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Ecuadorian Families – How Different from Canadian or American Families?

Posted in: Ecuador Travel, Living in Ecuador

How big is a big family?

My Mom’s family is quite large. 6 kids (all married) had 18 grand-kids (10 are married) and 13 great grand-kids.

For a total of 49 living members on my moms side. (See the breakdown below). But this isn’t anything compared to some families here in Ecuador!

What are Families like here in Ecuador?

I had a conversation with a taxi driver a couple weeks ago. He told me that the only time off all year he gets is New Years Eve and New Years Day (for a total of a day and a half!).

For this time, his family comes over and they spend time together. In the course of conversation, I asked him how many in his family. He said: “We are a big family – we are 450″. That’s 450 direct descendants from his parents! His wife’s family is small (he says) with just 180 members.

So how does the math work? It sounds kind of incredible, doesn’t it? He said he has 11 brothers and sisters. So here’s a possibility (completely hypothetical – of course) of how the math might work:

  • 2: 2 grandparents
  • 24: 12 kids x 2 (they are married)
  • 180: 10 kids each (120 grand-kids) with half of them married (60 spouses)
  • 300: Each of those married couples have 5 kids each (60 X 5)
  • Total: 506

So, it’s possible – albeit pretty incredible.

I met a man here in Cuenca who is roughly the same age as me. He lived in the States for a while and when he returned, he build a really nice, large house where his parents and brothers and sisters can also live.

His parents are in their late 50’s. He is in his early 30’s. I’m not sure of how many brothers and sisters he has, but a couple are the same age as our daughter. They are a solid 20 years apart in age. Of course, this isn’t unheard of.

But now it gets interesting!

His grandfather recently remarried (after his first wife passed away). He is in his late 70’s and his second wife is in her early 40’s. And just a few months ago, they had a new baby. So. . . this man has an uncle more than 30 years younger than he is.

After he told me the story he said with a huge smile: “The men in our family are very fertile!”


Families are very important here. It’s not uncommon for parents to work 6 or 7 days a week. But when the parents have any time off, they head to the park – as a family.

They spend time playing soccer or sharing an ice cream. The closeness of the families really stood out to us, especially when we first arrived. And it’s something we really admire in the Ecuadorian people.

Here is my much less significant lineage.

  • My grandparents (maternal) have 6 kids.
  • Uncle Dave had 2 children – both married, and has one grandson
  • My mom Linda had 3 children – all married and has one granddaughter
  • Aunt Betty has 2 children – one married. She has 3 grand-kids
  • Uncle Bob has 4 children – one married and has 2 grand-kids.
  • Aunt Lillian has 5 children – three married and has 4 grand-kids
  • Aunt Nancy has 2 children – one married.

Total: 49 living family members on my maternal side. (2 grandparents, 6 children, 18 grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren, 10 married). While I was in elementary school, I often had the largest family in my class. But Ecuadorian families make this look pretty small.

What about you – what’s the largest family you’ve come across? What have you enjoyed about families you’ve met while traveling?

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

7 comments… add one
  • Lino Sep 22, 2013, 11:08 pm

    Hello Bryan, while is true in Ecuador there are policies in place regarding people’s disabilities either mental or physical those same policies have evolved by leaps and bounds in the last 6 years, we have to remember the last vice-president (Lenin Moreno) of Ecuador who had a disability the result of a gunshot to his back in a failed robbery attempt few years ago that kept him in a wheel chair. Because of him there are many laws in place in Ecuador today, he was proposed and named as candidate for a Nobel prize in 2012 because of his efforts. In Ecuador since 2010 there is a labor law that goes: In businesses with 25 employees or more they have to hire 4% of people with disabilities or risk getting fine $2400 per person. You have probably noticed in large companies the presence of people with disabilities sometimes relegated to do less demanding jobs like: maintenance, bagging, greeting, etc. In University campuses is a law to allow access to people with disabilities, if you have notice the renovations taking place in Cuenca ( sidewalks, streets, etc )they all have to have ramps and such. I had to take my wife to a government clinic while in Guayaquil about 2 month ago she was seen by a extremely physically disabled doctor it appeared that he had suffered a stroke that had affected 50% of his body that he required the assistance of a nurse from writing his prescription to handle the stethoscope and help with other things around his office, but he was able to communicate perfectly and diagnose the illness properly and was able to prescribe the correct and necessary medication. I was presently surprised by this doctor who had this way about him between pride, satisfaction and love for his craft. So yes I agree with you here in Ecuador the old and the disable are respected, that the government need to fine tune how these people are better help is also true.

  • Rocio Torres Jan 3, 2012, 1:33 am

    loving your articles Bryan.About the big families, I always make fun of mine, every time but every single time I visit Ecuador, there is at least one member more in the family 🙂

  • Sailor Aug 25, 2011, 5:25 pm

    That is a pretty interesting number difference. I can see that in my family too. Marriage and family events are big coz of the number of relatives. I haven’t really taken a census of my big family tree, I think I should now 😀

  • Debbie Jan 26, 2011, 3:03 pm

    My husband and I are interested in relocating in another country. We have spent time in Costa Rica and will again be spending 2months there this summer. You make Ecuador sound very inviting. I love the idea of the importance the people place on family but am wondering how the people react to those with disabilities. We travel and would be moving with our two young adult children, 19 and 27, who are both blind and of Asian descent. What kind of a reaction could they expect to receive?

    • Bryan Haines Jan 26, 2011, 3:27 pm

      Hi Debbie – thats a great question. At home (in Canada) it wasn’t uncommon for adults to be visibly intolerant of people with disabilities and it was almost the culture to make fun (officially, people were just “joking around”) when someone makes a mistake.

      When we moved here, we were shocked by the respect that everyone has for everyone else. Especially when we first moved here (and even now) we spoke in a kind of jungle talk (Me Bryan. Need bathroom.). Our spanish was horrible, but no one made fun of it, or even laughed. They excercised extreme patience.

      Here albinism is common and there are many men missing limbs. Deafness is also common in Ecuador. But whats interesting, is that I’ve never seen anyone make fun of someone else. Respect is very highly regarded here. I’m sure that there will be exceptions – there always are – but I expect your children will find it much better here than in the States.

      On a side note, the only intolerance I’ve seen is by fellow gringos. Embarrassing!

      • Jakob Oct 14, 2011, 8:53 pm

        Bryan… while it is true that people in Ecuador are generally kind, I can assure you that a disabled person is much better off in Canada than in Ecuador. The reason is that public life is entirely oblivious of people with disabilities. There are virtually no services that would be adapted for that part of the population. People with disabilities do not have much to do or where to go and often just stay at home where they depend on being taken care of by close family members. It would be outright dangerous for them to be out in the street. If at all I would recommend for such people to settle outside of the big cities like Quito or Guayaquil, some smaller place where the community is tight and people take care of each other. But to do that, you have to be immersed in the local culture.

        Example: For my Ecuadorian wife it was a culture shock to see people in wheelchairs at her college in Canada. She was amazed at how those people could just normally go to school and have a normal professional life. Fact is that if born in Ecuador they would probably not do that. She had a lot of sympathy for them, but it was just natural for her to assume that those people simply would never be able to do even the basic things that you and me consider basic human rights. Nothing sinister, but something to think about.

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