything else being built here.
I designed the gardens myself. I didn’t study plants or landscaping. I just pick the gardens I like and draw up a quick plan. I want to build pergolas and bring sand from the beaches.
In my mind, I can see this area where I am building filled with gardens, flowers and trees. Perhaps I will build a restaurant for my son who is studying to become a chef.
Jorge has finished construction on his second project, Primavera II nearby on Calle Vicente Roquefuerte just off Cotacachi’s well-known, "Leather Street."
Jorge has moved large trees in order to save them, lovingly replanting them for the enjoyment of the lucky new owners. They are able to walk his brick-lined paths, sit beneath the shade of fragrant fruit trees and help themselves to herbs from a communal garden fenced by ancient adobe walls.
For more sales information about Primavera II condos, townhouses and adobe casitas, please contact Gary Phillips. Eagle and Condor Internacional, owner of Pro-Ecuador.com, is the sales agent for Primavera II.
In addition to old guava trees, there are also peach and avocado trees, and Jorge is planting lemon trees, lawns and flowers. This Ecuador real estate project is truly unique to both Cotacachi and to Ecuador.