Guayaquil is Ecuador's city with the Midas touch. Politics and culture may center in perpetual rival Quito, but the country's pocketbook lies here. The city is also one of the world's premier examples of positive urban renewal. Less than a decade ago, you dared not walk downtown streets night (daytime strolls were no guarantee of safety either). But an exceptionally ambitious city government, determined to clean up crime and halt a long downward slide, has transformed the aging port in a few years into Ecuador's most vibrant city. Change is everywhere you look here, and some two million proud Guayaquileños have become the ultimate civic boosters. "Have you seen the Malecón?" they ask you, pointing to the riverfront promenade lined with museums, restaurants, shops, and ongoing entertainment. They also tout the new museums, the new airport, and the Metrovía, the new urban transportation network. Guayaquil remains a modern, financially minded city and will never attract the same number of visitors as the capital, but it deserves to be a place of pilgrimage for urban fans everywhere for a reassuring look at what a city can do right.
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