Ecuador [Span., = equator], officially Republic of Ecuador, republic (2005 est. pop. 13,364,000), 109,483 sq mi (283,561 sq km), W South America. Ecuador is bounded on the north by Colombia, on the south and east by Peru, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. The capital is Quito; the largest city and chief port is Guayaquil.

Land and People

The Andes, dominating the country, cut across Ecuador in two ranges and reach their greatest altitude in the snowcapped volcanic peaks of Chimborazo (20,577 ft/6,272 m) and Cotopaxi (19,347 ft/5,897 m). Within the mountains are high, often fertile valleys, where grains are cultivated, and the major urban centers, such as Quito, Cuenca, and Riobamba, are located. Earthquakes are frequent and often disastrous; in 1949 the city of Ambato was leveled. East of the Andes is a region of tropical jungle, through which run the tributaries of the Amazon River. The Pacific coast region, with hot, humid valleys north of the Gulf of Guayaquil, is the source of Ecuador's chief exports, including oil and coffee. Large deposits of oil are also located in the northeast. Guayaquil and Esmeraldas are the chief ports.

Most of the population live in the highlands. About 65% of the people are mestizo, and a quarter are indigenous. Spanish is the official language, but many natives speak Quechua or Jarvo. European-descended residents, who account for about 7% of the population, are mostly landholders and historically have played a dominant role in Equador's unstable political life. Some 3% of the country's inhabitants are of African descent. Roman Catholicism is the main religion.


In recent years Ecuador's economy has become service-based, although a small percentage of the workforce still engages in agriculture. Rice, potatoes, manioc, and plaintains are grown for subsistence; bananas, coffee, and cacao are the main cash crops. Cattle, sheep, and pigs are raised, and there is fishing and lumbering. Petroleum is the country's largest industry; others include food processing, tourism, and the manufacture of textiles, wood products, and chemicals.

Oil is Ecuador's leading export, followed by bananas, cut flowers, shrimp, fish products, coffee, and cocoa; other exports include forest products (notably balsawood), sugar, and rice. Vehicles, medicines, telecommunications equipment, and electricity are the main imports. The United States, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, and Brazil are its chief trading partners. During the 1980s and 90s, Ecuador's leaders imposed austerity budgets on the government in an attempt to stimulate economic growth. The country experienced an economic crisis in the late 1990s, but began recovery early in the 21st cent. Ecuador is a member of the Andean Community, an economic organization of South American countries.


Ecuador is governed under the constitution of 2008. The executive branch is headed by the president, who is elected for a four-year term; the president may serve two consecutive terms. The president is both the head of state and head of government.The legislature consists of the unicameral National Congress, whose 124 members are elected for four-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 22 provinces.


Through the Nineteenth Century

Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, Ecuador was controlled by the Inca empire. Francisco Pizarro's subordinate, Benalcázar, entered the area in 1533. Not finding the wealth of the mythical El Dorado, he and other conquistadors, notably Gonzalo Pizarro and Orellana, moved restlessly on and the region became a colonial backwater. Given an audiencia in 1563 and established politically as the presidency of Quito, it was at various times subject to Peru and to New Granada. After an abortive independence movement in 1809, the region remained under Spanish control. It was liberated by Antonio José de Sucre in the battle of Pichincha (1822) and was joined by Simón Bolívar to Greater Colombia.

With the dissolution of that union in 1830, Ecuador, geographically isolated, became a separate state (four times its present size) under a constitution promulgated by its first president, Juan José Flores. Ecuador unsuccessfully attempted to annex Popayán prov. from Colombia by war in 1832 and occupied the Galápagos Islands that year. Boundary disputes led to frequent invasions by Peruvians in the 19th and 20th cent. The entire eastern frontier, known as Oriente, was in dispute. (In 1942, Ecuador signed a treaty ceding a large area to Peru, but in 1960 it renounced the treaty.)

Bitter internecine struggles between Conservatives and Liberals marked the political history of Ecuador in the 19th cent. The Conservatives, led by Flores and García Moreno (1821-75), supported entrenched privileges and the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church; the Liberals, led by Rocafuerte (1783-1847) and Alfaro (1867-1912) and championed by the writer Montalvo (1832-89), sought social reforms.

The Twentieth Century

There have been a bewildering number of changes in government during the 20th cent. In 1925 the army replaced the coastal banking interests, dominant since 1916, as the ultimate source of power. Military juntas supported various rival factions, and between 1931 and 1940, 12 presidents were in office. José María Velasco Ibarra became president (for the second time) by a coup in 1944. He was ousted in 1947, and the next year Galo Plaza Lasso was chosen in free elections. During Plaza's regime there was unprecedented political reform. Velasco Ibarra was elected again in 1952 and sponsored improvements in roads and schools.

The first Conservative to rule in 60 years, Camilo Ponce Enríquez, followed (1956-60), but Velasco Ibarra was elected again in 1960. He was forced to resign the following year. His legal successor, Julio Arosemena Monroy, was deposed by a junta in 1963. Agitation for a return to civilian government led the military to remove the junta in 1966. A constitutional assembly installed Otto Arosemena Gómez as provisional president and drafted the country's 17th constitution. Velasco Ibarra was elected for the fifth time in 1968. Two years later, faced with economic problems and protests by leftist students, he assumed absolute power. Velasco promised to hold elections in June, 1972. However, the military deposed him in Feb., 1972, and canceled the elections.

Relations with the United States deteriorated in the early 1970s after Ecuador claimed that its territorial waters extended 200 mi (322 km) out to sea. Several U.S. fishing boats were seized by Ecuadorians, and U.S. aid to the country was suspended. In the same period Ecuador became Latin America's second largest oil producer. After Velasco's ouster, the military governed Ecuador until 1979, when a new constitution came into force and Jaime Roldós Aguilera was elected president. Following his death in 1981, he was succeeded by Osvaldo Hurtado Larrea. Hurtado faced many economic and political problems, including inflation, a large international debt, and a troubled oil industry, but his austerity programs failed to revive the economy.

Contemporary Ecuador

León Febres Cordero Rivadeneira, who replaced Hurtado in 1984, was kidnapped in 1987 by a guerrilla group but was released in exchange for a former coup leader. Rodrigo Borja Cevallos was elected president in 1988, and in 1992 he was replaced by Sixto Durán Ballén. In 1990 the indigenous peoples organized a series of boycotts and demonstrations, known as "the Uprising," and in 1992 they were given title to a large area of rain forest in the eastern part of the country. That same year Ballén privatized many state-owned enterprises. In 1994 Ecuador reached agreement with creditor banks on a landmark foreign-debt rescheduling plan. Ecuador again clashed with Peru in a border war in 1995; in 1998 the countries signed an agreement finalizing their borders and giving Ecuador access to the Amazon River.

Despite some achievements, Ballén's government was compromised by several developments, including a severe energy crisis and criminal corruption charges against the vice president. New presidential elections, held in mid-1996, resulted in a victory for Abdalá Bucaram, an often flamboyant populist. After only six months in office, he was dismissed for mental incapacity by the congress, which chose its leader, Fábian Alarcón, as interim president, but Vice President Rosalía Arteaga declared herself Bucaram's legitimate successor. An agreement was reached granting Arteaga the position, but she abruptly resigned and Alarcón succeeded her as interim president for 18 months.

Jamil Mahuad Witt, the mayor of Quito, was elected in a presidential runoff in 1998, as the country went into an economic crisis stemming from a drop in oil prices, high inflation, and nearly $3 billion in damages from El Niño. The sucre, the national currency, plunged in 1999, bringing strikes and more economic turmoil, and Mahuad declared a series of states of emergency. In Jan., 2000, dissident military officers and thousands of Ecuadorans of indigenous descent attempted to oust Mahuad and establish a junta, Armed forces chief of staff Gen. Carlos Mendoza intervened and engineered the accession of Vice President Gustavo Noboa Bejarano to the presidency. In Mar., 2000, the congress approved legislation that made the U.S. dollar the national currency beginning in 2001, a move intended to stabilize the economy; it originally had been proposed by Mahuad.

In 2002 the presidential election campaign ended with a runoff victory by Lucio Gutiérrez Borbúa of the leftist January 21st Partriotic Society party. Gutiérrez, a former army colonel, was a leader of the dissident military forces that sparked Mahuad's removal from the presidency in 2000. The government, which had been elected on a promise of increasing social spending, adopted austerity measures to win a new loan from the International Monetary Fund. The move alienated many who had backed Gutiérrez, and made his government dependent on uncertain coalitions in the congress.

A bid to impeach the president (Nov., 2004) failed, and he subsequently won enactment of a reorganization of the supreme court, which he accused of favoring the opposition. That move, however, sparked protests and demonstrations (and counterdemonstrations) and led to a political crisis in early 2005. In April increasing street protests and the president's endorsement of the use of force to quell them led the congress to remove the president. Vice President Alfredo Palacio was sworn in as his successor, and Gutiérrez, who denounced his removal as unconstitutional, went into exile.

In Aug., 2005, protesters in NE Ecuador sparked a national crisis by disrupting the nation's oil industry. They called for more of the revenues to be invested in the Amazonian regions that produce the oil, and won concessions from the government and oil companies. Gutiérrez returned to Ecuador in Oct., 2005, in a bid to retake office, but he was arrested; he was released only in Mar., 2006, after the charges of endangering national security were dismissed.

Palacio, who lacked allies in congress and headed a government suffering from scandal and defections, also was frustrated with his inability to push political reforms through Ecuador's congress. In Oct., 2005, he proposed asking voters to approve holding a constitutional assembly instead, but abandoned the idea (Dec., 2005) after it was rejected by the nation's electoral tribunal. Meanwhile, in November, a new supreme court was finally sworn in. In Feb.-Mar., 2006, the country experienced a new series of demonstrations, by various groups calling for local investment of oil revenues, full-time jobs for oil contract workers, and an end to negotiations on a free-trade pact with the United States. The protests, which disrupted the economy and were sometimes violent, led the government to declare a state of emergency several times during the two months. In the first round of the presidential election in Oct., 2006, no candidate won a majority, forcing a runoff in November. Álvaro Noboa, the country's wealthiest person and a conservative, placed first with 27% of the vote; the runner-up, Rafael Correa, a leftist economist, secured 23%. In the runoff, however, Correa won 57% of the vote.

Correa sought a referendum to establish a national assembly for constitutional reform, which the congress approved in Feb., 2007. The question of the powers of the assembly set off a power struggle between the president (supported by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal), who favored unlimited powers, and the congress, which had approved the assembly with limited powers. A narrow congressional majority voted to remove the tribunal judges aligned with the president, and those judges then voted to remove 57 members of the congress; both moves were of uncertain constitutionality. Correa, buoyed by his popularity and supported by sometimes violent demonstrators, managed to retain the upper hand; the congress lacked a quorum until March, when sufficient substitute members were appointed.

In April, voters approved electing a national assembly to rewrite the constitution, and it was elected in September. Also in April, the consitutional tribunal first refused to hear the congress members' challenge concerning their dismissal and then called for them to be reinstated, but the congress then dismissed the members of the tribunal, and Correa ordered the police to prevent the dismissed members from returning to the congress. In Nov., 2007, the national assembly, dominated by Correa allies, suspended the congress, but a majority of that body subsequently defied that action and met outside the legislature. In July, 2008, the assembly adopted a new constitution that increased the president's powers, permitted a president to serve two consecutive terms, and strengthened the government's control over the economy. It was approved in a Sept., 2008, referendum.

A Colombian raid on rebels encamped in Ecuador in Mar., 2008, led to several days of tensions between Colombia and Ecuador, which mobilized troops to the Colombia border and broke diplomatic relations. Colombia said computer files seized in the raid had evidence of monetary support for Correa from the rebels. Colombia subsequently apologized for the raid, which the Organization of American states called a violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty and the OAS charter. Relations between Ecuador and Colombia, however, continued to be strained. The raid also led to the resignation of the leaders of Ecuador's armed forces after it was learned that Ecuadoran intelligence services had shared information about the rebels with Colombia but not alerted the presidency to it.

In Nov., 2008, a government audit of Ecuador's debt said that roughly 40% had been illegally contracted and recommended not paying it. In December Ecuador stopped paying interest on much of that debt; by June, 2009, however, the government had repurchased 90% of the $3.2 billion in contested bonds for about a third of its face value. In elections (Apr., 2009) held under the new constitution, Correa was reelected, and the PAIS Alliance, his party, and its allies won 73 seats in the National Assembly. Correa promised increased socialism in his second term.


See C. R. Gibson, Foreign Trade in the Economic Development of Small Nations: The Case of Ecuador (1971); L. Linke, Ecuador: Country of Contrasts (repr. 1976); N. E. Whitten, Jr., ed., Cultural Transformations and Ethnicity in Modern Ecuador (1981); O. Hurtado, Political Power in Ecuador (1985); J. D. Martz, Politics and Petroleum in Ecuador (1987); F. M. Spindler, Nineteenth Century Ecuador: A Historical Introduction (1987); D. Corkill, ed., Ecuador (1989).

For a topic outline on this subject, see List of basic Ecuador topics.

Ecuador officially the Republic of Ecuador (República del Ecuador ), literally, "Republic of the equator") is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, by Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of only two countries in South America (with Chile) that does not have a border with Brazil.The country also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 965 kilometers (600 miles) west of the mainland. Ecuador straddles the equator, from which it takes its name, and has an area of 256,371 square kilometers (98,985 mi²). Its capital city is Quito; its largest city is Guayaquil.


Evidence of human cultures in Ecuador exists from c. 3500 B.C. Many civilizations rose throughout Ecuador, such as the Valdivia Culture and Machalilla Culture on the coast, the Quitus (near present day Quito) and the Cañari (near present day Cuenca). Each civilization developed its own distinctive architecture, pottery, and religious interests. After years of fiery resistance by the Cayambes and other tribes, as demonstrated by the battle of Yahuarcocha (Blood Lake) where thousands of resistance fighters were killed and thrown in the lake, what is now Ecuador fell to the Incan expansion and was assimilated loosely into the Incan empire.

The Inca Empire

Through a succession of wars and marriages among the nations that inhabited the valley, the region became part of the Inca Empire in 1463. Atahualpa, one of the sons of the Inca emperor Huayna Capac, could not receive the crown of the Empire since the emperor had another son, Huascar, born in the Incan capital Cusco. Upon Huayna Capac's death in 1525, the empire was divided in two: Atahualpa received the north, with his capital in Quito; Huascar received the south, with its capital in Cusco. In 1530, Atahualpa defeated Huascar and conquered the entire Empire for the crown of Quito. However the emperor Atahualpa never ruled the empire, as he was fighting the Spanish at Cajamarca.


Barely a year later, in 1531, the Spanish conquistadors, under Francisco Pizarro, arrived to find an Inca empire torn by civil war. Atahualpa wanted to reestablish a unified Incan empire; the Spanish, however, had conquest intentions and established themselves in a fort in Cajamarca, captured Atahualpa during the Battle of Cajamarca, and held him for ransom. The Incas filled one room with gold and two with silver to secure his release. Despite being surrounded and vastly outnumbered, the Spanish executed Atahualpa. To escape the confines of the fort, the Spaniards fired all their cannons and broke through the lines of the bewildered Incans. In subsequent years, the Spanish colonists became the new elite, centering their power in the vice-royalties of Nueva Granada and Lima.

The indigenous population was decimated by disease during the first decades of Spanish rule — a time when the natives also were forced into the "encomienda" labor system for Spanish landlords. In 1563, Quito became the seat of a royal audiencia (administrative district) of Spain and part of the Vice-Royalty of Lima, and later the Vice-Royalty of Nueva Granada.

After nearly 300 years of Spanish colonization, Quito still was a small city of only 10,000 inhabitants. It was there, on August 10, 1809 (the national holiday), that the first call for independence from Spain was made in Latin America ("Primer Grito de la Independencia"), under the leadership of the city's criollos like Carlos Montúfar, Eugenio Espejo and Bishop Cuero y Caicedo. Quito's nickname, "Luz de América" ("Light of America"), comes from the idea that this first attempt produced the inspiration for the rest of Spanish America.


On October 9, 1820, Guayaquil became the first city in Ecuador to gain its independence from Spain. It was not until May 24, 1822 (the Glorious May Revolution) that the rest of Ecuador gained its independence after Field Marshal Antonio José de Sucre defeated the Spaniard Royalist forces at the Batalla de Pichincha (Battle of Pichincha) near Quito. Following the battle, Ecuador joined Simón Bolívar's Republic of Gran Colombia, only to become a republic in 1830.

The 19th century for Ecuador was marked by instability, with a rapid succession of rulers. The first president of Ecuador was the Venezuelan born Juan José Flores, who was ultimately deposed, followed by many authoritarian leaders such as Vicente Rocafuerte, José Joaquín de Olmedo, José María Urbina, Diego Noboa, Pedro José de Arteta, Manuel de Ascásubi and Flores's own son, Antonio Flores Jijón, among others. The conservative Gabriel Garcia Moreno unified the country in the 1860s with the support of the Roman Catholic Church. In the late 19th century, world demand for cocoa tied the economy to commodity exports and led to migrations from the highlands to the agricultural frontier on the coast.

The liberal revolution

A coastal-based liberal revolution in 1895 under Eloy Alfaro reduced the power of the clergy and the conservative land owners of the highlands, and this liberal wing retained power until the military "Julian Revolution" of 1925. The 1930s and 1940s were marked by instability and emergence of populist politicians such as five-time President José María Velasco Ibarra.

War with Peru

Control over territory in the Amazon basin led to a long-lasting dispute between Ecuador and Peru. In 1941, amid fast-growing tensions between the two countries, war broke out. Peru claimed that Ecuador's military presence in Peruvian-claimed territory was an invasion; Ecuador, for its part, claimed that Peru had invaded Ecuador. In July 1941, troops were mobilized in both countries. Peru had an army of 11,681 troops who faced a poorly-supplied and inadequately-armed Ecuadorian force of 2,300, of which only 1,300 were deployed in the southern provinces. Hostilities erupted on July 5, 1941, when Peruvian forces crossed the Zarumilla river at several locations, testing the strength and resolve of the Ecuadorian border troops. Finally, on July 23, 1941, the Peruvians launched a major invasion, crossing the Zarumilla river in force and advancing into the Ecuadorian province of El Oro.

During the course of the war, Peru gained control over some part of the disputed territory and some part of the province of El Oro, and some parts of the province of Loja, demanding that the Ecuadorian government give up its territorial claims. The Peruvian Navy tried to block the port of Guayaquil, almost cutting supplies to the Ecuadorian troops. After a few weeks of war and under pressure by the U.S. and several Latin American nations, all fighting came to a stop. Ecuador and Peru came to an accord formalized in the Rio Protocol, signed on January 29, 1942, in favor of hemispheric unity against the Axis Powers in World War II. As a result of its victory, Peru was awarded the disputed territory.

Due to the fact that a small river in the conflict region was not catalogued in the Rio de Janeiro Protocol, Ecuadorian governments determined the Rio Protocol was not valid. It would take two more undeclared wars before a peace agreement was finally reached in October 1998 to end hostilities. (See Paquisha Incident and Cenepa War.)

Recession and popular unrest led to a return to populist politics and domestic military interventions in the 1960s, while foreign companies developed oil resources in the Ecuadorian Amazon. In 1972, construction of the Andean pipeline was completed. The pipeline brought oil from the east side of the Andes to the coast, making Ecuador South America's second largest oil exporter.

Military governments (1972-1979)

That same year a "revolutionary and nationalist" military junta overthrew the government of Velasco Ibarra. The coup d'etat was led by General Guillermo Rodríguez and executed by navy commander Jorge Queirolo G. The new president exiled José María Velasco to Argentina remaining in power until 1976, when he was removed by another military government. It was a military junta led by Admiral Alfredo Poveda, who was declared chairman of the Supreme Council. The Supreme Council had two other members as well, General Guillermo Durán Arcentales and General Luis Leoro Franco. After the country stabilized, socially and economically, this Supreme Council proceeded to hold democratic elections and stepped down to hand presidential duties over to the newly democratically elected president.

Return to democracy

Elections were held on April 29th, 1979 under a new Constitution. Jaime Roldós Aguilera was elected President, garnering over one million votes, the most in Ecuadorian history. He took office on Aug. 10 as the first constitutionally elected President after nearly a decade of civilian and military dictatorships. In 1980 he founded the Partido Pueblo, Cambio y Democracia (People, Change and Democracy Party) after withdrawing from the Partido Social Christiano (Social Christian Party) and governed until May 24, 1981, when he died along with his wife and the minister of defense, Marco Subia Martinez, when his Air Force plane crashed in heavy rain near the Peruvian border. To this day many Ecuadorians believe that he was assassinated, given the multiple death threats levelled against him due to his reformist agenda and the sometimes contradictory accounts of the incident.

He was succeeded by his Vice President, Osvaldo Hurtado who was sworn in after an emergency meeting of the cabinet following Roldos' untimely death. By 1982, the Hurtado government faced an economic crisis, characterized by high inflation, budget deficits, a falling currency, mounting debt service, and uncompetitive industries, leading to chronic government instability.

The 1984 presidential elections were narrowly won by León Febres Cordero Rivadeneira, of the Social Christian Party (PSC). During the first years of his administration, Febres-Cordero introduced free-market economic policies, took a strong stand against drug trafficking and terrorism, and pursued close relations with the United States. His tenure was marred by bitter wrangling with other branches of Government and his own brief kidnapping by elements of the military. A devastating earthquake in March 1987 interrupted oil exports and worsened the country's economic problems.

Rodrigo Borja Cevallos of the Democratic Left (Izquierda Democrática or ID) party won the presidency in 1988, running in the runoff election against Abdalá Bucaram of the PRE. His government was committed to improving human rights protection and carried out some reforms, notably an opening of Ecuador to foreign trade. The Borja government concluded an accord leading to the disbanding of the small terrorist group, "¡Alfaro Vive, Carajo!" ("Alfaro Lives, Dammit!") named after Eloy Alfaro. However, continuing economic problems undermined the popularity of the ID, and opposition parties gained control of Congress in 1990.

Many years of mismanagement, starting with the mishandling of the country's debt during the 1970s military regime, had left the country essentially ungovernable. Since the mid 1990s, the government of Ecuador has been characterized by a weak executive branch that struggles to appease the ruling classes represented in the legislative and judiciary. The three democratically elected presidents during the period 1996-2006 all failed to finish their terms.

The emergence of the indigenous population (approximately 25 percent) as an active constituency has added to the democratic volatility of the country in recent years. The population have been motivated by government failures to deliver on promises of land reform, lower unemployment and provision of social services, and historical exploitation by the land-holding elite.

Their movement, along with the continuing destabilizing efforts by both the elite and leftist movements, have led to a deterioration of the executive office. The populace and the other branches of government give the president very little political capital, as illustrated by the most removal of President Lucio Gutiérrez from office by Congress in April 2005.

The vice-president, Alfredo Palacio, took his place and remained in office until the presidential election of 2006, in which Rafael Correa defeated Alvaro Noboa in a runoff election.


The executive branch includes 25 ministries. Provincial governors and councilors (mayors, aldermen, and parish boards) are directly elected. Congress meets throughout the year except for recesses in July and December. There are 69 seven-member congressional committees. Justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by the Congress for indefinite terms.

On September 30, 2007 Ecuador elected a constituent assembly, dominated by President Rafael Correa's PAIS Alliance, charged with rewriting the Constitution of Ecuador.

Ecuador has often placed great emphasis on multilateral approaches to international issues. Ecuador is a member of the United Nations (and most of its specialized agencies) and a member of many regional groups, including the Rio Group, the Latin American Economic System, the Latin American Energy Organization, the Latin American Integration Association, and The Andean Community of Nations.

Geography and climate

Ecuador has three main geographic regions, plus an insular region in the Pacific Ocean:

  • La Costa, or the coast, comprises the low-lying land in the western part of the country, including the Pacific coastline.
  • La Sierra ("the highlands") is the high-altitude belt running north to south along the center of the country, its mountainous terrain dominated by the Andes mountain range.
  • El Oriente ("the east") comprises the Amazon rainforest areas in the eastern part of the country, accounting for just under half of the country's total surface area, though populated by under 5 percent of the population.
  • The Región Insular is the region comprising the Galápagos Islands, some 1,000 kilometers (620 mi) west of the mainland in the Pacific Ocean.

Ecuador's capital is Quito, which is in the province of Pichincha in the Sierra region. Its largest city is Guayaquil, in the province of Guayas on the Coast. Cotopaxi, which is just south of Quito, features one of the world's highest active volcanoes. The top of Mount Chimborazo (6,310-m above sea level) is considered to be the most distant point from the center of the earth, given the ovoidal shape of the planet (wider at the equator).

Although the country is not particularly large (the size of the U.S. state of Colorado), there is great variety in the climate, largely determined by altitude. The Pacific coastal area has a tropical climate, with a severe rainy season. The climate in the Andean highlands is temperate and relatively dry; and the Amazon basin on the eastern side of the mountains shares the climate of other rain forest zones.

Because of its location at the equator, Ecuador experiences little variation in daylight hours during the course of a year.


Ecuador is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world according to Conservation International. With 1600 bird species (15 percent of the world's known bird species) in the continental area, and 38 more endemic in the Galápagos. In addition to 25,000 species of plants, the country has 106 endemic reptiles, 138 endemic amphibians, and 6,000 species of butterfly. The Galápagos Islands are well known as a region of distinct fauna, famous as the place of birth of Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite being on the UNESCO list, the Galapagos islands are endangered by a range of negative environmental effects, threatening the existence of this exotic ecosystem.

Provinces and cantons

Ecuador is divided into 24 provinces (provincias), each with its own administrative capital:
Map Key Province Capital
1 Azuay Cuenca
2 Bolívar Guaranda
3 Cañar Azogues
4 Carchi Tulcán
5 Chimborazo Riobamba
6 Cotopaxi Latacunga
7 El Oro Machala
8 Esmeraldas Esmeraldas
9 Galápagos Puerto Baquerizo Moreno
10 Guayas Guayaquil
11 Imbabura Ibarra
12 Loja Loja
Map Key Province Capital
13 Los Ríos Babahoyo
14 Manabi Portoviejo
15 Morona-Santiago Macas
16 Napo Tena
17 Orellana Puerto Francisco de Orellana
18 Pastaza Puyo
19 Pichincha Quito
20 Santa Elena Santa Elena
21 Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas Santo Domingo de los Colorados
22 Sucumbíos Nueva Loja
23 Tungurahua Ambato
24 Zamora-Chinchipe Zamora

The provinces are divided into cantons, and further subdivided into parishes (parroquias).


Ecuador has substantial petroleum resources and rich agricultural areas. Because the country exports primary products such as oil, bananas, flowers and shrimp, fluctuations in world market prices can have a substantial domestic impact. Industry is largely oriented to servicing the domestic market, and some exports to the Andean Common market. Deteriorating economic performance in 1997-98 culminated in a severe economic and financial crisis in 1999. The crisis was precipitated by a number of external shocks, including the El Niño weather phenomenon in 1997, a sharp drop in global oil prices in 1997-98, and international emerging market instability in 1997-98. These factors highlighted the Government of Ecuador's unsustainable economic policy mix of large fiscal deficits and expansionary money policy and resulted in a 7.3 percent contraction of GDP, annual year-on-year inflation of 52.2 percent, and a 65 percent devaluation of the national currency, the Sucre, in 1999, which helped precipitate a default on external loans later that year.

On January 9, 2000, the administration of President Jamil Mahuad announced its intention to adopt the U.S. dollar as the official currency of Ecuador to address the ongoing economic crisis. The formal adoption of the dollar as currency on September 10, 2000, as opposed to merely pegging the Ecuadorian sucre to the dollar as Argentina had done, theoretically meant that the benefits of seigniorage would accrue to the U.S. economy. Subsequent protests related to the economic and financial crises led to the removal of Mahuad from office and the elevation of Vice President Gustavo Noboa to the presidency.

However, the Noboa government confirmed its commitment to dollarize as the centerpiece of its economic recovery strategy. The government also entered into negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), culminating in the negotiation of a 12-month standby arrangement with the Fund. Additional policy initiatives include efforts to reduce the government's fiscal deficit and to implement structural reforms to strengthen the banking system and regain access to private capital markets.

Buoyed by high oil prices, the Ecuadorian economy experienced a modest recovery in 2000, with GDP rising 1.9 percent. However, 70 percent of the population was estimated to live below the poverty line that year, more than double the rate in 1995.

In April 2007, after winning a referendum on constitutional reform, President Correa announced that he no longer intended that the country would make repayments to the IMF nor deal with the World Bank.


Ecuador's population is ethnically diverse. The largest ethnic group (as of 2007) is the Mestizos, who are the mixed descendants of Spanish colonists and indigenous Indians and who constitute 62 percent of the population. Amerindians account for around 25 percent of the current population. Whites, mainly criollos, the unmixed descendants of early Spanish colonists, as well as immigrants from other European countries, account for about 10 percent. The small Afro-Ecuadorian minority, including Mulattos and zambos, largely based in Esmeraldas and Imbabura provinces, make up 5 percent.

Immigration and emigration

There are sizable expatriate Ecuadorian communities in Spain, the United Kingdom (Ecuadorian Britons), and Italy, as well across Europe, the United States (see Ecuadorian American), Canada, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico and Japan. It is estimated that 700,000 people emigrated from Ecuador following the 1999 economic crisis, and that the expatriate Ecuadorian population totals 2.5 million.

Also many people from other South American countries, especially Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia, have moved to Ecuador in search of higher wages. Ecuador has also seen increased immigration from the Middle East, Asia (especially China and Japan), North America and Europe. Ecuador has about 95,000 American expatriates and 30,000 European union expatriates.

There is a large community of Arab-Ecuadorians, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, mostly of Lebanese, Syrian, or Palestinian origin, prominent in commerce and industry, and concentrated in the country's second city, the Pacific port of Guayaquil. Ecuador contains tiny communities of Italians, Jews, Armenians and Greek-Ecuadorians. The Ecuadorian Jews, who number less 1,000, are mostly of German or Italian descent. There are 112,000 German speakers in Ecuador, mainly descendants of immigrants who arrived in the late 1800s.

Also a small east Asian-Ecuadorian (see Asian Latino) community estimated at 2,500, mainly consists of those having any amount of Japanese and Chinese descent, whose ancestors arrived as miners, farm hands and fishermen in the late 1800s. Guayaquil is also home to South Asian groups including Indians and Pakistanis.

Population density

The majority of Ecuadorians live in the central provinces inland in the Andes mountains. The tropical forest region to the east of the mountains (El Oriente) remains sparsely populated and contains only about three percent of the population.

City Populations 2008


The public education system is free at the point of delivery, and attendance is mandatory from ages five to 14. Provision of public schools falls far below the levels needed, and class sizes are often very large, and families of limited means often find it necessary to pay for education. However, the Ministry of Education reports that only 76 percent of children finish six years of schooling. In rural areas, only 10 percent of the children go on to high school. Ministry statistics give the mean number of years completed as 6.7.

Ecuador has 61 universities, many of which offer graduate degrees, although only 87 percent of the faculty in public universities possess graduate degrees. About 300 higher institutes offer two to three years of post-secondary vocational or technical training.

Nations of Ecuador

Ecuador is a plurinational state. In addition to whites, blacks, and mestizos, many Ecuadorians belong to indigenous nations, principally:


Approximately 85% of Ecuadorians are Roman Catholic, and 7.3% are Protestants. In the rural parts of Ecuador, indigenous beliefs and Catholicism are sometimes syncretized. Most festivals and annual parades are based on religious celebrations, many incorporating a mixture of rites and icons.

The Jewish Community of Ecuador, with domicile in Quito, has about 600 members. However, this number is decreasing due to young people immigrating to study in Israel or abroad and not coming back. The Community has a Jewish center with a synagogue, a country club, a cemetery and supports the Albert Einstein School, where Jewish religion, history and Hebrew are taught. There's also a Chabad House since 2004 in Quito. There are some small communities in Riobamba, Cuenca and Ambato. The "Comunidad de Culto Israelita" works in Guayaquil independently of the community in Quito, which often leads to confusions about the total number of Jews since both communities held their own statistics.

There are some small percentages of Orthodox Catholics, indigenous religions, Muslims, Buddhists and Baha'i. Ecuador also has strong membership with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A Mormon template was constructed in Guayaquil in 1999.


Ecuador's mainstream culture is defined by its mestizo majority and, like their ancestry, is a mixture of European and Amerindian influences infused with African elements inherited from enslaved ancestors. Ecuador's indigenous communities are integrated into that mainstream culture to varying degrees, but some may also practice their own autochthonous cultures, particularly the more remote indigenous communities of the Amazon basin.

The Panama hat is of Ecuadorian origin, and is known there as "Sombrero de paja toquilla", or a Jipijapa. It is made principally in Montecristi (Pile, Pampas, Cruces) in the Province of Manabi. Its manufacture (particularly that of the Montecristi superfino) is considered a great craft.

Notable people born in Ecuador include painters Tábara, Guayasamín, Kingman, Rendón, Arauz, Constanté, Viteri, Molinari, Maldonado, Gutierrez, Endara Crow, Villacís, Egas, Villafuerte and Faini; animator Mike Judge; poet and statesman José Joaquín de Olmedo y Maruri, scholar Benjamín Urrutia, world traveler Claudia Velasco, and tennis player Pancho Segura.


The food in Ecuador is diverse, varying with altitude and associated agricultural conditions. Pork, chicken, beef, and cuy (guinea pig) are popular in the mountain regions and are served with a variety of grains (especially rice and corn) or potatoes. A popular street food in mountain regions of Ecuador consists of potatoes served with roasted pig (hornado). Fanesca, a fish soup including several types of bean, is often eaten during Lent and Easter. During the week before the commemoration of the deceased or "día de los muertos", the fruit beverage "Colada Morada" is typical, accompanied by "Guaguas de Pan", which is stuffed bread shaped like children.

The food is somewhat different in the southern mountain area, featuring typical Loja food such as "repe", a soup prepared with green bananas; "cecina", roasted pork; and "miel con quesillo" or "cuajada" as dessert.

A wide variety of fresh fruit is available, particularly at lower altitudes, including granadilla, passionfruit, naranjilla, several types of bananas, uvilla, taxo, and tree tomato.

Seafood is very popular at the coast, where prawns, shrimp and lobster are key parts of the diet. Plantain- and peanut-based dishes are the basis of most coastal meals, which are usually served in two courses. The first course is caldo soup, which may be aguado (a thin soup, usually with meat) or caldo de leche, a cream vegetable soup. The second course might include rice, a little meat or fish with a menestra (stew), and salad or vegetables. Patacones are popular side dishes with coastal meals.

Some of the typical dishes in the coastal region are: ceviche, pan de almidón, corviche, guatita, encebollado and empanadas; in the mountain region: hornado, fritada, humitas, tamales, llapingachos, lomo saltado, and churrasco.

In the rainforest, a dietary staple is the yuca, elsewhere called cassava. The starchy root is peeled and boiled, fried, or used in a variety of other dishes. Many fruits are available in this region, including bananas, tree grapes, and peach palms.

Aguardiente, a sugar cane-based spirit, is probably the most popular national alcohol. Drinkable yogurt, available in many fruit flavors, is extremely popular and is often consumed with pan de yuca, which is a light bread filled with cheese and eaten warm.


The best known art tendencies from Ecuador belonged to the Escuela Quiteña, which developed from the XVI to XVIII centuries.

There are many contemporary Ecuadorian writers, including the novelist Jorge Enrique Adoum; the poet Jorge Carrera Andrade; the essayist Benjamín Carrión; the poet Fanny Carrión de Fierro; the novelist Enrique Gil Gilbert; the novelist Jorge Icaza (author of the novel Huasipungo, translated to many languages); the short story author Pablo Palacio; the novelist Alicia Yanez Cossio; the prominent author and essayist, Juan Montalvo, and U.S.-based, half Ecuadorian poet Emanuel Xavier.


Ecuador has produced many world renowned master painters including: Oswaldo Guayasamín, Camilo Egas and Eduardo Kingman from the Indiginist Movement; and Manuel Rendon, Enrique Tábara, Aníbal Villacís and Estuardo Maldonado from the Informalist Movement.


The Ecuador Film Company was founded in Guayaquil, in 1924. During early twenties to early thirties, Ecuador enjoyed its Cinema Golden Age Era. Unfortunately, the production of motion pictures declined with the coming of sound.

  • The Waorani tribe of Ecuador is portrayed in the 2006 theatrical release of The End of the Spear, the story of five missionaries speared to death, as told through the eyes of Christian movie makers.
  • The 2006 film Qué Tan Lejos, written and directed by Tania Hermida, takes place in the rural sierras and Pacific coast of southern Ecuador. A workers' strike delays a bus from Quito to Cuenca and the story unfolds as two young women decide to complete the journey on their own, hitchhiking the rest of the way. Along the way they meet interesting characters who help them reevaluate the purpose of their journey. The movie contains beautiful scenic shots and Ecuadorian humor that sometimes gets lost in translation.
  • The 2005 film Crónicas, written and directed by Ecuadorian Sebastián Cordero and starring John Leguizamo in his Spanish-language debut, is set and filmed entirely in Ecuador.
  • Although set in Colombia, the 2004 film Maria Full of Grace was partially shot in Ecuador.
  • The 2003 film The Dancer Upstairs, directed by John Malkovich and starring Javier Bardem, was filmed in Ecuador.
  • Beyond the Gates of Splendor (2002), directed by Jim Hanon, is a documentary about five missionaries killed by the Huaorani Indians in the 1950s. He recycles the story in the 2006 Hollywood production The End of the Spear. Most of this film was shot in Panama.
  • The film Proof of Life (2000), starring Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe, was filmed in Ecuador, although the story takes place in a fictitious South American country named Tecala. The guerrilla movement depicted in the film is reminiscent of Peru's Shining Path or Colombia's FARC.
  • Ratas, Ratones, Rateros (1999), written and directed by Sebastián Cordero, relates the story of an 18-year-old quiteño whose cousin, a thief from Ecuador's coastal city Guayaquil, embroils all those around him in his affairs. The film has been accused by several critics of painting an extremely distorted contrast between the coast (Guayaquil) and the highlands (Quito), which stems from the ever-present feelings of regionalism.
  • Entre Marx y una Mujer Desnuda (Between Marx and a Nude Woman, 1995), by Ecuadorian Camilo Luzuriaga, provides a window into the life of young Ecuadorian leftists living in a country plagued by the remnants of feudal systems and coup d'etats. It is based on a novel by Jorge Enrique Adoum.
  • The 1991 film Sensaciones was shot in Ecuador and directed by Ecuadorian siblings Juan Esteban Cordero and Viviana Cordero. Viviana Cordero was subsequently involved in the production of Ratas, Ratones, y Rateros (see above) and later produced Un Titán en el Ring (2002).
  • The 1980s film Vibes, starring Cyndi Lauper and Jeff Goldblum, was shot in Ecuador. Various Andean cities served as a backdrop for the film.

In addition to film, there are numerous books and novels based on Ecuador, including the science fiction novel by Rod Glenn, The King of America, and the science fiction novel Galápagos by Kurt Vonnegut.


The most popular sport in Ecuador, as in most South American countries, is soccer (fútbol/football). Its best known professional teams include Barcelona S.C. and C.S. Emelec, from Guayaquil, Liga Deportiva Universitaria de Quito, Deportivo Quito and El Nacional (the Ecuadorian Armed Forces team) from Quito, Olmedo from Riobamba, and Deportivo Cuenca, from Cuenca.

The matches of the Ecuador national football team are the most watched sports events in the country. In June 2007, FIFA adopted a resolution prohibiting international soccer games at or higher than 2,500 meters above sea level. Rafael Correa, and his presidential counterparts in Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, issued a joint letter of protest against this ruling. Ecuador qualified for the final rounds of both the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups. Ecuador finished ahead of Poland and Costa Rica to come in second to Germany in Group A in the 2006 World Cup. Futsal, often referred to as índor, is particularly popular for mass participation.

There is considerable interest in tennis in the middle and upper classes in Ecuadorian society, and several Ecuadorian professional players have attained considerable international fame, including Francisco Segura and Andrés Gómez. Basketball also has a high profile, while Ecuador's specialties include Ecuavolley, a three-person variation of volleyball. Bullfighting is practised at a professional level in Quito, during the annual festivities that commemorate the Spanish founding of the city, and also features in festivals in many smaller towns.

Rugby union is also found to some extent in Ecuador, and Quito has its own club.

Ecuador obtained its only Olympic gold medal in Atlanta's 1996 Olympic Games, through Jefferson Pérez, in the 20 km race-walk. Since 2005, Ecuador has held the Guayaquil Marathon, which is an international foot race.

There is flourishing activity in non-traditional sports such as inline hockey, Capoeira, mountain biking, motorbiking, surfing, and paintball. Some costal resorts, particularly Montañita and Ayampe, have been developed as surfing centres. Ecuador also hosted the 2007 Youth World Championship for rock climbing, held in Ibarra, becoming the first country outside Europe or Asia to host the event.

Science and Technology

In 2007, Ecuador trained its first astronaut, Commander Ronnie Nader, and formed the Ecuadorian Civilian Space Agency (Agencia Espacial Civil Ecuatoriana, EXA). In 2008, EXA developed a plane capable of sustaining micro gravity flight, becoming the first country in Latin America in developing this kind of technology by their own means. One month later, they set the world record for the youngest human being in micro gravity, becoming the lead country in micro gravity aerospace research. The EXA manages the Ecuadorian Civilian Space Program and operates, jointly with the Ecuadorian Air Force, the Ecuadorian Micro Gravity Flight Program, the only such program in Latin America. Ecuador is currently planning to build the biggest oil refinery on the Pacific Coast.


Ecuador has a network of national highways maintained by the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Comunicaciones (Ministry of Public Works and Communication). The Pan-American Highway connects the northern and southern portions of the country as well as connecting Ecuador with Colombia to the north and Peru to the south. The quality of roads, even on truck routes, is highly variable. There is an extensive network of intercity buses that use these mountain roads and highways.

The most modern Ecuadorian Highway communicates Guayaquil with Salinas, in about two hours. The Interandean Railroad communicates Quito and Cotopaxi in about two hours.

See also

Main list: List of basic Ecuador topics


External links

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