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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Ecuador has three main geographic regions, plus an insular region 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.
|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|
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.
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.
City Populations 2008
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The most modern Ecuadorian Highway communicates Guayaquil with Salinas, in about two hours. The Interandean Railroad communicates Quito and Cotopaxi in about two hours.