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For me, the symbol of a small, thriving but probably chaotic Ecuadorian town is that it has a Tía. A Tía is a small supermarket. They never look particularly new or clean and the prices are not particularly cheap. The main advantage is you can stroll around and put stuff in a basket. Although I like supporting local businesses, I don´t like trying to cradle more than about 5 items in my arms while I´m waiting to pay, or try to remember all the things I want to buy at a general store, which means when I need any more than a bottle of water I usually end up in Tía.

Tía generally like to let you know of their presence long before you enter town. In recent years they seem to have entered into competition with some banks as to who can put their billboard with the town name the furthest from town. You think you´re arriving, then 10 minutes later you actually do, then 1 minute later you´ll probably pass the Tía. They look the same, they are the same, and in the coastal región, you´ll probably start to get that deja-vu feeling about the rest of town as well.


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